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Poet, Singer, and Activist

Is the Earth Just Old And In The Way? Maybe It’s Time to Move to Mars!

Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in Discussion | 0 comments

India-Mars-OrbiterIndia’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is all over the news, from the BBC, to the New York Times, and of course, every major newspaper and media outlet in India. It has broken many well deserved groundbreaking records: 

  • The first first Asian country to accomplish this feat
  • It is the ONLY to accomplish this on its first attempt
  • It is TEN times cheaper than the U.S. mission to Mars.

On September 30, 2014, an agreement was drawn in Toronto between India and America, to launch a joint Earth-observing satellite mission and establish a pathway for future joint missions. India, it seems, has joined the elite superpowers, and this partnership between two large yet vastly differing democracies with economic models on earth symbolizes a strange common thread: the hurry to abandon Earth and ignore talk of Human Rights, Climate Change, or environmental issues, and simply find a new planet to inhabit.

1240811773377The idea of people abandoning Earth and colonizing Mars might seem far fetched and in the land of science fiction, but not according to many businessmen, such as British Billionaire Richard Branson, who bought the world’s first commercial space line several years ago, Virgin Galactic, in hopes of populating Mars by 2024.

“In my lifetime, I’m determined to be a part of starting a population on Mars. I think its absolutely realistic. It will happen,” he said.

If you have the financial resources, you can even book your flight to Mars when it becomes available at the Virgin Galactic website.

The MOM mission being so cheap is the talk of the industry and the world. Responding to this someone however, quickly expressed his wonderment by writing that Indian government can swing mission to Mars on time and under budget, yet fails to accurately forecast electricity needed for most of the states, every year. According to this CNN article, it claims that a huge part of the reason for it being so cheap is the labor: “For example, highly-skilled aerospace engineers in India might receive a salary of $1,000 per month, a fraction of what they could earn in Europe or the U.S.” During the media frenzy over MOM, I read an interesting article in a local newspaper published here in California:

”The 57 year old writer argued that living to be 75 years of age was long enough for anyone. After 75, we are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” Conveniently forgetting, how our present lives would be poorer if we take away history’s 75 year olds, it goes on to say that aging is more costlier than youth,. Not surprisingly, this argument was to attack the Medicare bills of Obama Care. Although, I wouldn’t agree with any of this, nor would I expect anyone else with no axe to grind would believe this, yet I found a relevance here of some sort. Read this:

Man on Moon 1According to a United Nations Report freshly launched this week, population will reach 9.6 billion. The already exhausted and over taxed Earth will run out of food by 2050. Food prices will inevitably spike with a rising demand for protein foods such as meat, milk, fish and eggs. Growing shortages of fresh water are already adding to the catastrophe. The two major food baskets of the world namely: California in America and Punjab in the Indian sub continent, are already half empty because of the seasons being out of gear and due to Climate Change/ Global Warming. Subjected to continued exploitation and pollution over the years, both are at the verge of an environmental disaster.

In California, the Central Valley agricultural landscape for instance, is already changing for the worse. In a prolonged drought and due to the shortage of irrigation water, thousands of acres of farmed land are left as fallow and hundreds of acres of mature almond orchards have been abandoned and left to die. The environmentalists and the farmers are already fighting each other for their rights to water and the government is caught in the middle of it all. Situation in Punjab wanting to be California so to speak, is even worse, since they don’t seem to be aware of its coming or where they are going. In many studies, a recurring hypothetical is regarding potential wars involving more than 50 countries on five continents all over water rights, unless something is done to control how to share reservoirs, rivers, etc.

Rather than look towards the skies for a new planet to colonize, our focus should be on helping to make this one livable. In the late 1960s,  I watched Neil Armstrong taking those momentous steps on the moon, and I remember the same feelings of amazement mingled with sadness and fear for this planet. Our home. I wrote my poem, “Umber di Shehzadi de Naa,” (To the Princess of the Skies) in 1969. I imagined the Earth and Moon as two sisters. Man has taken all he wanted from Earth and is now knocking on the Moon’s door, intent on doing the same to Moon. Earth writes a letter to her estranged sister, warning her not to open the door. To read more about the story behind this poem, read my Kavita di Kahani.

