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What is a Poem’s Purpose and Why is Carefree Life of a Poet most Adored?

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 – by Saket Suman

New Delhi, July 24, 2017: Of all romanticism associated with poetry, the ethereal and carefree life of a poet is perhaps the most adored. But is this — the state of a poet’s being — the reason for the existence of poetry, and, more so, what is a poem’s purpose?

There are no wars to be won through poetry, no great intentions behind a poem’s composition and it is more of a compulsion for self-motivated souls than a mere hobby, says Kiriti Sengupta, a gifted Indian poet, who has more than 17 books of poetry to his credit.

“I think writing poetry cannot be defined as a favorite pastime for a writer. An honest poet writes poetry out of sheer compulsion. Poets write poetry when they think it will do justice to their thoughts or expressions. There are several other ways for conveying messages, observations, and experiences, but poetry is written only when poets think they can do no better without indulging in this genre of literature,” Sengupta told IANS in an interview.

Elaborating, the much-acclaimed poet from West Bengal said that he had no “great intention” when he started composing poetry and even now he does not entertain ideas of “changing the society” through his poems. “Poetry does not change anything. It does not initiate a change either. Poetry makes you think, makes you aware, and it makes you revisit your concerns, which may include your agonies as well,” he added.

Sengupta’s “My Glass of Wine” is almost autobiographical and is now a part of India’s first poetry trilogy, “Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral”, which also bears two other works, “The Reverse Tree” and “Healing Waters Floating Lamps”. In the first two collections, one finds verses placed alongside prose. Sengupta stressed on the fact that he wanted to eliminate the apathy of a common reader towards poetry and thus a mix of prose and poetry was the immediate option.

But poetry is considered to be one of the finest expressions of literature and, even today, it is widely read and adored. How fulfilling is the experience of a poet then?

“You have a definite purpose when you write a poem. You either convey a message you intended to, or you showcase your cerebral prowess to juggle words. Whatever be your objective, if you do it well, you are happy at the end of the day. Prose writing is generally more time-consuming, but then, there are poems that, no matter if they are long or short, take days and even weeks to write and finish,” quipped the poet.

And then there is the writer’s block. Like all creative people, a poet is no stranger to this rather depressing phenomenon, but Sengupta says that one has to live with it as it is a part of the journey.

“I’ve my share of non-productive days when I fail to write. After publishing more than 17 books I don’t find it stressful or alarming anymore. I just feel bad about it, but it is only when I read other poets’ work. See, it is extremely important to keep abreast of the latest happenings in the field of poetry, especially when someone is seriously engaged in it,” he maintained.

Sengupta also contested the idea that poetry has taken a backseat in recent years and said that the reality is actually contrary to popular belief. There has been a rise in poetry consciousness across India, he said, and we have more than one organization in every city promoting poetry among new readers, especially youngsters. It is, however, debatable whether they promote quality work and enhance the availability of quality work.

He also emphasized that it is indeed impossible “to earn a living from writing poetry” in India. “Poets are self-motivated souls who write poems for the joy derived from creating a work of art,” said the poet, whose upcoming chapbook of verses is titled “Solitary Stillness” and is due to be published in August. (IANS)

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Hafeez Jalandhari: The Man behind Pakistan’s National Anthem also Wrote Urdu Poem-Krishn Kanhaiya to Praise the Hindu God Krishna

Decoding Hafeez Jalandhari's 'Krishn Kanhaiya'

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Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna
Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna. Pixabay
  • Hafeez Jalandhari weaved a poem that has a political and devotional angle to it
  • Hinduism uses sight as a way to connect with the almighty
  • The poet doesn’t refer to Krishna as a God but he says that Krishna represents glory and majesty of God

New Delhi, August 31, 2017: This year, Pakistan’s 70th Independence Day coincided with Hindu Festival Janmashtami (a festival to celebrate Krishna’s birth). Both were on 14th August. The famous Urdu poet Hafeez Jalandhari wrote the Qaumi Taranah, Pakistan’s national anthem. But not many people know that the same poet penned Krishn Kanhaiya, a unique Urdu poem beautifully describes the greatness of the Hindu Deity.

The idea of a Muslim poet in today’s time writing on a Hindu God raises all sorts of reactions (some of which are negative) coming from different ethnic groups in South Asia: suspicion, anger, surprise, joy or mere curiosity.

