Just a fortnight ago at home I was cleaning my bookshelves and chanced upon a small size book entitled –‘Punjab’s Eminent Hindus’ published sometime in 1943-44 by New Book Society, Lahore, a great centre of learning and of course publication in those days west of Delhi, which the capital of British India. A few years ago the book was obtained as gift from the personal collections of (Late) Hukum Singh ji, posthumously. He was formerly a Principal at Jat College of Education, Rohtak. During his tenure as Principal he was tirelessly engaged in enormously enriching the library of this institution by acquiring hundreds of books that became as prized possessions. Despite protests from his own faculty members and the management he could convince them that the books are a major source of acquiring knowledge by both the teachers and the students whom they taught. Having regret in mind for others for not paying heed, he pursued his mission with unceasing appetite for acquiring good books for both himself and the College of Education and reading them for enhancing his knowledge. Later, he authored a magnificent 500-page treatise entitled –The Jats, throwing immense light on the proto-history of this valiant pastoral race.
However, the Shri N.B.Sen who had edited the book‘Punjab’s Eminent Hindus seems to have made careful selection of both the articles and their authors whose names appear in the Book. The book’s contents reveal brief life sketches and achievement of 20 eminent personalities of the era – S/Sh Chhotu Ram, Ganesh Dutt Goswami, Ganga Ram (Sir), Gokul Chand Narang (Sir), Gopal Das, R.B., Mahatma Hans Raj, (Dr.) Lala Har Dayal, Lala Harkishen Lal, Sir Jai Lal, Drishna Kishore, D.B., Lala Lajpat Rai, Sir Manohar Lal, Mukand Lal Puri, R.B., Raja Narendra Nath, Bhai Parmanand, Ram Saran Das, R.B., Swami Ram Tirath, Sir Shadi Lal,Swami Shraddhanand and Sir Tek Chand. The articles on personalities also depict on one full page the photographic representation of the portrait of each one albeit in blue ink. The editor dedicated the book to the memory of the Late Sardar Dayal Singh Majithia, one of the greatest benefactors of Punjab. He was the one who established colleges and public libraries across undivided Punjab and Delhi in addition to starting of The Tribune at Lahore. An inside page tells that the publisher intended publishing its Urdu and Hindi version, too. It cannot be confirmed now after a gap of 67 years when lots of political upheaval has occurred and Lahore is on the other side of the international border, unfortunately.
I must share as to why I recaptured the above story and why I shared it on the Face Book. After reading the book it occurred to me that must be a sequel and, therefore, I started making a mental search for names that could be considered eminent in the last 60 years, particularly from 1948 to 1997 and which belonged to the territories of post partition Punjab. Haryana came into being on 1.11.1966. Obviously my interest is in Haryana and all names that can be included in the sequesl should be from Haryana only. Several names flashed in my mind but until now I could shortlist only one -Late Mahendra Singh Randhawa and Chaudhary (Seth) Chhaju Ram of village Alakhpura in district Bhiwani (then Hisar). Several other names, from the book – ‘People and personalities of Hisar’, which I read a decade ago and gifted to me by Prof. Madan Mohan Juneja, the author and an eminent historian, have occurred.
The second and immediate reason of telling the story is a ‘middle’ published on the editorial page 20 August 2012 in The Tribune, which Prof. Ranbir Singh authored. It briefly reflects on the personality and psyche of Mr. Hardwari Lal and recalls a few amusing anecdotes. The timing for the publication of the article as ‘middle’ piece is mystifying. However, people used to say (with apologies to those whom it may hurt) that Chaudhary Hardwari Lal had become ‘insane’ whereas he could be suffering from ‘compulsive obsession’, a disease. It is sort of mania and under its influence a person considers his status as righteous, unchallengeable, undefeatable and above all. I had met him on a couple of occasion and found him forthright and sane. He was so meticulous in details having exceptional skills of interpretation with full command over language that people generally could not afford his intensity and was either gave way in accordance with his desire or accepted withdrawal. He had a winner’s spirit and ‘defeat’ was a word that he had eliminated from lexicon. He lived a simple life and understood the real meaning of the word –written or spoken. Politicians and academicians used to timidly tow his line and avoided confrontation fearing that he would drag them in court. He surely was an antic as the people often told about him in lucid narrations during informal symposiums that used to be held in every village Chaupals and Baithaks throughout the village estates of central Haryana.
I never met Dr. Swaroop Singh about whom my impression was of a scholar with mild manners. It was never heard that he ever boasted or caused any hurt or confronted anyone despite holding high positions until his demise. Now, I can say that he qualifies to be an eminent person, post 1947. Another name could be Chaudhary Bansi Lal but nobody could have known about him had he not come into politics just by a providential tern. I would like mention of one more name: (late) Principal Hukum Singh of All India Jat Heroes Memorial College and Chaudhary Harnand Rai, another educationist of school level. Both served the same Institution at Rohtak during the 1960s and used to be highly regarded in the community as well as outside the community. I was a student at Jat College when Hukum Singh ji held the post of Principal and knew him as a good teacher and stern disciplinarian. I have several vivid memories of the time as how he built up the college when it was financially lagging. Just from small contributions from the students he was able to raise a huge three storey high magnificent teaching-block for science students. There have been too many persons that remained involved in scholarly pursuits and arts in Haryana in the last fifty years but my problem is to identify a person whose temperament and work stands above board. Who really pursued knowledge and art without any personal agenda and shared knowledge freely irrespective of his social or economic status. I know it would be hard to discover such a philanthropist as this.
The point I want to assert here is that the scholars in society must think about the persons that had contributed a lot for the benefit of society through philanthropy and benevolence. The munificence of such persons of high character must be brought to light by illustrated publications. The New Book Society also carried two announcement in their second Edition of the above book viz. ‘Punjab’s Eminent Muslims’ and ‘Punjab’s Eminent Sikhs’ both having brief life sketches of 25 personalities each. It could not be ascertained if the books on Muslim and Sikh personalities could be brought out and marketed; hopefully they were.
Will my friends and guides provide help in identifying personalities from Haryana (from 1947 to 1997) that may be categorized as eminent in the real sense?
Accompanying Photo: Chaudhary (Seth) Chhaju Ram Lamba (Ref.-Jaat Veeron ka Itihaas by Capt.(Hony.) Dalip Singh Ahlawat, Vill. Dighal, Dist. Jhajjar (Haryana)