Gurbaksh Singh ‘PreetLari’
- Founder of Preet Nagar (Township of Love)
- Gurbakhsh Singh (born at Sialkot, in undivided India on 26th April, 1895, and expired at Chandigarh on 20th August, 1977) was a multi- faceted personality. An accomplished engineer, a progressive farmer, and innovative thinker, a profound visionary and above all these, he was a stalwart of Punjabi Literature. Millions, at home and abroad admired him, during his lifetime, and even today he is truly revered for his valuable contribution made towards transformation of human and social outlook of Punjab.
- As Engineer:
Gurbakhsh Singh took a diploma in civil engineering from Thompson Engineering College (presently Indian Institute of Technology), Roorkee (Uttrakhand) in the year 1917. Then in 1918-19, he served as civil engineer attached with Indian army, deployed in West Asia, during first great world war. In year 1919, he proceeded to United States of America, where he obtained his degree in civil engineering from Michigan University in year 1922. After that he worked as engineer in U.S.A. for a year, and then for another year he travelled widely in occident.
He came back to India and joined Indian Railways in 1925. He remained in service till 1932, when he voluntarily resigned from it. During this period, his most remembered contribution is raising up of the Railway Workshop at Dohad (Gujrat), and completion of a Railway bridge on river Chenab near Cheniot( Bahawalpur region of Punjab which is now in Pakistan).
In 1932, while he was still in Railway service, he decided to leave the spacious house provided to him at Naushehra--an important cantonment of North Western Frontier Province--and took up residence in two roomed mud house at Peer Sabaak—almost an insignificant village five kilometers away on the other side of Kabul river. There, by employing his ingenious engineering skills and creative imagination, and also by using ordinary, petty and almost discarded materials, he transformed this mud house into a commodiousplace to live in, having a novel look. This house attracted great many people and gave them occasion to marvel over it.
In 1935, he acceded to the request made by the managing committee of GurudawaraPanja Sahib, at HasanAbdad, near Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan), andtook up the responsibility of supervising constructionwork of new Gurdwara, without any remuneration. But for this work, first thing needed was to tap the springs found in the historic sarovar, so that a huge platform could be raised in it, and then on that platform building forGurdawara could be constructed. This also needed, the sarovar around the platform should be enlarged. By using his engineering acumen and by giving attentive guidancethis stupendous task was successfully completed. A huge net of iron rods was placed at the base of the sarovar, and re-enforced with thousands of feet of concrete. With this, springs completely stopped gushing out. After that every other work went on smoothly. Now construction of a bigger and grandiose principal temple was no problem. And it was completed in 1936, replacing the earlier ordinary looking building.
But his real ability in this field got manifested, when under his planning, designing and guidance a township, named Preet Nagar came into being in 1938. This township lying between Lahore and Amritsar, and surrounded by big and small villages, was the first planned township as well as the first rural socio cultural hub of Punjab. In this township, every care was taken to create multifaceted facilities for wide range of economic; social ethical and cultural needs of residents. That is why it came to be known as ‘Land of Dreams’.
- As progressive farmer:
After voluntarily getting relieved from Railway service, he went in for experimenting with mechanized farming. He took one hundred acres of land from the managing committee of ‘Samadh’ of AkaliPhoola Singh, at Peer Sabaak, near Naushehra (north western frontier province). From an engineer he became a farmer. He carried on this endeavor for almost four years, but this did not give him any thrill. So he abandoned it.But in 1938 he once again went in for progressive mechanized farming. The specific purpose of this farming was to produce food grains and allied produces for satisfying dietary needs of the populace ofPreet Nagar, the township that he had set up. His efforts produced positive results.
For his sincere efforts to promote progressive farming in Punjab, he was later on duly honoured by Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana as being the first progressive mechanized farmer of Punjab.
- As thinker:
After experiencing lots of hardships in childhood and also leading a life full of struggles in his youth days, Gurbakhsh Singh had the chance of seeing various aspects of life in West Asia--blunted by paucity yet entwined with humaneness and lingering hopes. After that he got an exposure to free, progressive, capitalistic liberalism and scientific modernism, during six years spent by him, in United States in America and in Occident.
During all these years, and afterwards In India, he deeply studied philosophical ideas of world known philosophers as well as the literature produced by universally acclaimed writers. He ever remained deeply influenced by their thinking. But by the time he had crossed three and a half decades of his own life, he started formulating his own opinions. The process of opinion-forming made himanalyse experiences of his own life, the knowledge gained by studying lives of peoples of other countries as well as his own people. This process of formulation of his opinions, was to some extent influenced by the concept of co-sharing, idealized by Sikh Gurus. Very soon he found out, though great many disparities were found in peoples around the world, yet there existed a common bondage of humane, social, ethical, cultural values. These all are products of love—a basic intrinsic element found in all human beings.
So the axis of his philosophy was that element of love is most significant factor of human life. But it is not confined to individuals but it has very wide ambit. He propounded that love is not a possession but it is a realization. This realization leads to a refined way of living. This living can be attained truly by having qualities of self control, introspection, simplicity, sacrifice, self respect, and above all these an unprejudiced love.
