BY Harsimran Kaur ON July 23 , 2022 IN BOOK REVIEW, CRIMSON SPRING BY NAVTEJ SARNA-FICTION
Kirpal has been a hard-core loyalist of the British army to fight their irrational wars waged by treacherous mindsets, though he feels entrapped in the vainglorious façade of the ‘angrez’ mediocrity.
Ralla Singh does want to ferry the ambition of being a money lender like his father. He is left isolated after the demise of his elder sister and the vague foreboding takes his steps in the refuge of a ‘sant’ to ultimately find the sole purpose of his life.
Mehtab Singh, a worker in the irrigation department, is eager to meet both Kirpal and Ralla on the auspicious day of Baisakhi—April 13, 1919. The bazaars are a spectacle of pomp and pageantry. People from far off villages have arrived to pay obeisance at the sanctum sanatorium of the Sikhs “The Golden temple” in Amritsar, Punjab. The invigorating essence of the harvest has conjured away the deleterious chicanery of the despotic British rule.
But, the somber clouds up in the firmaments look like a vague spoil-sport, the leaves sway intemperately to scuff the shoulders of the passer-byes to the insidious course of winds ready to entrap them and the resoluteness of the walkers to be subjugated to a perfidy that would reverberate in the decades to follow.
Crimson Spring by Navtej Sarna is a melancholic tribute to the ‘Jallianwala Bagh massacre’ on April 13, 1919. The book is about the deleterious drive-force of Brigadier General R.E.H. Dyer, who crushed the shadows of the blooming petals to slay a path for the mutilated corpses—destroyed by the bullet and their bête noire Indian precision to the freedom movement. The congregation assembled at the Jallianwala Bagh to oppose the Rowlatt Act or the tired worshippers entering the Bagh for an afternoon siesta were oblivious to the incandescence of the fierce summer Sun about to engulf them. Each fusillade of shot entrenched inside the souls of the innocent was a comeuppance they deserved.
The book is an agglomeration of the follies and foibles of the British in handling thethe crisis. The saboteur ‘Dyer’ invidiously destroyed the entire edifice of human progeny and silently lived a life in self-justifying exculpation—a viable effrontery towards the lives lost, unaware that the recalcitrant noose of deathleaves no one. Who could stop the ineluctable minds of ‘Bhagat Singh’ and ‘Udham Singh’ born from the anomalies of the British imperium that rocked the cradle for their uprising? Finally, the hither-thither of people snaking up the walls of the Bagh to escape the tumultuous feeding of incessant bullets emboldened the progeny to buckle up their strength to conquer the despotic rule.
How all these characters come together to face the most gruesome and debilitating echo of invalidated butchery tells a tale of incarnadined spring bolstered by mayhem and imperial maelstrom.
The whataboutery of the indulgent ‘Udham Singh’ to the discordant impulses of Michael O’ Dwyer, the former lieutenant governor of Punjab in India are a wonderstruck amusement to the mind that obsessively plays its own tune. These obsessions could be a benefactor to our desires or dismantle the edifice of our hubristic pride. In the end, who carries the clean slate is the stoicism of the capable mind and not the anguish of the enfeeble mind.
The book ‘Crimson Spring’ takes through different minds and their stark journey before and after the massacre.
“A burning desire to challenge the atrocities cannot be whipped off by a puff of wind; instead the wind carries the burden along to see through the perfect assimilation of strength and velocity.“
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