WRITING STYLE: 3/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3/5
Simranjit Singh Mann was an Indian Police Officer posted in Bombay when he resigned from the services of his organisation as a gesture to protest against the wrongdoing on the part of Indian government by causing harm to the holiest shrine of the Sikhs – the Golden Temple. The government, after this, suspected and tried to arrest Singh with the gravest charge of conspiracy to assassinate the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi among other things. Close relatives and worried friends warned Singh that the Government may try to ambush and encounter him and thus after much delay he went underground and tried to escape to the border country of Nepal. While doing so, he was apprehended by the authorities and subsequently jailed without a trial.
Being innocent of all the accused of charges, Mann still ended up spending five years in jail after which he was freed and all the charges were dropped. In Stolen Years, his daughter Pavit Kaur reminisces about those dreadful years which forever changed the course of the life of their entire family and left all of them deeply shattered. She very realistically portrays the tortures which Mann went through during his stay in various Indian prisons. He was frequently shifted from one state to another without trial, made to stay in solitary confinement in inhuman conditions, and tortured physically.
Stolen Years: A Memoir of Simranjit Singh Mann’s Imprisonment is a candid and emotional depiction of all the years gone by which details the lives of all the family members and how Mann’s imprisonment affected them adversely. Family pictures and anecdotes add to the charm of the book. The letters exchanged between Mann and his family including wife, sisters and children are heart rendering and invoke a deep feeling of empathy towards the family and Mann. The author also discusses contemporary history during the period of the book. The Bhindranwale tragedy, the Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Prime Minister, the subsequent backlash against Sikhs all over India and last but not the least the Bhagalpur Hindu-Muslim riots are all documented in a personal way in this memoir. The book also covers the family’s history right from their forefathers to the current generation.
Pavit Kaur brings a personal touch to the story which deeply enhances the reader experience by helping them connect with Mann’s personal tragedy. The writing style is also breezy and delicate and brings out the best of the author. I personally cherished the book and couldn’t help but feel pity for what the family had to go through. Overall, Stolen Years is a good non-fiction memoir read and I, therefore, recommend it to all my readers.