Shiv Kumar Batalvi: Master of Metaphor

In the Punjabi literature, the name of Shiv Kumar Batalvi stands out amongst the poets. He was the master of metaphor. He drew his metaphors from the rural life of Punjab, animals, birds, farming, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Guru Granth Sahib and the Patwaris and quarrels about the land. As with all gifted poets, he had keen eye to observe the life around him. This closeness to the soil may have been the effect of his father being the Land officer.

His poetry expressed the anguish and helplessness of the downtrodden, oppression of the women in the male dominated society.  The epic “Luna” as narrated by him is the fitting example of the latter. Luna, daughter of poor man was forced to marry the King who was like her father in the years and she was just a young woman. The king who had a son by his another wife was just about the same age as Luna. Luna, naturally chanced to see him and developed a soft corner for him. A society which was intolerant to women freedom and equality labelled her a ignoble and characterless woman. The story was rewritten by Shiv, who questioned such insults to her and instead asked why the society never raised a finger at the king for marrying a girl the age of his daughter with poverty and beauty as her only faults.

He never compromised about his poetry in his life. He wrote for some films also but poems were already written by him and these were adopted in the films. Many of his poems became the anthem of the youth in Punjab and even today no upcoming serious Punjabi singers is satisfied till he renders some poetry of Shiv. The last in this line is the singer Rabbi Gill who sang the sufi song of Baba Bulleh Shah namely “Bulla ki Jana main Kaun” and the song became a rage. Other prominent singers who have sung the poetry of Shiv are Jagjit Singh, Surinder Kaur, Asa Singh Mastana, Mohamad Rafi and Mohinder Kapoor.

He fell in love with a girl belonging to Sikh community. The girl was married off to someone else by her father. Heart broken, Shiv resorted to fatalism and turned to the drinking. Many of his poems reflect the chasm between rich and poor and helplessness. He went away so soon and deprived us more of beautiful literature.

Harking Back the Old Days

These days rewinding of the tape on the spool of life is taking frequently. This may be a indicator of many things. One of them may be that a person is not at ease in the present circumstances and since one cannot run away easily, the only escape is to take shelter in the past memories. The events of the past which are becoming memories each passing day may be good or bad but since they have now become history and rewriting them is beyond our capacity, so begin to like them. We are lost in the reminisces.

The childhood of every person was greener as compared to the present status. The longer you go back into the past, we were more nearer to the mother nature. Of course my memories have been stirred by watching the DD Bharati channel which in between telecasts the old recordings. On such recording I watched a few days back was a documentary on the revolutionary poet Makhdum Mohiuddin by Muzzaffar Ali.

Who can forget the songs of movie “Bazaar” ? This film was also made by Muzzaffar Ali. He makes a movie after a hell lot of research and have an great eye for detail. He does not seem to be bothered by the expenditure and strives to bring back the milieu of the setting of the story to life. This is called the creativity.

Makhdum Mohiuddin was born in a village in the Medak district in 1907. It was the time when we were ruled by the British. The Hyderabad had a Nizam. Mohiuddin studied till MA and taught in a college. He joined the marxist party of India. Many a times he went to jail. His poetry reflects the struggle of an ordinary man and the love. Hyderabad has a strong Udru base in its own right due to being ruled by Nizams. It is also said that Nizams were richest rulers in the world though the disparity between rich and poor was very high.

Long back he wrote one Nazm called “Ek Chameli Ke Mandve Tale” which was a long poem and a very popular song of the time. The song of Bazaar called “Phir Chhidi Baat raat phulon ki” was a hugely popular. It was sung by Lata and Talat Aziz and music was composed by the inimitable Khayaam.

In the documentary, this song was sung as a quawaali by some quawaals in such a beautiful way that it seemed even more ethereal than the song sung by Talat Aziz and Lata. I tried unsuccessfully to find it the net because nowhere in the documentary the names of singers appeared. Most of his poems are compiled in the book “बिसात-ए-रक़्स” . One of his poems starts with following lines.

Hayat le ke chalo, kayenat le ke chalo, chalo to sare zamane ko saath leke chalo… (Take the life with you, take the universe with you, when you go, take the people with you…)

This clearly shows that he was a people’s poet. He draw the material and ideas for his poems from the life of the common people.

Guided by Heart

If someone asks me to write again the article on same subject, I am almost certain I will not be able to reproduce it. My composition will change drastically.

I think this happens with persons who write using their heart, not with their heads. Heart is not as stable as the head. It controls the emotional part of our personalities. As the emotions depend upon the short term happenings, they tend not to be repetitive. Such persons can write fiction, poetry but not prose. Such person cannot be good managers.

May be if I had tried, I could have been a writer. But again, my interests cover not the narrow but broad spectrum. And this world, oh, it is so strange and weird, and life so short (it may be an excuse in my case, as I have already crossed 50 years of life), that I seem so helpless against the tide of time which with every passing day is becoming mightier and mightier and the day is not far when it will engulf me.

Beautiful Poem by Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,

Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,

I thought that love would last forever: ‘I was wrong’

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.