I 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:
As many of you know, Dr. Mamta Joshi, a well known Sufi singer in India, invited me to attend her concert in Canada where she was singing one of my most prized poems: Umber Di Shehzadi: To the Princess of the Skies. I was a little nervous about how she would interpret this poem that is so dear to me, and I was very pleased with her beautiful rendition.
I am pleased to make the announcement that Dr. Mamta Joshi’s rendition in Sufi Taan of Umber Di Shehzadiye : To the Princess of the Skies with English subtitles is finally here! Sit back, enjoy and judge for yourself. Your comments are welcome as always!
I am a Punjabi poet and singer in my 70s. My blog is about sharing the beauty of Punjabi poetry with the world. I sing about gender equality, environmental issues, loss of tradition. Read my book, listen to my music , and watch my music slideshows. While I have lived and worked all over the world, from Nigeria, Tanzania, the U.A.E., England, and America, Punjab and Punjabiat is at the core of my poetry Read More.