Please listen to my poem and I would love to know your thoughts in the comments, either here, or on my Facebook Page.

Sufi singer, Mamta Joshi, also sung a beautiful rendition of my poem, which you can listen to below:

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Fighting Our Own Battles: Using Technology to Educate People on The Sikhs!

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in Discussion | 0 comments

safe_image.phpIt always pleases me when I see organizations like SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Fund) stepping up to actively educate people about the the Sikh turban. It seems like it’s an ongoing series of battles, even though we have been living here in America for over a century!

Caused primarily by ignorance and misunderstanding, several community activists and Sikh American organizations are actively engaged to overcome this bias by spreading awareness and educate our fellow American brothers and sisters. They are working with the legislators, educators and other community leaders and organizations. Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, SALDEF has launched a historic new media initiative on behalf of Sikh Americans, with first ever PSA (Public Service Announcement) by a Sikh American – Waris Ahluwalia, an actor, writer, and designer. Please take a moment to view it above and you can read more about the initiative HERE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2P4Geib5UmA

Under different circumstances and in a different land, the Sikh turban has a long history representing a revolutionary voice against oppression, ever since Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion donned it the first time more than 500 years ago. Below is a video slide show of my Punjabi poem “ਪੱਗ ਦੀ ਸਾਂਝ,” (Pag di Saanjh with English subtitles): a Tribute to the Sikh Turban that I sang to add to this dialogue and hopefully instill pride, respect, and understanding in its history and all it represents.

The importance of not only educating others, but educating ourselves on the history of the Sikh turban and contextualizing it is especially important today when it has become almost a standard part of a Sikh boy’s educational experience to be called “Osama,” or “terrorist,” simply because people don’t know who the Sikhs are or what the turban represents.

Sikhs have been in the United States for over a century. It’s about time our fellow Americans knew!

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Punjabi Poem by Pashaura Singh Dhillon – A Tribute to the Ghadrites on the Centenary of the Founding of the Ghadar Party

Posted by on Jul 17, 2013 in Gurmukhi Poems, Punjabi Poetry, Romanized Punjabi Poems | 2 comments

Dr. Johanna Ogden presenting a copy of proclamation passed by the Mayor of Astoria, Oregon State in America designating 2013 as a celebration of the Centenary of the Founding of the Ghadar Party in Astoria, in 1913 where it all began to Dr. Jaspal Singh Vice Chancellor Punjabi University Patiala at the Yugantar Ashram San Francisco to day on July 13, 2013Happy Celebration at the Centenary of Founding of the Ghadar Party !

The Ghadar Party was founded in a distant land from India in San Francisco a century ago in 1913. The centenary celebration was held at the ‘Yugantar Ashram’ the original headquarters of the Ghadar Party at 5 Wood Street in San Francisco on July 13, 2013!

I was invited to attend, along with two other community members from the Central Valley of California – Charanjit Singh Batth, affectionately known as the ‘Raisin King’ being the most successful grape grower in America, and Bharpoor Singh Dhaliwal, the former Mayor of the City of San Joaquin.

It was a momentus occasion for all of us and especially for me as I stood in the place where history was being made for a second time. A close relation, I spent my formative years under the guidance of Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, one of the founding members of the Ghadar Movement in the village of Bhakna in India. He introduced me to Ghadar Poets and other revolutionary poetry, published in the progressive literary magazine, Preet Lahri.

When we arrived at the tiny hall at the Yugantar Ashram, it was jam packed with approximately 200 men, women and some university students who travelled  far and wide to be a part of history. There were many prominent people in attendance, such as guest of honor, Sita Ram Yechury, a member of the Rajya Sabha, as well as main speakers Dr. Johanna Ogden, a historian from Astoria , Oregon, Dr. Mark Juergens Meyer, Dr. Harish Puri from GND University Amritsar, Dr. Jaspal Singh, Vice Chancellor and Drs. Jaswinder Singh, Dhanwant Kaur of Punjabi University, Patiala, Hardam Singh Azad from Houstan – Texas, Harsev Singh Bains IWA, Great Britain  and Dr. Mohinder Singh Member Bhai Veer Singh Sahit Sadan from Delhi , India. The Indian Consul General’s office was in attendance and a handful of young students from the Universities of Stanford and Berkley also paid their tributes.

