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Poet, Singer, and Activist

Know Your Poets: Mohanjit

Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in Discussion | 0 comments

MohanjitI have always enjoyed reading Mohanjit’s poetry. His poems have a haunting quality to them, where at first glance they seem to be about one thing, but the more you think about it, the real thrust of the poem begins to emerge. One of my favorite poems of his is titled, “Sanwad,” meaning a dialogue. It is a poem that seems to be about two people having a conversation and somehow it becomes a profound meditation on how we as individuals never truly stop what we’re doing to engage in the simple act of talking to each other.Mohanjit is a Punjabi Poet, critic and translator, who was born in village Adliwala, Amritsar in 1938. He is now settled in Delhi and has published eight books of Punjabi poetry, including Sehkda Shehar, Varvrik, Turde Phirde Maskhare, Ki Nari Ki Nadi, Datan Wale Boohe, Ohle Wich Ujiara, Goorhi Likhat Wala Varka, Hawa Piazi. He has won several awards, including the Param Sahit Sanman. He has also participated in many national and international seminars, and scripted, as well as voiced documentaries for Jalandhar and Door Darshan.Here is his poem, “Sanwad,”  in Gurmukhi, which I have loosely translated into English below:
ਓਹ ਤਾਂ ਇਕ ਪੀਰ ਸੀ
ਜੋ ਦੂਜੇ ਪੀਰ ਨੂੰ ਮਿਲਿਆ
ਇਕ ਕੋਲ ਦੁੱਧ ਦਾ ਨੱਕੋ ਨੱਕ ਭਰਿਆ ਕਟੋਰਾ ਸੀ
ਦੂਜੇ ਕੋਲ ਚਮੇਲੀ ਦਾ ਫੁਲ
ਮੱਥਿਆਂ ਦੇ ਤੇਜ ਨਾਲ ਵਸਤਾਂ ਅਰਥਾਂ’ਚ  ਬਦਲ ਗਈਆਂ
ਅਸੀਂ ਤਾਂ ਵਗਦੇ ਰਾਹ ਹਾਂ
ਕਿਸੇ ਮੋੜ ਕਿਸੇ ਚੁਰਾਹੇ ਤੇ ਮਿਲਦੇ ਹਾਂ
ਜਾਂ ਇੱਕ ਦੂਜੇ ਤੋਂ ਨਿਖੜ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਾਂ
ਓਹ ਵੀ ਇੱਕ ਚੁੱਪ ਦਾ ਦੂਜੀ ਚੁੱਪ ਨਾਲ ਸੰਵਾਦ ਸੀ
ਇਹ ਵੀ ਇੱਕ ਚੁੱਪ ਦਾ ਦੂਜੀ ਚੁੱਪ ਨਾਲ ਸੰਵਾਦ ਹੈ
Loose English Translation:
He was one hermit who met another hermit. One had a bowl full of milk and the other a jasmine flower. Unspoken words of wisdom exchanged in silence between them turned these objects in to profound meanings. We on the other hand as countless wayfarers meet each other at turns, cross roads of life only to be separated. That was a dialogue of one silence with another silence. This too is a dialogue between one silence and the other.
The beauty of the language Mohanjit uses in the original flows beautifully and he uses colloquial expressions that lose all of their flavor when translated, such as “nako-nak,” which I translated simply as “full,” but the meaning is probably closer to “filled close to capacity or to the brim,” but that sounds too cumbersome.  And I am no translator, just someone who wants others to help realize how wonderful the meaning of his poetry is. There are many other lines in there that create the tone and mood, and lets his rural upbringing as well as his knowledge of Sakhis from the life of Baba Nanak to infuse his poems.
This poem is very much rooted in a well known story from the life of Baba Nanak during his travels, more intimately referred to as Udassies.
Baba Nanak travels to Multan, a vibrant city that the following Persian Sher characterizes in

Char cheezen tohfa-e-Multan ast
Gard-o-Garma, Gada, Gorsatan ast

The above Sher roughly translates to: “Four special gifts of Multan are dust, heat, beggars, and burial grounds.”

