BĀBĀ NAUDH SIṄGH, whose full title, "The Redemption of Subhāgjī through the Grace of Bābā Naudh Siṅgh" pronounces the homiletic character of the book at the start, was first published in 1921. Comprising a wide variety of elements ranging from romance to polemics, sermon and theology, it seeks to present the Sikh way and vision of life through incident, example and argument. In a manner, the author, Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh, has only extended the form effected by him in his earlier romances, Sundarī, Bijay Siṅgh and Satvant Kaur. The aim here is to create memorable portraits of the ideal Sikh homo whose spirit never falters or wilts in the midst of life's miseries, confusions and terrors.
The story principally involves the strange and troubled experiences of Jamunā, a young Jain widow, who is decoyed into false positions, appellations and conversions in rapid succession before she is ushered into the Sikh faith. En route, she encounters avarice, lust and sin in pious garbs. Each new experience brings home to her men's depravity. Utterly appalled, she seeks refuge in death to avoid harrowing humiliations. But the providential plunge into a nearby stream becomes the very means of her rescue and redemption. A young Sikh saint meditating there saves her and, initiating her into the ordained faith, disappears as suddenly and mysteriously as he had materialized. Quite clearly, he is, in Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh's transparent symbology, an emblem of divinity in human form. Jamunā turned Ḍumelī turned Ghulām Fātimā is now rechristened Subhāgjī or "the Fortunate one. " The wheel of her trials and tribulations having come full circle, she is forever liberated from the aches and illusions of life. She has entered a commonwealth of shared views and visions. Her advent into Bābā Naudh Siṅgh's household reveals another set purpose. A simple life of prayer and piety, of service and sacrifice, we learn, is the beau ideal of Sikh ethics. And a rural homestead vibrating to the music of daily life is the happiest habitat for a psyche in quest. Even dissenters, scoffers and tempters of varying persuasions who happen to come to this village are soon won over by the homespun logic of Bābā Naudh Siṅgh, who is held up as a shining example of virtue in repose and confidence. Under the benign shadow of Bābā Naudh Siṅgh, Subhāgjī learns to live in an atmosphere of peace and bliss, unmindful of worldly temptations and distractions. Nightly, she recites tales of Sikh piety and glory to eager audiences. Bābā Naudh Siṅgh delivers long talks on all manner of vices and practices such as dirt and drunkenness, untouchability and idol-worship. A barrister and his wife, a doctor, a Brahmo Samāj preacher, turning up in the village, provide him opportunities for instruction in Sikh religion and morals. The daily kathā or scriptural commentary and historical narration serve to authenticate the Sikh tradition embodied in the lives of the Gurūs and of their disciples. To the extent Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh succeeds in creating symbolic archetypes of Sikh virtue and in painting a picture of pastoral country life, he managed to rouse the interest of his contemporaries. Viewed from today's perspective, we find Bābā Naudh Siṅgh a horizontal study in idealism. It represents a moment in Sikh consciousness around the turn of the present century.
Darshan Siṅgh Mainī