There is much more nuance to the poem Krishn Kanhaiya than what the reader thinks on its first reading. This is not just a devotional poem. Jalandhari had a political bend of mind be it him as a thinker or a writer. So, even this poem of his is not an ordinary one, it talks about Krishna’s grand persona, Hindu idol worship, what makes him different, his righteousness, describing the role he played in a Hindu epic Mahabharata.

He weaved a poem that has a political and devotional angle to it. The hidden meaning of it, when compared with Qaumi Taranah, is that it tells about the cultural politics of South Asia- in the 20th Century and has relevance today.

Decoding the poem:

Idol Worship

In the first line of the poem, the poet says “O, onlooker”- he might be saying this as he’s talking about a Hindu God and Hinduism gives importance to seeing a God, they believe in Idol worshipping, Hindu Gods have a form, a face. Thus, Hinduism uses sight as a way to connect with the almighty. The poet wants the readers to have mental darshan of Lord Krishna by saying, onlookers. Jalandhari wants the readers to have a mental image of Krishna in their minds.

Krishna is a form of light

The opening lines of the poem are a bit abstract and don’t talk of Krishna; in further lines, the poet asks whether Krishna is a reality or a representation. He refers to him as a “form of light” and then asks is he fire or light. Referring to Krishna as light might indicate to Islamic scholars who said that “Krishna was a righteous prophet sent to the people of the subcontinent.”

Jalandhari finally gives a description of Krishna that we are more familiar with- him being a “flute player” and a “cowherd of Gokul.” The poet doesn’t refer to Krishna as a God but he says that Krishna represents glory and majesty of God.

In the tenth stanza, the poet says that – “Inside the temple / the sculptor of beauty himself / entered and became the idol”. He is talking about Idol Worship done by Hindus who pray to their God in a temple, having a belief that the deity resides in the temple in the idol itself.

ALSO READ: Hindu Temple in Aldenham (UK) Hosts Global Visitors for Largest ‘Hare-Krishna’ celebrations in the world

Krishna Leela

Then we get a glimpse of ‘Krishna Leela’ as the poet talks of Krishna’s playing and dancing around with gopis (cowherd girls), on Yamuna river bank that he describes as a “rare happenings”. He is youthful and charming, to set the tone of the scene, phrases like “intoxicated winds” and “waves of love” are used that there was something heavenly in the atmosphere.

The sound of Krishna’s flute is described as “neither intoxication nor wine / it’s something beyond.”  Such phrases transport the readers into Braj (Krishna spent his childhood and adolescence years here) and they get blissfully lost in the divine sound of Krishna’s flute.

Cheer-Haran of Draupadi and Krishna being her savior

The poem from here takes a serious transition into a serious mood. Here the poet talks of a famous Cheer-Haran (disrobing) scene from Mahabharata as the five Pandavas have lost their kingdom and Draupadi in the dice game. Draupadi is dragged into the court by Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, she prays to Krishna to help her.

It is said that Lord Krishna came to her rescue and due to God’s grace, her sari turned into a never ending piece of cloth as when the Kauravas tried pulling it off, more fabric draped her body and saved her dignity.

With this scene, Jalandhari begins to bring a political angle to the poem as Draupadi says, “These beloved princes (her husbands), have all become cowards!” It seems that Jalandhari is accusing India’s rulers, monarchs who behaved like cowards at the time of British Rule.

Some even argue that the poet is referring to all Indians who worked under British Rule as cowards. The poet uses the phrase “the light of India” for Krishna, this seems more of a political symbolism.

Preparations for the Mahabharata war

In the next scene, the poet takes us to the preparations for the great Mahabharata war, where he writes worryingly, “Duryodhana seems victorious.” Duryodhana (eldest kaurava) symbolizes British Rule over India which continued for a pretty long time, like the Mahabharata war.

The irony is that Kaurava army was much larger in number than Pandavas whereas Britishers were very less in number than Indians. But with Krishna’s arrival on the battlefield (from Pandavas side) and how he preached Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, changes the anxiety and sorrow to much-needed enthusiasm: “the divine decree has been pronounced, the sword has been swung!”

This Krishna is very different from the young playful one which the poet has described earlier. Here, he symbolizes great strength and power: on his “face shines a bright gaze” also his “virtues burn enemies.”  He is so powerful that when he is angry, he can shower lightning. Thus, this Krishna can easily be an icon used for anti-colonial nationalism.

ALSO READ: If you are a Devotee of Lord Krishna, these 10 Lesser Known Facts Will Surprise You!