The other hermits of Multan who were plentifull in numbers, heard the news of Baba Nanak – a new hermit– arriving in this City of Saints and didn’t want another hermit encroaching on their “turf.” To send him a message that he was not needed and that they were contented with their accomplishment, they sent him a bowl filled with milk, which Baba Nanak quickly understood meant there is no more a room for another hermit in Multan. Baba Nanak held the bowl in his hands and after closely examining the bowl, instead of drinking from it, he took out a jasmine flower from his pocket, and placed it afloat on the surface of the milk. He then sent the bowl back. The hermits of Multan read between the lines and were impressed at this silent yet symbolic dialogue of minds that produced no heat, only light that transformed these objects to profound meanings!

I leave you with a short video to further ponder over the implication’s of Mohanjit’s poem.  It is of a 4 year old boy – Rajan Singh Aujla, singing Babbu Mann’s song: Ik Baba Nanak Si:

What did you make of Mohanjit’s poem?

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Lohri Message 2013: Is Punjabi a Dying Language? It may well be!

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Discussion | 0 comments

Lohri 4In view of the intense debate started about the future of one of the most ancient languages and associated cultures i.e. Punjabi and Punjabiat  and as a concerned citizen who watches this debate closely, I wrote an article titled, “Is Punjabi a Dying Language? and posted it on April 2, 2012. As usual I received some very interesting comments. One of the most recent comments that I received in the new year a few days ago was by Jehanzeb Mahar from Pakistan and I quote, “A few months ago, in Pakistan, parliamentarians from Sindh forwarded a bill calling for giving the status of national language to Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto and Balochi, to a parliamentary committee. Amazingly, the members from Punjab, alongwith Urdu members, came out to be the most vocal opponents of the bill. So, the bill was rejected and couldn’t even be presented in the parliament for voting.” Vow! You should read that again and ponder!!
The question arises if the goodwill is any better on the eastern border of the Indus Valley?

Tradition has it that all Punjabis celebrate Lohri as a festival in their own ways, families get together and exchange good wishes. Not intending to water down the jubilations, I wonder how many of us really know the sober history behind it all. Reflecting on this and to bring it to the forefront of all concerned Punjabis living at home or in the Diaspora, I thought it appropriate to publish again the article as well as my Punjabi poem, ” Ma Boli Punjabie Tera Kon Vichara”, which I had written and posted on the website. Celebrating this ‘Lohri’ will not be complete unless it rekindles the spirit of ‘Dulla Bhatti’ of yesteryears who laid down his life saving the honor of a daughter of Punjab. From the ongoing it appears now the honor of Punjabi Ma is at stake!

On this note I leave you with the links to read my article as well as my poem and ponder :


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Punjabi Poem (romanized): Tera Kaun Vichara

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Gurmukhi Poems, Punjabi Poetry, Romanized Punjabi Poems | 1 comment

Dedicated to Dulla Bhatti  here is my Punjabi Poem for Lohri . . . .


Who was Dulla Bhatti and his relation with Punjabiat & Lohri. . . .


Dulla Bhatti was a Legendary Hero of Punjab, who led a rebellion against the Moughal King Akbar. . .


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The year that was 2012!

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013 in Discussion | 0 comments

Dear Friends,
2012 has been a dramatic year, from Malala Yousafzai to Damini to mass murders and unrelenting violence, especially against women and children in places where they are most vulnerable. Having received a lot of good wishes for the new year, I was thinking hard how to reciprocate to all of my friends. Then came along an email written by Prof. Chaman Lal of Jawahar Lal Nehru University Delhi addressed to Kuldip Nayar, copied to me.  I could not have found better words than this to wish you with the year 2013 and I partly quote: “May the year prove to be little just, with less violence, reviving more humaneness. There would be no lasting peace till society becomes just with equitable distribution of natural and social resources to all human beings on earth without reference to class, race, caste, nation, gender or age. Where there are no crimes or fewer crimes with fast justice.”

I leave you my Punjabi Kavita,”Dheeaan” (Daughters)  and you can read the Kavita di Kahani if interested.


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Nazm, “ਪੀਂਘਾਂ ਕਿਥੇ ਪਾਵਾਂ,” Punjabi Poem, “Peenghan Kitthe Panvaan” (Gurmukhi/Romanized)

Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Gurmukhi Poems, Punjabi Poetry, Romanized Punjabi Poems | 0 comments

Nazm, “ਪੀਂਘਾਂ ਕਿਥੇ ਪਾਵਾਂ,” Punjabi Poem, “Peenghan Kitthe Panvaan” (Gurmukhi/Romanized) by Pashaura Singh Dhillon

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