The program was well organized and concentrated to highlight and revisit the Ghadrites unique contribution they made towards the Indian freedom struggle. The line I liked best and that said it all, was by Dr. Mark Juergens Meyer. Dr. Meyers looked genuinely excited when he said that he was very proud to be a Californian knowing that the first flag of Indian Independence was flown from this very place, the Yugantar Ashram at 5 Wood Street, San Francisco in California in 1913. I said to myself what a shame! How come the successive Indian governments and people who came in power and ruled India since they got freedom from the British subjugation of 200 years, did not realize this proud fact before Dr. Meyer did? Or were they not genuinely proud as Dr. Meyers was? I found no answer. But that reminded me the age old Punjabi phrase,” ਸ਼ੇਰਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਮਾਰਾਂ ਗਿਦੜ ਖਾਂਦੇ ਆਏ |” – Sheran dian maraan Giddarh khande aiey’ meaning the kills made by brave lions are always eaten to the bone by the cowardly jackals.

Printing PressThe aspect I found totally missing however, was the mention of the Ghadrite poetry at the centenary celebration.  The commemoration was only for the Ghadrites as warriors and nothing much about their poetry which equally if not more significantly inspired their countrymen.  The charge of the handful of Ghadrites against the British Empire where the Sun never set was no less an act of patriotism than the well recorded ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ during the battle of Balaclava, when the 700 rode to the valley of death. But very few people know Ghadrites were poets at heart also. After all it was the poetic lines which Shahid Kartar Singh Sarabha kept singing while hand operating that rackety printing press at the Yugantar Ashram to print the Ghadar newspaper:

“ਸੇਵਾ ਦੇਸ ਦੀ ਜਿੰਦੜੀਏ ਬੜੀ ਔਖੀ, ਗੱਲਾਂ ਕਰਨੀਆਂ ਢੇਰ ਸੁੱਖਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ।
ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇਸ ਸੇਵਾ ਵਿਚ ਪੈਰ ਪਾਇਆ ਓਹਨਾਂ ਲੱਖ ਮੁਸੀਬਤਾਂ ਝੱਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ।“

Seva Des di Jindrie badi aukhi, gallan  krnian dher Sokhlian ne,
Jinhan Des –Seva vich pair paya, Ohna lakh Musibtan Jhallian ne.

(Meaning it is easy to talk big about it but serving the country is very difficult. That those who served had to bear countless hardships.)

These lines associated with Shaheed Kartar Singh were also said to be the favorites of Shaheed Bhagat Singh that were found in his pocket before he was hanged. The Ghadrites wrote poetry in other languages too but what attracted me most was the  poetry  in  Punjabi in the most prevalent and popular folksy tunes such as: Heer Waris named after the most popular and tragic love story. I paid a tribute by presenting a Punjabi poem in the same metering mode called  behr of baint in which most of these poems were usually written for the Ghadar newspaper. The Ghadrites also sang these poems  in the battlefield, in the trial courts, on the gallows and during hunger strikes in jails. I also sang in the same tune as these are usually sung, which I will upload as a free audio download if you would like (just ask!).

I have transliterated my poem into romanized Punjabi for the benefit of those who can’t read Gurmukhi, and there is a rough English translation below as well at the gracious request of the historian, Dr. Johanna Ogden of Astoria, who listened to me sing my poem in San Francisco and wanted to know what it was about! Here is my Punjabi poem:

Translated Punjabi Poem: Ghadri Babean nu Samarpat.docx

Romanized:

Ghadri Babeo prt ke vekheo je, Waris Tusan de Jehre Mukam pahunche
Ohi Juh te Shehar , Gran Ohi,  Pairhan Napde kadm – nishan Pahunche
Goonj Ghadr di Goonjdi Rhi Jitthon, ohna rahan nu krn salam Pahunche
Va nje Tusan de Os Vipar vichon,  Vekhn apna Nafa – Nuksan Pahunche

