Kids Corner


A Love Story:
Parminder Singh Sodhi
& Punjabi Haiku





It is a love story that started in the corridors of Punjab University, but blossomed 5,000 km away in Tokyo, Japan.

For litterateur Parminder Singh Sodhi, who has made the Japanese poetry genre of Haiku famous in the literary circles of Punjab, it was his love for his wife that made him pack his bags and shift from Chandigarh to Tokyo in 1986, and his love for literature that made him learn the Japanese alphabet, Hiranga, and translate Haiku poetry into Punjabi.

"You can say that I lost my career for love," Parminder says in a lighter vein, when you ask him why he took to Japanese. "We met at Punjab University in 1986. She had come as part of a study group and I fell for her. I wanted her to stay back, but she couldn't, so I followed her to Japan."

Learning a difficult language like Japanese, Parminder admits, was quite a challenge.

"I felt like my speech and hearing had been impaired during the first six months," says the author who now owns three restaurants in Tokyo and is settled there with his family. "I learnt the basics in the first year, so that I could at least survive and work. It took me three to four years to develop a good command over the language, read it and translate it."

Parminder's first work in translation was a book on Japanese short stories. In what perhaps reflects the simplicity of this author's heart and mind, the book was given the title 'Aadhunik Japaani Kahaniyaan'.

From there on, Parminder continued to write, but the real break came in 2001. That is when the iconic Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam reviewed his 'Japaani Haiku Shaairi', his translation of Haiku poetry that was published in 2001.

"She loved it and recommended it to others. This generated interest in my book, and people loved it," he says.

Asked if Punjabi is able to reach a wide audience, Parminder answers in the affirmative: "From Canada to India, there are Punjabis all over the world. People do read these books."

Another thing that drew him towards Haiku is the length of conventional Punjabi literature.

"The practice has been to lengthen a literary work unnecessarily. My Haiku translations are a break from that tradition. Unlike our conventional forms of storytelling and poetry, Haiku is crisp and sweet," he says.

Next, Parminder is planning to translate a few Buddhist folk stories from Japan. "These Buddhist stories had travelled by word of mouth from India to China to Korea to Japan," he says.

Asked if his children can speak Punjabi, Parminder replies in the negative, but adds: "They do understand a bit of it. As I told you, you need to understand a culture to learn a language."

[Courtesy: Times of India. Edited for]
April 8, 2015

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Parminder Singh Sodhi
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