Twenty-five years ago, Prem Singh, a painter, and I, a poet, made a pact on a sketchbook in Chandigarh. I was to give him one-liner Punjabi folk epigrams to draw. Soon after I emigrated to Europe and Prem Singh stayed behind. We both kept on creating in our own ways and we both remained in touch.
Recently I received a packet through airmail containing 41 photocopies of his recent ink drawings. He had not forgotten, though it took a generation rather ages for the epigrams to appear on the paper. Unlike others Prem Singh put his signatures in Punjabi and even the date in the Punjabi script.
The drawings celebrate the beauty of robust Punjabi men and women. In their longings and desires they appear vulnerable, hence more human. Male and female subjects in the drawings are full-bodied voluptuous beings carrying the emotional weight of their existence. These are not mere illustrations. A painter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign used the verb to write for to draw. Prem Singh has rewritten the folk epigrams alleviating their meanings.
chann bhaveN nit chaRhda...
The woman, the protagonist in lokbani folksong, despairs that her world is all dark without her lover. Prem Singh has written the image of darkness showing an earthen lamp without a wick. The moon is there but it does not shine; it is blacked out. The woman stares into the blank mirror – the lover is missing and he is missed terribly. The eye of the forlorn woman resembles an empty earthen lamp.
birkhaN de geet sun ke...
I saw the light when I heard the songs of the trees.
The light oozes out of the drawing. A damsel, two parrots and a peacock bear witness to the miracle. The viewer joins them. We are all enlightened.
baddalaa saun dia...
In our part of the world the monsoon sawan is the most sensuous season. Punjabi folksongs, classical music and poetry celebrate it. In the drawing the curvy woman is lying on her back. She invites with open arms the winged dark cloud to burst again. The taut thumb of her left foot says it all.
Seeing is believing. See the drawings yourself and listen to them.