Akhnn  tusan Azadi de ghol ander,  Kame Bharti  ‘Kattean kre  keekun
Sohn Singh te Lala Hardyal verge, Heere Chalk-daman ander jareh keekun
Aeya Parrhn Sarabha te Berkley si, Sabk Ghadr Vale Ohne Parrhe Keekun
Barkatullah di Kabr te baitth Roe,  Etthe  Sutean Beet Gai  Vareh   Keekun

Charrhe Des – Azadi lai jnj lai ke, Sehre siran te Kistran dhre ‘ Katthe
Zat-Pat te Dharm nu rkkh pase, Ghdri Babeo Larhe  te  Mre    ‘Katthe
Dhatthe pian di Kistran pai Himmat, Rsse Fansian te Charh ke Fareh ‘Katthe
Chashm-deed Itihas Gwah Sanhven,Kabrin pai ‘Katthe, Sivean Sareh ‘Katthe

Asin ho ke vi nhin Azad Hoe, Lokin Puchhde Firn Swal ohi
Ucha hor ucha nivan hor nivan, Sochi tusan kujh hor di hor hoi
Bdle Ghorh-Swar e Ghorhean de, Chabak Rhi Lugam te Dore Ohi
Daie dosh hunn Dharhvi kehrean nu, jdon Doli Kaharan ne aap Khohi

Babe Akhde Humbla maar Uttho, Supna Suttean Nahin Sakar Hove
Turde Desvasi jdon ho ‘Katthe, Tan eh Karvan na Khalihar Hove
Hook dilan di Ghadr tad Goonj bndi, aam Admi jdon Dushwar Hove
Os Goonj Sanhven Bhora Tthehrdi nhin Nili, Pili jan Lal Sarkar Hove!

Rough English Translation:

Ghadrites come and watch how far they have come. It is the same place, farms and factories you once worked; the paths you treaded. It is the same hilltop whence your call for freedom resonated around the world. As your heir apparent they have come to figure out what to make of the investment you had made!

They ask how you organized ordinary Indian laborers in to the struggle for total Independence. How did you set the jewels like Sohan Singh and Lala Hardyal into your torn down garment? Sarabha came here only to seek higher education; how he received lessons to become a mutineer? They stopped and wept at the grave of Barkatullah; how come you have slept here for so long?

Riding for the wedding of bride freedom from a distant land; how you tied the ceremonial garlands on all heads together? How you kept the cast, creed and religion out and aside and fought against the oppressor as one people? Lying low as underdogs for so long; how you mustered the courage to stand up to the oppressor and fought to the finish? History bears witness; how you all shared the grave and the cremation ground hand in hand?

Having got freedom we are still not free; how come people are asking the same question again? The rich got richer and the poor poorer; you thought of something but something else happened. Only the horse riders changed; the whip, the bridle and the hunting rope stayed the same. How can they blame the outside marauders, when the palanquin is robbed by the palanquin bearers themselves?

Ghadrites say! Rise again for a second Ghadar; the dreams never come alive sleeping. When all countrymen unite as one people to move forward; the caravan fighting injustice and inequality becomes unstoppable. The heart ache stemming from hopelessness brings out a rebellion that turns to an echo resonating louder and louder as common man’s life becomes more difficult. Confronted with such a resonating echo; no oppression of any kind or color stands its ground.

 

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Lagging Behind Blogathon 2013, But Not Down And Out!

Posted by on Jun 23, 2013 in Discussion | 0 comments

TypewriterMy son, Navdeep and daughter-in-law, Sona, who are also participating in Michelle Rafter’s Blogathon, 2013 (read my post on the 12 Reasons I Signed Up For the Word count Blogathon), called me last week and asked if I was still doing the blogathon, since I missed a few posts. I said unlike Fauja Singh I may be trailing behind but like him I am not down and out. I am still blogathoning. I knew this was not a full answer but I also thought there might be others who were going through similar lapses and had suggestions or a word of advice how to double up. So I waited for more comments to arrive before writing this post.

