State of Mind
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The demons, he says, have been put to rest and sleep has come calling again. Amandeep Sandhu admits he is at peace with issues that have haunted him for years, and is now willing to walk past the hurt. "Roll of Honour is about the dark days of terrorism in Punjab in the '80s, is redemptive. The journey in words has been through many layers," says the author, talking about his new novel at the recent Festival of Letters, which was held at Panjab University.
Like Sandhu's previous novel Sepia Leaves, which dealt with his mother's mental illness and its impact on the family, Roll of Honour is also semi-autobiographical, set against the backdrop of militancy in Punjab. "Schizophrenia and living with it and its impact on the family was the complex issue that Sepia Leaves dealt with. The incidence of mental illness is high in India but we don't talk about it. I wanted to break the silence. In Roll of Honour, it's the issue of violence that I talk about," says Sandhu, a former journalist.
The book, which released late last year, is set in Jasabad, a fictional town in Punjab. Sandhu was 12 when militancy gripped the state. The author recalls how directly and indirectly violence and fear gripped everyone in the state, and says that no novel talks about the '80s, though there has been ample reportage and essays on the issue. Spending days in lock-up for wearing a turban, facing police atrocities and ransom threats by terrorists Sandhu says he grappled with the trauma for years, until he decided to write about it. "I wanted to get my sleep back and get past the hurt, and the novel was the only place to conquer it," he says.
The novel, explains Sandhu, questions what has collapsed and what causes eruptions such as the Punjab militancy, Bhopal Gas Tragedy, Babri Masjid and even Godhra riots. "Why does violence start, how does it enter male adolescence, and is it more a north Indian psyche? There is a silence about this and that amazes me. The question is: how can we end this and not get stuck," says Sandhu. He now wants to translate Roll of Honour from English to Punjabi so that it can reach a wider audience.
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