Gurbaksh Singh Preetlari (1895–1977) was a Punjabi novelist and short story writer with more than fifty books to his credit. He is also considered the father of modern Punjabi prose and received Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, New Delhi in 1971.
Gurbakhsh Singh established Preet Nagar township that was equidistant between Amritsar and Lahore. Gurbaksh Singh Preetlari, through his personal charisma, brought people like Balraj Sahni, Nanak Singh, celebrity artist [Sobha Singh (painter)] and Diwan Singh, father of Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Arora of Bangladesh war fame, apart from associating Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Upendra Nath Ashq and Kartar Singh Duggal,playwright Balwant Gargi, poets Mohan Singh and Amrita Pritam: the best talent of the time — with Preet Nagar. The great martyr Diwan Singh Kalepani,the great intellectual Principal Teja Singh,principal Jodh Singh were closely associated. Gandhiji was to visit here and Nehru did. Tagore was aware of it. Mulkh Raj Anand, a renowned writer in English, said that Tagore's legacy was carried forward by four in India, and counts Gurbakhsh Singh as one of these.
He brought great solace and a sense of adventure to the just about upcoming middle class and would-be professionals, through his writings in the journal he founded in 1933,'This journal, PREETLARI or LINKED(THROUGH)LOVE, preceded the setting up of the township by 5 years. The township was in line with the international trend for Intended Communities, it had among other efforts, a community kitchen, an activity based school called ActivitySchool, a park, physical, artistic, political, economic activity, a team of peace corps, gatherings of like minds, theatrical activity, picnics, etc.
Although Preet Nagar suffered a lot at the time of India's partition (it is situated merely a few kilometers from the border that divides India and Pakistan)and most of its inhabitants migrated to Delhi and other cities during those turbulent days, Gurbaksh Singh and his family returned to live there with a few other families.
In the mid 90's, two decades after Gurbaksh Singh's death, a Trust named 'Gurbaksh Singh Nanak Singh Foundation' was set up to restart cultural activities in Preet Nagar. A building was erected to host a library, an indoor conference hall and an amphitheater. Currently, under the chairperson-ship of the eldest daughter of the writer, Uma Gurbaksh Singh, plays are staged every month in the amphitheater to entertain and educate the local people. This tradition has been going on for the last ten years and Punjabi plays from all over the state as well as neighboring Pakistan have been performed there.
To share his vision and philosophy of life with others, he started the monthly journal Preet Lari in 1933. The journal became so popular that Gurbaksh Singh came to be known as Gurbaksh Singh Preet Lari, although he himself never used this suffix as an author. During Gurbaksh Singh's lifetime, from the 1950s his son Navtej Singh, a well-known writer himself, started co-editing the journal with his father and remained its editor until his own death in 1981. After the death of Navtej Singh, his son Sumit Singh aka Shammi and Shammi's wife Poonam continued to run the magazine. Shammi was killed by Sikh fundamentalists as he wrote against extremism. The magazine is now run by Poonam Singh who is the editor and Rati Kant Singh, Shammi's younger brother and husband to Poonam Singh. Gurbaksh Singh's son Hirday Paul Singh edited "Bal Sandesh" the special children's magazine in Punjabi, also started by Sardar Gurbaksh Singh.
The journal Preet Lari carried translations,interpretations of western thought,trends as well as sought to reinvent indehenous institutions in the same,i.e., modern light.
The family members of Gurbakhsh Singh sported his efforts and the next generation carried on the work during his lifetime and after. The magazine, once printed in four languages, and influencing the generations now in their late seventies in Pakistan, too, and going to many countries such as Thailand. That is, wherever Punjabis were settled, brought about a cultural revolution of sorts. It continues to run today and can be seen at preetlari.wordpress,com? edited by Poonam Singh, his granddaughter in law and published by his grandson Rati Kant Singh.
Gurbaksh Singh Preetlari Award
There is an Award for Punjabi writer which is named as Gurbaksh Singh Preetlari Award and given to many modern Punjabi Writers such as Dalbir Chetan as mentioned in Who's who of Indian Writers, 1999: A-M book.
- Who's who of Indian Writers, 1999: A-M By Kartik Chandra Dutt, ISBN 81-260-0873-3