This concept of his made him an innovative thinker.
- As visionary:
On his return to India in1924, he was pained to find that nothing had been changed for the better during his absence from his homeland. Being completely subjugated under British Government, people here were socially entangled in poverty and illiteracy. They were also mentally victims of blind religious faith and superstitions. Education was only in reach of a very limited section of society. So he got deeply interested in propagating the understanding required for formation of a better world. This prompted him to let people at large to have a glimpse of that dream which he had conceived for establishing new society—a free, powerful, literate society with an attitude of scientific thinking.
In September 1933, he commenced publishing a magazine ‘PreetLari’ (love-link) from Peer Sabaak, near Naushehra in North Western Frontier Province (now in Pakistan). He had plenty of novel ideas to share with his readers. These properly formulated ideas put in a systematic way, produced unique appeal. This appeal motivated many a person to strive for an eventful and comprehensive life.
In his vision, there was no place for outdated moral, ethical, social and cultural values. He was a severe critic of narrow and improper understanding of religion. He opposed any kind of discrimination. He despised any form of ugliness. He was a worshipper of beauty in pure form. He had a clear-cut opinion about wide range of topics connected with human behavior, as well as many concerns of the society. That is why he had the courage to express his opinions, about many of those aspects of life which had not been touched upon, or talking about them was a taboo.
The vision and dreams evoked by him produced resonance. This created an atmosphere of acceptance. Outcome of it was, establishment of a township named Preet Nagar. Due to many social, economical, and cultural experiments carried out here, it was from here the clarion call was given for furbishing our social structure, which had already turned rickety. So this township came to be regarded as citadel of Cultural Revolution.
But with partition of India in1947, and holocaust accompanying it. Preet Nagar being very near to newly created border line, suddenly lost its significance. Gurbakhsh Singh had to leave this town of his dreams and he temporarily shifted to Delhi. But when situation got slightly eased, efforts were put in to rejuvenate it. But non conducive atmosphere prevailing in Indo--Pak relations and the whole world being in the grip of imminent third world war, Gurbakhsh Singh toned down his idealist dream to some extent. He had come to realize that now at this stage his dream could not be absolutely fulfilled as per his wishes. This led him to join peace movement as vice president of All India Peace Council and as member of the World Peace Council.
Furthermore, he had the chance of visiting those countries, which had adopted a very developed system of co--shared living. This made him more realistic in his approach, and also admirer of scientific socialist ideology. And it is an interesting fact, that he without being an activist propagator of this ideology, made a big number of people to really adopt it.
And while scrutinizing his vision, it can be appropriately said that it was stringed to the realities of the time, but it was far ahead of the times. That is why he is called a dream-maker.
- As litterateur:
Gurbakhsh Singh’s creativity in domain of literature has been multilateral, as well as multifarious. He has written essays, short stories, novels, and plays. He has also produced literature for children. His works encompass various subjects and themes. All these writings touch highest literary level, and display plenty of novelties in them. He has also translated some internationally admired literary works, with touch of masterly hand.
Further more his writings exhibit the courage to talk about many of those aspects of life, which till now had not been touched upon, or were not permitted to be talked about. Even his journalistic writings published in journal ‘PreetLari’ did a signal service in bringing the standard of journalistic writings to a high standard.
His prose and his creative writings, often fearlessly comment upon relations of man and woman, significance of love and marriage, importance of family life, social relations, daily routine of life, education, upbringing of children, health and physiology, politics, class relations, customs and traditions, culture and basic human values, and talk of many more aspects of life. All his comments are real reflections of ‘the way of living’ earnestly propagated by him.
He was very particular about the contents and the wordings in his writings. He generally selected the words which were used in every day life, but he expanded their meaning to produce a new sense and a novel nuance. His mastery in selecting appropriate words and studding them in sentences made him magician of words. This contribution of his, has given such a strength to Punjabi language, that it has found out the capabilities of writing on various subjects which could not be taken up earlier.
His writings had precision and clarity, so these were easily accessible. These qualities led to creation of a wide circle of his readers, who all the time eagerly waited for his new literary creations. And there was also a big number of readers, those who chose only to read his writings. This was in itself a miracle.
It was even a greater miracle that thanks to his willingness to promote new talent, great number of new writers in Punjabi language cropped up. There is absolutely no other example of such a happening in modern Punjabi literature.
For the services rendered to Punjabi language and literature, Punjab Government honoured him with ‘ShiromaniSahitkaar’ award. National Sahitya Academy bestowed on him lifetime fellowship. He also received ‘Soviet Land Nehru Award’ for translating Maxim Gorky’s masterpiece ‘Mother’. In fact he revolutionized Punjabi literature and gave it a new dimension. Therefore he stands as a true stalwart of Punjabi literature.
While looking at his invaluable contribution in totality, it can be easily said, that he was a true harbinger of new outlook in Punjabi ethos. So for this great service rendered by him, he will ever be remembered with admiration.