Chandigarh: Punjab-born German writer and four-time Poet-Laureate, Rajvinder Singh, passed away at a hospital in Berlin after a brief illness, his family said. He was 66 years old.
He is survived by his wife and a daughter.
Based in Berlin since January 1981, the bearded Rajvinder Singh’s latest project was to make literature in modern Indian languages accessible to the wider world through translations.
To this end, he was translating the Punjabi novel ‘Parsa’, by Gyanpeeth award winning novelist Gurdial Singh, into German.
And, for getting the hang of the Malwai Punjabi culture and the Malwai dialect of the Punjabi language, in which almost all of Gurdial Singh’s books are written, Rajvinder Singh was visiting the places around which the novel revolves.
This three-time German poet laureate, who has been lauded for enriching the German vocabulary, said that it will be more than a word-to-word translation of the 380-page ‘Parsa’, penned in 1991.
Rajvinder Singh, who wrote his Ph.D thesis in semiotics at Berlin’s Technical University, held that translating from Punjabi to German was not an easy task. Both the languages have completely different dictions.
“Parsa is the rarest of the rare novels. It revolves around the complex simplicity of village life, with the inroads of all that goes with it. It showcases how traditions and cultures determine the life of a man,” Rajvinder Singh had told IANS in one of his interviews.
“Translation itself is a herculean task, especially when the expressions are written in a colloquial style,” Rajvinder Singh, who in addition to German and Punjabi, was also writing in English, Hindi and Urdu. He was also a former National Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) in Shimla.
“The basic purpose of my translation is to showcase Indian literature in world literary circles. It’s simply the dominance of Indian English writings over the other Indian language writings that is preventing the multi-dimensional literary works from 23 Indian regional languages getting global recognition,” he had said.
Rajvinder Singh, who was born in Punjab’s Kapurthala town and had spent his initial years also in Chandigarh and Jammu, occupied a pretty prominent place in the German literary circles.
His poems are inscribed in stone, and are displayed at four public places, which include the city park and three senior schools in Trier, one of the oldest German cities where Karl Marx was born and brought up.
Rajvinder Singh was the only living poet, certainly the only living Indian poet whose verses have been cast in stone and displayed in public park and schools.
Taking a clue from Guru Nanak’s philosophy of dialogue, Rajvinder Singh, who was twice invited by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier when he was the Foreign Minister during 2005-09 and 2013-17 to join him on his official visits to India, and he did accompany him, had put the socio-cultural exchange as central and indeed foundational to the larger cultural and socio-political understanding amongst various nations and political entities.
“The Sikh social worldview teaches us to go beyond our personal ‘self-ness’ and care about the ‘other-ness’ as well,” the poet and dubbing actor had told IANS.
To promote an Indo-German dialogue amongst the youth, Rajvinder Singh had created Indo-German School Partnerships back in 2005 and had brought them to India many times.