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GNDU Literary Club hosted discussion with Haroon Khalid

AMRIK SINGH | April 15, 2024 07:13 PM

AMRITSAR: Under the able guidance of Vice Chancellor, Prof. (Dr) Jaspal Singh Sandhu, the Literary Club of Guru Nanak Dev University hosted a riveting discussion with celebrated author and journalist, Haroon Khalid on his latest book From Waris to Heer - a retelling of the iconic Punjabi folk tale Heer Ranjha.

The session began with Ratnadeep Chakraborty, a student from the MA International Relations program, warmly welcoming Khalid and introducing him to the eager attendees. Chakraborty then deftly moderated the thought-provoking conversation that followed.

In the beginning, Khalid delved into the concept of “Qissa writing, " which emphasizes retelling familiar stories using new symbols and interpretations rather than striving for pure originality. He grappled with the challenge of reinvigorating the well-known "Heer Ranjha" narrative, whose ending is widely known across Punjab, while keeping the audience engrossed. Drawing from the “Qissa" storytelling tradition, Khalid aimed to offer fresh social and political insights through his retelling.

A key element of Khalid's experimental approach involved blurring the lines between author, characters, and story itself. The characters in "From Waris to Heer, " he explained, possess a self-aware quality, actively playing roles within the tale. This metafictional technique enabled Khalid to explore complex themes of history, politics, religion, and gender through the viewpoints of his protagonists.

Khalid shed light on the historical context surrounding Waris Shah, one of the central figures, noting the scarcity of concrete details allowed him greater creative license in his depiction. He also unpacked how his writing organically reflects Pakistan's rich composite culture - a recurring motif across his body of work. In the current climate where tradition is often politically exploited, Khalid aimed to authentically capture this confluence of identities.

The profound concept of divine and earthly love in "Heer Ranjha" was another focal point. According to Khalid, the perspective is rooted in the mystical tradition which synergizes the two forms of love. The transformations undergone by characters like Heer mirror this merging of the spiritual and corporeal realms, catalyzing profound shifts in identity.

While acknowledging real historical backdrops like the Ranjha tribe's village Hazara and the city of Seel, Khalid underscored that the timeless significance of "Heer Ranjha" transcends mere historical accuracy. He views the tale as a poignant emblem of the harsh realities of gender violence and forbidden love that still resonate today across societies.

There was an active Question-answer round conducted in which the student members of the literary club Riya Sharma, Saryoo Arora, Vidya, Avleen Kaur and Antriksh Ambia engaged with Khalid on overarching themes of love, metamorphosis, composite heritage, and the enduring relevance of classic stories as vehicles for truth about the human condition. His unique retelling breathes dynamic new life into an age-old romantic epic.

In the end, Dr. Ujjal Jeet, Assistant Professor at the Department of English, thanked Haroon Khalid for contributing to the tradition of rich literary discourse at Guru Nanak Dev University and offering valuable new perspectives on the age-old folk tale of Heer and Ranjha who are the most beloved characters of Punjab on both sides of the border. Expressing gratitude on behalf of the literary club and students, Dr. Jeet lauded the insights gained over the enriching two-hour session especially beneficial for aspiring student writers. The event was graced by Dr Sumneet Kaur from the Department of English and Dr Malkiat Singh from Political Science Department.

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