My father has never been of any help. He has always been a tippler and a troublemaker. My grandfather was the complete opposite. He was a hardworking farmer and increased our land holding to 400 bighas (nearly 100 acres). We used to live in Chahal, a village in Punjab but due to some circumstances we sold our land and moved to Arnoli some 35 years ago.
I studied in Punjab till the ninth grade and did my tenth after moving to Haryana. I wanted to study further but my father had turned our household condition into such a mess that it was impossible to continue. He was growing violent and his drinking habits were getting worse with every passing day. Once, I was at our farm by myself and somebody stole our pitchfork. The thought of facing my father scared me so much that I ran away to Gobindgarh, a nearby town and stayed there for three years working as an ironsmith. My family didn’t even look for me because it happened in ‘93 and there was extensive flood back then. They thought flood may have carried me away.
When I was in ninth grade, Chamkila was the rage. I also got influenced and started writing songs. I have written nearly 6,000 songs. I also tried singing but my voice isn’t that good. I took to painting after that. I could make all sorts of maps. I painted knowledge boards in schools and once while painting a shop front I inquired about the rent. It was 200 rupees then, I could manage that easily. So, I rented a shop and have been running a shop since then.
I started writing in Poadhi when we moved to Haryana, the language fascinated me. You can’t call yourself Poadhi without being familiar with the language. I even drew a map of Poadh and united Punjab (pre-1947). I have written 26 books, mostly collections of songs for children. I’m also a fond collector of matchboxes. I have read a lot but it’s the dictionary I read the most so that I can use new words in my writings. I have read ‘Mahaan Kosh’ four times and the seven-volume dictionary published by the language department, twice. I’ve tried my hand at all sorts of arts but who cares about books here or hand-painted bottles. Instead of respect, you get a tag of lunatic, that’s all.
Story by: Satdeep Gill
Original text: Gurdeep Dhaliwal
Punjabi translation: Satdeep Gill