Sadhu Singh Dhami
Failsufian by Amarjit Chandan, Ravi Sahit, pp 140, Rs 50, 1991, ISBN 81 7143 1186
Failsufian is a book of essays in Punjabi - scholarly, intriguing, often satirical, at times provocative. Its prose flows like a mountain stream, clear and sparkling. This alone makes the book very readable.
Failsufian is not a book on philosophy, although philosophers from Socrates to Wittegenstein are invoked in it. Yet it is a book that advocates philosophic detachment in thought and action. One is tempted to ask the author whether vigorous and inspiring poetry or throbbing prose can be written without attachment.
It is not a book on religion, although quotations from Guru Nanak, Farid and Mira Bai are interspersed in its pages. "Prove all things" said St. Paul "hold fast that which is good". If the emphasis in this epigram is placed on "Prove all things", it may lead to the development of philosophy and science; if it is placed on "hold fast", it may lead to political or religious dogma. There is, in addition, a serious difficulty in testing and "proving" the validity of social or political theories. In a world of great revolutionary changes, how are we to prove the truth of a political theory without putting it into practice, and the experiment may take decades of trial, involving great effort and suffering, before we can pass any judgement on it.
Failsufian basically is a book about creative arts, in particular poetry. And the author, himself a poet, deals with various aspects of the subject with stimulating and thoughtful observations. He discusses, with delightful comments, the importance of the mood of the poet, the social and political beliefs of the period, the function of inspiration, and, above all, the meaning of words and the importance of their arrangement.
The philosophic detachment advocated by the author enables him to criticise without offence, and to satirise with pleasant raillery. He confesses a devotional love for books, and he has written Failsufian with a love that bears its burden with joy. His essays require study with care, if not with love.
Sadhu Singh Dhami (1906-1997) migrated to Canada at the age of 16. He received his PhD at the University of Toronto in 1937. From 1942 to 1966 he worked for International Labour Office, Geneva. His autobiographical novel Maluka won him a critical acclaim. His other publications are The Sikhs and Their Religion, Guru Nanak- Poet and Philosopher, Your Own Story.
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