Book Exhibition

Reading from Guru Nanak at Rupa Book Exhibition, Chandigarh

News coverage of Roopinder Singh reading from his book Guru Nanak: His Life and Teachings at the Rupa Book Exhibition in Chandigarh

Roopinder Singh

Roopinder Singh read from his book at the Rupa Book Exhibition in Chandigarh
on November 11, 2005. At the well attended event, he read about what Guru Nanak Dev ji said about women, and lamented that those who profess to be
his followers have strayed so far from what he taught—female foeticide being
the major, though by far not the only indicator.

The following is the coverage of the well-attended event in Press:HT City,
The Hindustan Times,
November 12, 2005Into the world of Nanak, again

Nonika Singh

If simplicity is the essence of Guru Nanak Dev’s teachings, the same marks this book. Simply titled ‘Guru Nanak – His Life And Teachings’, written in a highly readable lucid style, though attractively packaged, illustrated with reproductions of rare 18th century miniature paints and line drawings, it’s quite in sync with the original and unambiguous message of the first Sikh guru. Reveals Roopinder Singh, the author of the much-acclaimed book: “But beneath the simplicity, lies diligent research”. Rather the highly referenced book, he insists, “provides hyperlinks. So if you care to know more, this small window to the world of Guru Nanak can open many more doors.”

Of course when assigned to write on Guru Nanak, his knee jerk reaction was vacillation. The query that stared him in the face was: why another book when already much has been written on the subject, especially in 500th anniversary of the guru? And face to face with 32 volumes on the great guru who held, ‘all are creatures of God and his creation’, the dilemma would have been acute but he reasons: “all these are hagiographic accounts while mine is more reasonable rational approach”. Why the book begins with the two famed anecdotes that exemplify Guru Nanak Dev’s scientific beliefs challenging obscurantism.” But does he challenge the miracles associated with the great guru? He smiles, “see, logical positivism has a place in empirical world. But religion, by definition, is non-empirical that can neither be verified nor rejected. Since such men are Rab da roop, miracles do happen” Yes, the book, without going overboard ‘no overt effort to defy the Guru’ by all accounts, is reverential. For as, a devout Sikh, he grew up revering the man who gave the world the eternal message – God is one. But whether writing the book changed his childhood perspective, he says “only in details, only in clarifying of concepts that were nebulous and more significantly in self-awareness.” But whether this inward journey has metamorphosed him, well he wouldn’t indulge in any such hyperbole. In fact the book too steers clear of clichéd exaggerations.

No marrying of facts with fiction either. As he puts it: “if facts are so remarkable, why bother with fictionalizing it. Besides I wouldn’t dare to either”. He agrees that writing on sensitive issues of religion is fraught with risk. So to avoid controversy, he stuck to hard stated facts. And whenever in a quandary he turned to his parents – Giani Gurdit Singh (an authority on Guru Granth Sahib) and Inderjit Kaur, both scholars in their own right.

Coupled with his modern perspective and journalistic insight, the book portrays the Guru as an extraordinary human being, as the founder of the faith whose teachings are universal and timeless. An attempt to understand the Guru, the book, he hopes, shall trigger similar understanding from its reader.

All set to go into second edition, a Hindi translation in the offing, indeed it has already evinced keen response. From the faithful, the critics, the who’s who and the uninitiated too.

The Indian Express,
November 12, 2005

Guru Gyan
…Simplified, dejargonised, contemporarized by Roopinder Singh, in his book Guru Nanak His Life & TeachingsParulTHE book doesn’t intimidate you, unlike many on religious figures or religions. This one catches the eye, prompts you to immediately pick it up, leaf through the beautifully illustrated pages and run your eyes through the simple, highly readable text.

“That was exactly the aim, for most books written on Guru Nanak were academic in nature. And I wanted to reach out to a larger audience, the younger generation, even children, and communicate simply and in a contemporary fashion, minus the jargon,” smiles Roopinder Singh, author of Guru Nanak His Life and Teachings, which has been published by Rupa & Co.

