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The Exile

In 1839, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, one of India ’s greatest rulers, died and his empire was plunged into chaos. A decade later, weakened by internecine rivalry and intrigue, Punjab fell into the waiting hands of the British. The ruler who signed away the kingdom and its treasures, including the famed Koh-i-noor diamond, was aneleven-year-old boy, Duleep Singh, the youngest of Ranjit Singh's acknowledged sons.

In this nuanced and poignant novel that draws upon true events, Navtej Sarna tells the unusual story of the last Maharaja of Punjab. As the British annexed his kingdom, Duleep was separated from his mother and his people, taken under British guardianship and converted to Christianity. At sixteen, he was transported to England to live the life of a country squire—an exile that he had been schooled to seek himself. But disillusionment with the treatment meted out to him and a late realization of his lost legacy turned Duleep into a rebel. He became a Sikh again and sought unsuccessfully to return to India and lead his people. Dragged into the murky politics of nineteenth-century Europe, depleted and vulnerable to deceit and ridicule, he died a lonely man in a cheap hotel room in Paris.

Told in Duleep Singh’s own voice, and the voices of four characters based on his contemporaries, The Exile is a compelling and deeply moving portrait of one of the most tragic figures of Sikh and Indian history. It is, equally, an unsparing examination of British imperialism, and the greed of the Indian princes that fed it.

"In [The Exile] Navtej Sarna Presents a gripping tragedy: a sordid tale of intrigue, treachery and cold-blooded murders that greeted the end of the Sikh Kingdom, and of the exile to England of its last Maharaja, Duleep Singh...A dextrous mix of fact and fiction by a master storyteller that holds the reader spellbound to the last page."
-Khushwant Singh

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We Weren't Lovers Like That Penguin India

Navtej Sarna has published stories in magazines and journals in India and the UK. This is his first novel.

At the begining of the new millennium, Aftab's life came undone. He turned forty, and his wife left him for another man, taking their son with her. And now he is on a train to Dehradun, the town of his childhood, doing the one thing he feels he is still good at : running away. He has broken with his imperfect past. It is his way of getting his own back at the world.

With rare sensitivity Sarna's debut novel details a life of missed opportunities and approximate loves.

"Exquisitely written, deeply-felt, introspective and evocative, Sarna's first novel marks an auspicious debut."
-Shashi Tharoor


"Navtej Sarna's shimmering meditation on love and loss becomes a compelling journey through the haunted landscapes of memory."
-Vikram Chandra

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Winter Evenings

Two men stuck in a small mountain town develop an unlikely and unspoken friendship; a punctilious bureaucrat becomes briefly reckless at the end of his career; a high class prostitute on vacation reads The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' to a man recovering from the end of a long affair; the ghosts of Partition return in 1984 to destroy the equilibrium of a tough Sikh matriarch; an ageing widow finds freedom and peace in poetry.

In clean, understated prose, Navtej Sarna's stories take us through the landscapes of Geneva, Shimla, Paris, Moscow, Delhi and Bombay, where everyday people find or lose their way in life quietly, almost by accident.

Marked by rare sensitivity and compassion. this collection by the acclaimed author of "The Exile" and "We Weren't Lovers Like That" is a poignant ode to the human spirit.

"Navtej Sarna's stories are keenly observed vignettes of ordinary lives, told with profound empathy, a keen eye for the telling detail, and economy of style"
-Shashi Tharoor

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Zafarnama

Written in exquisite Persian verse, the Zafarnama or ‘Epistle of Victory’ was a defiant message composed by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, and addressed to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, following a series of fierce battles between the imperial forces and Sikh warriors. Despite the ravages of the war and the loss of his four sons and many brave fighters, the guru felt that he had won a moral victory over the emperor.

With wisdom and honesty, the guru indicts the emperor for the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of his empire, as exposed by the treachery of the emperor’s commanders in battle. The 111 stirring stanzas in this timeless text form the core of the guru’s spiritual philosophy, highlighting his espousal of morality in thought and action as well as his deep understanding of the true nature of God and Creation.

In this brilliant new translation, Navtej Sarna brings to life the valiant voice of Guru Gobind Singh and the power of his poetic genius in a passionate disavowal of tyranny that remains ever relevant.

When all has been tried, yet Justice is not in sight, It is then right to pick up the sword, It is then right to fight.

Savage Harvest

‘The season of sickles and scrapes had passed; this was the time of axes and spears…it had been a strange harvest.’

A brave father prepares to sacrifice his son; a poet returns to his home across the border to find his books intact among strangers; a young man challenges the neighbourhood rogue to a horse-riding bet to rescue a captive girl; a middle-aged man outs a murderer from among his well-behaved guests at a social gathering; a wife’s faith destroys the hatred in her husband’s heart; and, when humanity is under threat, a dog lays down his life to protect his mistress. The stories in this powerful collection, by one of the most respected names in modern Punjabi literature, record epic moments of survival in the sea of violence that overwhelmed north India in 1947.

Translated by Navtej Sarna, these stories illustrate the truth that hate and violence have no religion, and that courage and compassion, too, are to be found among people of every faith. A harrowing record of the horrors of Partition, Savage Harvest is also a poignant tribute to the human spirit—to men and women who will wage their all in defence of humanity.

"Indians at Herod's Gate" A Jerusalem Tale

Eight hundred years ago Baba Farid, the great Sufi saint of the Chisti order, visited Jerusalem, freshly wrested back for Islam from the Crusaders by Saladin, and meditated there for forty days in an underground room. Later, an Indian Hospice was born through a waqf endowment around that room and has welcomed Indian pilgrims—and soldiers—to Jerusalem ever since. For close to a century, through the tumultuous years of the British Mandate, the Second World War, the birth of Israel and the ensuing decades of conflict, the Hospice has been looked after by an Indian family—first by Sheikh Nazir Hasan Ansari, a police inspector’s son from Saharanpur, and then by his eldest son, Sheikh Munir Ansari.

Following in the tradition of literary travellers such as Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux, Navtej Sarna wanders through the timeless narrow lanes of Old Jerusalem, sifting through fact and fable to tease out the unique story of the Indian Hospice and the Ansari family. What starts off as a personal conversation becomes a deeply researched but lightly told account that weaves historical narrative with telling personal detail.

The Book of Nanak

By Navtej Sarna
Published by Penguin Viking

Navtej Sarna reconstructs the main events in Guru Nanak's life, shedding new light on his teachings.

There are also translations of some of his hymns which continue to inspire people the world over.

Folk Tales of Poland

Published by Sterling Publishers

Collection of fables, folk tales and legends from Poland reflecting the culture and rich traditions of the Polish people. The tales are a mix of the purely entertaining and the historical: stories of princesses, witches as well as magic in the never-never land of clouds and castles breathe alongside stories based in history and located in well known places of present-day Poland. The book provides delightful fare for readers of all ages.