I have  no hesitation in confessing that I don’t have the strict discipline like some of the close to my heart  friends and much wiser writers who  have written novels, short story collections, and books of poetry, including accomplished Punjabi writers, Jasbir Bhullar and Gurbachan Singh Bhullar. Perhaps not even as much a commitment as of the budding novelists like Navdeep and Sona, who have different jobs to pay the bills and a young daughter to attend to. I am easily distracted by family matters and other important community involvement work, such as promoting Punjabi language in California public schools.

I keep a notebook in my pocket that I try to keep my own pace of writing in, and often practice singing my own poems and poems of other poets  I like, while I’m driving, or sitting outside in my garden reading. I may not be able to write daily posts for the entire 30 days of the blogathon, but it has inspired me to complete a set goal. One of my goals is to have more people aware of the contributions of the Ghadrites, who launched the independence movement against British occupied India, that comprised of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and those without religion at all, from all parts of undivided India. Many people have not even heard of who the Ghadrites were, and if they have, they are only familliar with a few of them. Even fewer would have even thought about what transpired with their families – mothers, fathers, wives, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters or other close relatives and associates who they had left behind as they became outlaws when they did. Rarely do I meet people who are familiar with their poetry and their political accomplishments, all of which is important. It is therefore my goal that next month, July, as soon as the blogathon is finished I will start compiling a poetry ebook dedicated to the Ghadrites and their poetry for their centennial celebration in August 2013, which will be available for free download to anyone who is interested. I will post a link to it on my Facebook, or you can check back here on my site.

My two closest literary friends, who are also related to me – Jasbir Bhullar in Mohali and Gurbachan Singh Bhullar in Delhi, have made a career of being Punjabi writers, which is a very difficult career path in any country, especially in India, where Punjabi literature has taken a severe hit because of the partition in 1947. Today, the readership is small, but clearly a readership that is rising, because of the internet and high-tech apps which continue to make transliteration from one script to the other easier and easier irrespective of the man made border lines, which currently stop them at the borders as they do for people.

While the advice Jasbir and Gurbachan give me is always excellent and productive, it can also be pretty intimidating at times. They are two heavy weight award winning short story and novel writers, with great accomplishments against one hobby poet. When I see them, they find pleasure in ganging up against me in an age old writer vs poet debate, which is always conveniently brought up when I’m the only poet around. Clearly, I need to have more poet friends when I visit them! The irony is that both of them had poetry writing as their first love.

Coming back to the responses I have received so far in the form of comments, emails or during friendly phone call conversations, a couple of them are worth sharing with you who read my blogs:

Comment 1:

“Why do Punjabi writers who have emigrated out of Punjab continue to write in Punjabi and maintain connection to politics?

My response 1:

The reason is not very difficult. As fluent as I am in speaking English, my children both grew up speaking English as their first language, as now are my grandchildren. But there is a reason I have never attempted to write an English poem. Punjabi is my language no matter how far away I go, and it is a part of the identity of my children and grandchildren too.  A quote by a poet I have a lot of respect for, who understands this feeling well is the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. He puts it succintly: “I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests.” While the literal things that connect my poetry with Punjab may be different, the metaphors and feelings are very much the same.

Comment 2:

“Amrita Pritam’s poem you started with is a weak poem. It is very popular with the general Punjabi readers not from the literary point of view but only because of social – political reasons.To introduce Punjabi poetry to the English readers you should have begun with Baba Farid.  Readers reading in other languages should only be introduced with our very best literature and the very best poets.

Response 2:

This was a most interesting response that reminded me immediately of Henry Van Dyke’s  quotation when he says: “Use what talent you possess; The Woods would be very silent if no bird sang except those that sang best!”

I am not a critic or someone with a clear cut criteria of what makes one poem “better” than another or to judge the literary merits of a style of poetry. If this were the case, all of the Ghadar poets would be excluded from being introduced to any audience, Punjabi or otherwise. I am a hobby poet. I have never taken a class in singing or the writing of poetry, and have learned by reading poems that appeal to me, and those have rarely been poems that simply sound good. But those poems that have social and political points to make. And you will notice that my poems follow in this tradition. As someone once said, “writers don’t want to be admired, they want to be understood.”

