Book Review: From the Punjab to Pear Tree
My Father & the Lost Legend of Pear Tree, Part 1 by Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa. 2016 (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, £8.99). Available from Amazon and listed in the Suicide Bereaved Network Library.
It is rare to find a book that deals in any depth with the subject of suicide in a minority ethnic or religious community, and Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa’s self-published book is to be welcomed for filling this gap and for providing such a rich and informative account of life in the Sikh community in his hometown, Derby. The loss of his beloved father, Mohinder, to suicide when he himself was in his mid-twenties is the central theme of the book, and this event provides the starting point for the narrative. Although Mohinder was a man of few words, his relationship with his son is described in a very authentic way, leaving us in no doubt about this man’s devotion to his son and to his wider family. This makes his decline into depression all the more heart-breaking and heightens the sense of loss felt by his family and community following his suicide.
The book provides a vivid description of the young Sikh boy growing up, from a perspective that spans two continents. Kalwinder’s pride, both in his Punjabi ancestry and in his East Midlands hometown is vividly evoked. The cultural complexities of Sikhism are explained, particularly the hierarchy of sibling roles within the family and – amusingly – the difficulty Kal experienced in trying to maintain his top-knot as a young boy.
This book also provides a remarkable insight into the male psyche, describing the author’s pride in his beloved Derby County Football Club, his strong work ethic and drive to achieve, and how he draws on these elements when navigating his grief at the loss of his father.
My Father and the Lost Legend of Pear Tree is not necessarily an easy read, as the narrative tends to jump around and there is so much background detail to absorb. There are also some sections that don’t add much to the reader’s understanding and which would have benefitted from editing. Another observation is that the pages of this book are unnumbered, making it difficult to refer to specific locations in the book.
However, this is a hugely valuable and informative book on the themes of suicide and suicide bereavement, on the Sikh community and culture in Britain, and on masculinity and father-son relationships.