PLAYWRIGHT AND poet Swarajbir is in a space and place of reflection and retrospect, post the announcement of the 2016 Sahitya Akademi Awards. Swarajbir has been felicitated for the same for his Punjabi play Maseya di Raat, which deals with the many social issues of female foeticide. “I dedicate this award to the people of Punjab, the toiling masses of the state, victims of terrorism and to the many friends and comrades who were killed. This award is also for the Punjabi community, which is still finding its bearings after Partition and friends who are giving a voice to the struggle of oppressed people,” says Swarajbir, who belongs to Gurdaspur district, and is currently serving as DGP, Meghalaya.
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From pursuing MBBS for three years to the IPS, it was with poetry that Swarajbir began his literary journey, having penned three anthologies of poetry, with one on Avtar Paash and another on terrorism in Punjab. “It was poetry that came from the pain of Punjab, fall of the Soviet Union. And then, there was a lot of silent time, I did not write for years and I recovered from my silence with theatre,” Swarajbir’s first play, Krishnan, highlighted the divide between life in the village and religious beliefs. Dharamguru, Medhini, Shayiri are plays with religious themes. “I am against religion. It has been the nemesis of Punjab and not given us support in our most trying times for it was politicised,” says Swarajbir, whose plays have been given a new reach and meaning by director Kewal Dhaliwal of Manch Rangmanch, Amritsar.
Theatre, adds the playwright, is a kind of participation in the struggles of people, be it writings against oppression, the status of Dalits, women, farming crisis, theatre provides instruments to participate. Upbeat about the fact that young Punjabi writers are echoing today’s concerns, theatre he says can be a medium to fight, “we are limited people, but we need to continue to talk about issues and concerns.”
As for Maseya di Raat, Swarajbir says though it was written in 1996 and staged many times after that, the play was published only in 2013. “We talk of the elemental desire of Punjabi women to get a male child. The play deals with how it is socially and culturally conducted, be it through medical means, the product of modern medicine or the traditional ways of tantriks, child sacrifice…The woman is the one who ultimately loses it all,” said Swarajbir, always sensitive to stories, emotions and people around him. These days, Swarajbir is busy with one-act plays on women’s issues. The stories continue and the stage is set for more.