‘A hundred million and more’ is a kind of dedication that isn’t obvious as one turns the cover and starts reading Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s literary masterpiece ‘The Radiance of a Thousand Suns.’ As one starts this journey with Niki, at her arrival, born to Roop, under the watch of Biji, Zohra Nalwa, and in the fleshy, stout, ‘capable hands’ of Nooran, we meet partition and its ghosts, we see Punjab of 80s and its dark days, we find India and the madness of mass sterilizations and pogroms, and we find a cast of characters as resilient and deep as the land. We travel with Niki on her journey to complete her father’s unfinished book, we travel with her in search of Jyot, the thread that is woven with pain of 47, of 84 and of 9/11.
And amidst the myth and history, past and present, that surrounds Niki, we meet them. Aborted before they are born, illegally, because the family wanted a son, we meet these hundred million and more unborn girls.
At Singhu border, dressed in white salwar kameej, possibly her school dress, with a portable mike in her hand a young girl leads a group of girls and women. She says – Punjab Haryana, the group behind her shouts – zindabad zindabad.
It is Punjab and Haryana that have led the way in silencing those millions of voices. But… and hopefully this is that key moment… when these voices find themselves.
Dressed in track suit, she drives a tractor. Two girls sit on each side. The trolley behind the tractors is full of women, elderly with her heads covered in pallus sitting in the middle, young with their ponytails swinging and hair flying in the wind standing on the sides.
They come on their scooties. A march of scooties and girl power.
She is volunteering with NGOs and she is out in her schools, colleges, towns, cities organizing support for those sitting at various protest sites.
She is there reporting live, she is there compiling stories, and she is there publishing and distributing trolley times.
She is on social media, creating and supporting the narrative. She fights the IT cell and makes her own hashtags and trends.
She is on stage. Addressing gatherings with her knowledge, her passion, her strength.
She is a voice everywhere at these tractor-trolley townships.
This is that moment, hopefully, from where their voices will carry power to their hinterlands and homes. And those millions and more will not be voiceless anymore.
2020 – LOCKDOWN BOOKS REVOLUTION SERIES#2 - THE RADIANCE OF A THOUSAND SUNS