Unsung Sikh Freedom Fighter's Life Now A Play.

The new Punjabi play 'Mungu Comrade' focuses on the life and work of Makhan Singh.

TORONTO - Well known Indian playwright Dr. Atamjit is visiting Toronto to read his new Punjabi play 'Mungu Comrade' that focuses on the life and work of Makhan Singh, an unsung hero of Kenyan freedom struggle and Trade Unionism. Makhan Singh is the only East African leader who was detained by the colonialist, both in India and Africa; total period of his detention is about 17 years, more than any other African leader.

While speaking in Nairobi's Kaloleni Hall on 1st May, 1950, Makhan Singh was the first person in Kenya to ask for "Complete independence and sovereignty of the East African territories - Uhuru Sasa!". He also fought for the cause of the poor relentlessly and without any compromise. He was one of very few fighters of Kenyan freedom struggle against the whites whose character doesn't show even an iota of a grey hue. Fred Kubai, a close associate of Makhan Singh's and a freedom fighter writes, "He suffered honestly for our Kenya's working class. I know him as a fighter, every inch a fighter, a Kenyan nationalist of the highest order and a brother in trade unionism and in our national struggle for independence."

English writer Dana Seidenberg has summed up Makhan Singh in her book Mercantile Adventurers : "His personal sacrifice in support of Kenya's freedom struggle, and his leadership in bettering conditions for Kenya's lowest-paid workers, have made him the most important Asian to have lived in East Africa in the twentieth century."

The play is based upon Zareena Patel's book 'Unquiet'. Patel has acknowledged the inputs of Mr. Hindpla Singh Jabbal and Mr. Amarjit Chandan that helped her write this play. Atamjit is very well known in Canada a director who presents meaningful plays. Toronto still remembers him for his plays like Kamloops Diaan Machhiaan (Fish of Kamloops), Rishtiaan Da Kee Rakhiye Na (How to Define Relations), Atma Punjab Dee (The Spirit of Punjab). Mungu Comrade is his latest play and he has already done its reading in Delhi, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jullundar, London and Nottingham. Makhan Singh's son Hindpal Singh, after listening to his reading at Delhi commented, "Atamjit's new play 'Mungu Comrade' very admirably captures the essence of my father's character as an unadulterated idealist and a fearless freedom fighter in Kenya's struggle for independence, who essentially remained an unsung hero most of his life. It is a tribute to Atamjit's passion and tenacity that he completed the first draft of the play on Makhan Singh whose name he had not even heard of till only two years ago."

Similarly Dr Harish Puri, a retired Professor of Political Science from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar wrote after listening to the play at Ludhiana, "Mungu Comrade is a sensitive playwright's homage to the grandeur of an ordinary man's extra-ordinary social imagination and struggle. His hero, Makhan Singh, an Indian (Punjabi) settler in Kenya, represents a fascinating human saga of negotiation between one's cultural roots in one country and belongingness to a distant other (Kenya). The Kenyan worker's struggles for freedom and dignity against colonial rulers' machinations and bondage became to his life no less central than the struggle of Indians for Independence under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

Makhan Singh was not only able to transcend conventional social and political barriers with ease but also brought to his life work an amalgam of the best in the spirit and wisdom of Nanak, Gandhi and Lenin. A remarkable strength of the play Mungu Comrade lay in a high degree of authenticity of detail that required extensive exploration and research.

Another, of course, relates to Atamjit's well-known creative imagination, which is rooted in a distinct philosophy of life. This play brings an unknown Punjabi of exceptional character and a more or less unsung hero of Kenya's freedom struggle to the welcoming attention of the people in the two countries."

Dr. Fitz De Souza, lawyer and Deputy Speaker of Kenya's first National Assembly was very right when he called him as 'a totally unadulterated idealist who would never compromise his principles on anything."


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