Having studied in the US and being a journalist, says Roopinder, has taught him the value of simple communication and the importance of dejargonizing to make a subject presentable, approachable, multi-dimensional. ”And to achieve all this, you have to understand the subject completely and research deeply,” says Roopinder, adding the research was a collaborative effort of parents (who are academicians and scholars), friends and him reading loads on the Guru.
Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, was born in 1469 and declared that there was only one God and travelled far and wide to spread the word. The book comprises detailed maps of the Guru’s travels, and visuals, reproductions of beautiful miniature paintings, mostly from the family workshop of Nainsukh of Guler, “and also old manuscripts. And all captions are highly descriptive, while footnotes act as hyperlinks,” explains Singh, who describes the writing of the book as a fulfilling journey, an edifying experience.

“The tangible result was like having another baby and I feel I was meant to write it and things just fell in place for me,” he puts it in a “straightforward fashion.” His style.

The Tribune,
November 12, 2005Meet the authorsGayatri Rajwade talks to two city-based authors, Roopinder Singh and Manraj Grewal, to find out about their books, their inspirations

The need to communicate a venerable message impelled two city-based authors to convey their beliefs in volumes that have done them proud.

At gracefully conducted Meet the Author gatherings at the Rupa book exhibition, Manraj Grewal and Roopinder Singh, over two evenings, engaged with book lovers — a chance to relate, articulate and share
their beliefs and views.

Manraj Grewal’s “Dreams after Darkness, a search for a life ordinary under the shadow on 1984″, gave readers an opportunity to look into the hearts of people who took an “alternate path (militancy) for several reasons, none of them clichéd” and what became of them.

Roopinder Singh’s “Guru Nanak: His Life and Teachings” was his way of “communicating Guru Nanak’s message to a contemporary audience in a simple way”. His selected passage to read from reflected his anguish over how far we have drifted from the teachings of the guru with respect to women, “if the figures of female foeticide are anything to go by.”

Intense and heartfelt, Manraj’s work is a sturdy testimony to her vast talent. “Our brief for the paper (she is currently Deputy Resident Editor for the Indian Express in Chandigarh) was to go back to the militants and see where their lives had taken them. This evolved into a book.”
What moved her to write the book? “We found things had changed quite dramatically and that militancy was gone. It was fascinating because I started out with a different premise and was surprised with the answers and their positive outlook to life.”

Her insights are simple and clear. “They have paid a price for acts that cannot be condoned but most are not bitter-they have simple lives with ordinary dreams which they want to fulfil.”
The book did well. It went on to occupy the number one slot on the Browser list. However, in the two years since the book first came out, Manraj is brimming with other ideas.

“Short stories stemming out of real life”, a book on the history of Punjab and a history of the life and times of Emperor Babur (He conquered Samarkand when he was only 13!) are but some of her budding thoughts, ideas her role as a journalist have prepared her well for!

“When I told my mother I wanted to write a book on Guru Nanak’s teachings, she suggested I read other books on this and from her personal collection sent me 32 to go through!” smiles Roopinder, currently Assistant Editor with The Tribune, recounting how his book came into being.

“It is a text which is respectful but not hagiographic. I have tried to retain a rational tone and relate what Guru Nanak said to the world around us.”

Is the book simplistic then? “Not really, because I have taken care to quote the sources from where the information came placing it in an unobtrusive way. What I have tried is to present a text hyperlinked to references and tied up to visuals.”

The visual elements in the book are the real treats. “These were carefully selected to impart a feel of the period knowing that there are no visual representations of the Guru and his era,” explains Roopinder.

The pictures are delightful for they are rare representations, have been sourced from Government Museum, Chandigarh, and a private collection from the House of Bagrain. “There are a number of photographs taken by friends and by me which are also incorporated in the book.”

The first edition of this picturesque and simply and elegantly written work is going into its second edition soon and a Hindi translation is also underway.

Any new projects on the cards yet? “There are some subjects hovering in my mind, but it takes time. It is best to have a work ready and then present it and talk of it.”