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A ‘people’s history’ and its sources

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A major source of a people’s history is the narration of people about their own lives. Such narrations can be found in their personal accounts, and the biographies, diaries, interviews, oral histories, and sketches that other people write about them. This is a tricky area and the reader must critically analyze these narrations before reaching a conclusion.

Normally people are prone to exaggeration and tend to project their own selves in a positive light and expose others’ insignificant errors as major weaknesses. But there are exceptions. Aslam Gurdaspuri’s autobiography, ‘Tujhe Ae Zindagi Laoon Kahan Se’ (O’ life, where do I seek you?) is one such account that gives you an idea about how a genuine political worker devotes his life to politics, reading, and writing; and how his life’s trajectory progresses in his peculiar social context.

We get to know about life in Punjab from the mid-20th century to the beginning of the 21st century. We hear him speak about the education system of rural Punjab, the lives of common people, the love for folk literature, and how ‘Heer Waris Shah’ was both admired and abhorred by certain segments of society.

Aslam was one of eleven siblings at home; his grandfather was in love with Heer Waris Shah and recited it in his mellifluous voice. Near Batala there was a mystical gathering where Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, all congregated to recite from the Bible, Geeta, Guru Granth, Mahabharata, Quran, Ramayana, and the Vedas. They sang poetry by Amir Khusro, Baba Fareed, Sultan Bahu, Bulleh Shah, Kabeer, Muhammad Bukhsh, Shah Hussain, and many other poets who preached harmony and peace in society. But all was not well; Aslam’s family elders didn’t like it, and as sectarianism spread they attacked that peaceful gathering and dispersed it.

The result was the disappearance of Aslam’s grandfather who left home and returned after fifty years. After Partition, most migrants settled in the inner or walled city of Lahore, where........

© The News International