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Preetam Singh: Bhapaji of the Punjabi Literary World

By the time Khushwant Singh's column was published, Dr. Preetam Singh (Q.C.) did in fact pass away (on Dec. 10). Born on October 1, 1914, Dr. Singh was a veteran Sikh activist and intellectual and was the first Sikh to be appointed as the Queen's Council (Q.C.) in England. After retirement Dr. Singh moved to Montreal (via Kenya, U.K., and Toronto) where he continued to serve the Sikh community in many ways including serving as the elected president of the gurdwara and the editor of the gurdwara magazine. Dr. Singh was an active member of the Sri Nankana Sahib Foundation. Through this organization he fought many legal battles for the Sikh hijackers jailed in Pakistan and helped draft various documents regarding management of Sikh historical places in Pakistan. He guided the efforts for the formation of the Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (P.G.P.C.). [Dr. Preetam Singh (Q.C.) should not be confused with the Punjabi poet Pritam Singh Dhanjal who is alive and well in Toronto.]

The Tribune, Dec. 14, 2002

"There are only two partners in the [literary] venture: the writer and his publisher. The writer writes, the publisher invests his money on producing and marketing the work. If it is a success, the writer makes a name and earns some royalties; few people bother about the name of the publisher. If it flops, the writer does not make money. While publisher loses all he invested in the venture. The role of the publisher is vital but rarely appreciated. This brings me to 88-year old Preetam Singh, known in Punjabi circles as bhapaji (big brother). Recently he had a very close brush with death. All his long life, he believed if there is anything wrong with your body, like cold, cough or fever, punish it by abstaining from food."
"All best-known Punjabi novelists, poets and short-story writers owe their reputation to this indomitable old man: among others Gurbaksh Singh, Nanak Singh, Mohan Singh, K.S. Duggal, Amrita Pritam and Ajit Cour. He founded Navyug Publishers in 1945 while still working for Gurbaksh Singh of Preet Nagar, now on the Indo-Pak border. He moved to Delhi in Jan., 1948, and with book publishing started a monthly literary journal Arsee, which soon became the most widely read Punjabi magazine. I have personal reasons to be grateful to the powers that be for sparing bhapaji's life. A year ago he undertook to publish a Punjabi translation of my two-volume of A History of the Sikhs earlier serialised by Punjabi Digest. If bhapa had gone, my dreams of seeing the major work of my life in my mother tongue would have gone with him."