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Sikhism Scorched White Lillies Of '84

Discussion in 'Book Reviews & Editorials' started by Aman Singh, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. Aman Singh

    Aman Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    Scorched White Lillies of '84
    A Book Review by AMARINDER SANDHU

    by Reema anand. Rupa, India. Pages: 114.
    Rs 295.
    Buy from SPN Store: Sikh Philosophy Network Book Store - Scorched White Lilies of '84

    India's capital, Delhi, burnt in 1984.

    A genocide took place as the state looked the other way in complicity. Henchmen headed by local political bigwigs let loose terror in the Sikh dominated areas of Trilokpuri, Mongolpuri, Nandpuri and Sultanpuri.

    Leaving these areas, the trauma-stricken victims settled in Tilak Vihar, which has emerged as a Sikh refugee colony.

    Reema Anand, in her new book, purposely uses the word 'slum' to describe the settlement "... to bring out the stark reality, show the community the mirror, and hurt the Sikh psyche, the Sikh pride".

    Scorched White Lilies of '84 is a documentation of the life of these survivors, and delves into the struggles of the female victims of the holocaust.

    When the author of te book first visited Tilak Nagar, she was astounded by the noise level, the dismal houses with a sea of humanity packed like sardines. The 925 families that live in the locality are bankrupt both economically and emotionally. Most households possess electronic gadgets that have been purchased on credit. It is a place that is a haven for drug addicts, lacks proper sanitation and school facilities.

    With an aim to rehabilitate the women, Reema started a pioneer paapad-making project based on the Lijjat Paapad model, which was later substituted by the Masala Project. Financial independence and izzat (self-respect) for the women was the key idea behind the project.

    Among the trainees, Mataji and Puppy showed leadership qualities but were not easily accepted as supervisors because they did not belong to the Lubana clan to which most of the other women belonged. Clan affliations (caste) seem to rear their ugly head everywhere in India.

    After many hiccups, the project was set to roll. The masalas were ground and packed and the stalls were set up outside gurdwaras. This excellent piece of writing clearly indicates the attitudes of a "desensitized" Sikh community which "... driving down to gurdwaras in expensive sedans and sitting in air-conditioned gurdwaras found the masalas expensive by two to five rupees from the market rate of other popular brands". Pickles and seviyan (vermicelli) was added to the project and soon it was on its take-off stage.

    These women who were the victims of the anti-Sikh pogroms soon became an extended family for Reema. Conducting personal interviews and having personal talks with them brought to light the gruesome sexual atrocities inflicted on these scarred souls. Given their circumstances, "sex was not a sanctified word" and the choicest of abusive language formed a part of their everyday language. The trauma and the memories of the genocide remain etched on the minds of these survivors.

    This book also relates the sad account of Jukti Ram who saved a few girls from meeting a deadly fate and was suspended from his employment in punishment for doing so.

    All the red-tapism delayed rehabilitation of the families and the money given for this very purpose and for the marriages of the daughters of the widows never reached them. Working with the scorched lilies, the writer was transformed into a women's rights activist as she was slowly drawn into their domestic lives and helped them fight for a decent life.

    Though there have been many works on the anti-Sikh riots, they have not probed the psyche of the female survivors. This is a highly readable documentation of the saga of survival of the women of the 1984 holocaust.

    [Courtesy: The Sunday Tribune]

    April 6, 2010

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