I agree that the stalwarts going from poetry in the Sikh tradition and appearing in the Guru Grant Sahib like Baba Farid, Baba Nanak, Guru Arjan, Guru Teg Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh, and then moving on to Baba Bullah, Hussain, Bahu and Waris Shah is the general consensus. But my aim is not to create a static definitive end all and be all of who is the “best” Punjabi poet, or who should represent Punjabi poets. I will leave that to the experts, to people who have high degrees in analyzing these things.

Punjabi is a vibrant and living language that continues to produce some excellent poetry. And that is my aim in introducing Punjabi poets and writers to anyone who reads my blog, who are people with any tie to Punjab, or an interest in it, and not just people who only read English. I don’t think people coming to my blog consider I am the authority in Punjabi poetry. My main aim is to bring Punjabi literature from outside of its borders, and into a linguistic territory, which is all over the world. Like no one country owns English, no one country owns Punjabi language either, and this is the reason that in spite of some major setbacks, I don’t think it is a dying language.

Take Balwant Gargi’s “Ticket Checker,” short story of a Sardar ticket checker with an interesting identity. He is born in Punjab, brought up in CP, speaks fluent English mixed with Urdu, and the interaction is between him and a group of  younger generation artists on the train, who are traveling from Delhi to Bombay for a cultural presentation. And this is back in 1954. Two of the artists, Sodhi Joginder Singh and Anwar, don’t have the proper tickets, and the ticket checker is going to charge them the extra amount of money. Most of the story is about them trying to impress upon him as being fellow Punjabis and artists, trying to engage him in a talk about culture, and that they are dedicated to people causes!  Accustomed to judge people divided only into two kinds of groups with or without tickets, he does not know of the third kind and does not seem to budge.  Now in the story enters Prof. Harcharan Singh. He tries to interest him with Surinder Kaur and tells about her beauty of singing Punjabi songs, Mohan Singh and his “Save Patar,”Fazal Shah, Damodar and other legendary heavy weights. But because the ticket collector is so far removed from Punjabi, he doesn’t know any of these people. Finally, he is asked if he knows of the love story of Sohni-Mahinwal, which he says yes to, and has foggy memories of bathing in river Chenab in his childhood in Punjab.

Surinder Kaur sings him a folk song, and Dolly with her lisping voice joins her mother in the chorus and everyone else claps to match the rhythm.  The Ticket Checker’s stern lead metal face melts down with the emotional warmth. His lips begin to tremble. His eyes well up with tears. His whole being begins to unravel like a skein of cotton yarn. The central thrust of the story, as I understood it, is that no matter how far you go, Punjab is always a part of the identity of a Punjabi, no matter how far we travel away from Punjab!

The implication here is if the hearts and minds can be changed by the likes of  Surinder Kaur and others with a meaningful poetry that can be easily identified, understood and bring the Checkers of today whether they live in Punjabs (East or West) or in the Diaspora back to appreciate their culture, their values, and their roots, while appreciating the culture they live in, why invoke Tan Sen, Beju Bawra or Godess Sarswati for that matter just to begin with!

I started my blogathon with Amrita Pritam and the likes whose poetry I effortlessly identify with and not with Baba Farid, not just yet. God willing, I will definitely go there too when the time comes. But for the moment I shall continue to write about the modern poems I personally like and why I like them in this practice run. In the process of so doing I give only a little peak in to the life of the poet and the rest is left to the reader or the Checker in case of Gargi story to dig deeper inside and go the whole nine yards on their own two feet. As I said earlier, I strongly maintain that Punjabi is a living language and while we should celebrate the stalwarts of Punjabi poetry, I also think we should celebrate poets from our own lifetime too that we can easily relate to. And above all, because this is a living language, there is nothing static about it, and the list is constantly expanding.

Tell me which your favorite poem or a poet is and why?

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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:
ਸੰਵਾਦ
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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