Relating Mahabharata with British Rule

After this, Jalandhari paints a picture of India suffering under colonial rule, using Vrindavan as a symbol for India. He says that once the joyful Yamuna is now silent, the waves are weak now. The gardens which were earlier beautiful are now ruined and the gopis symbolizing people of India are feeling helpless without their Krishna, their savior.

So, Jalandhari makes a personal plea to Krishna: “Oh king of India, come just once more.” He begs Krishna to return to Mathura (Mathura symbolizes India) and become the King again: “If you come, glory will come, if you come, life will come” With his plea to Krishna asking him to liberate India from British rule, Jalandhari ends his nazm.

If we compare Krishn Kanhaiya to Jalandhari’s more famous work (Pakistan’s National Anthem), we can learn a lot about the cultural politics which has influenced South Asia over the 20th century and continues to do so even today.


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‘Trinidad Express’ Editor Accused of Discriminating Against Indian Writers for their Weekly Columns

A letter, written by Kumar Mahabir who is an Assistant Professor at University of Trinidad & Tobago, explains the accusation in detail

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Kumar Mahabir
Trinidad & Tobago flag. Wikimedia

Trinidad, August 28, 2017: The Editor of a Trinidad & Tobago based newspaper called ‘Trinidad Express’ is accused of discriminating against Indian writers for their weekly columns.

A letter, written by Kumar Mahabir who is an Assistant Professor at University of Trinidad & Tobago, explains the accusation in detail.

As of now, there has been no response from Trinidad Express Editor Ms. Omatie Lyder. Kumar Mahabir’s letter can be read below-

The Secretary, Board of Directors
One Caribbean Media (OCM) Limited
Express House
35 Independence Square
Port of Spain
August 25, 2017
Dear Sir/Madam,
Bias against Indians by Express Editor, Ms Omatie Lyder
In keeping with its “national” mandate, the Express editor should be fair, balanced, diverse and objective.
Editor Ms Omatie Lutchman Lyder has been giving space to three Afro-centric columnists: Professor Selwyn Cudjoe, Keith Subero and Raffique Shah – the same three (3) Afro-centric columnists every single week.
She often provides space to a fourth Afro-centric writer, this time as a guest columnist – Professor Theodore Lewis. Ms. Omatie published Part 1 and Part 2 of his articles entitled “Kamal Persad trivialising history.” She published his two guest columns four days apart on August 11th 2017 and on August 15th 2017.
Ms. Omatie often publishes long letters by another Afro-centric writer, NJAC Chairman, Aiyegoro Ome.
Indo-oriented writers like myself (Dr. Kumar Mahabir), Kamal Persad, Dool Hanomansingh, et al. are not assured of a weekly space in the Express.
Is it time that we call for Indians to boycott sales and advertising in the Express?
If we are not given a complementary weekly space in the Express, a delegation of us plan to meet the Board of Directors of OCM to provide empirical evidence of the bias by Ms. Omatie against Indian writers with Indian perspectives.
Sincerely,
Dr Kumar Mahabir, Assistant Professor
University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT)
2011 National Award (Silver) recipient for education
Chairman, Chakra Publishing House Ltd (CPH)
Chairman, Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd (ICC)
Vice-Chairman, Indian Caribbean Museum
10 Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road
San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 674-6008
Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707
Mobile (868) 756-4961
E-mail: dmahabir@gmail.com

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

 

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“Be your own critic,” Gulzar advises aspiring writers at ‘Jashn-e-rekhta’

"There is a pain of the society, of a career and money. I have to face several other issues, so don't expect from me the kind of love we shared earlier. Now, I don't have time to sit and text you anymore," he recited

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Gulzar
Gulzar file photo, Courtesy: wikimedia commons

New Delhi, Feb 18: On Friday, renowned Indian lyricist Gulzar advised budding Indian writers to be “their own critic”. He advised one can do this by imitating Mirza Ghalib’s practice of editing his own works.

He emphasised on ‘self-contemplation’ and ‘self-introspection’ for the betterment of one’s work, while speaking in a session titled “Hum Sooratgaar Kuch Khwaabon Ke”.

“Ghalib used to edit his own poems and often reject the works he did not like. It is important for poets and writers today to know their shortcomings, and be able to edit their own work as well as reject them if they are not up to their standards,” Gulzar said at the ongoing Urdu festival ‘Jashn-e-Rekhta’.

While conversing with renowned Urdu and Hindi screenwriter Javed Siddique, Gulzar reiterated the vitality and relevance of writers like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Mir Taqi Mir, who were brought novelty in Urdu poetry.

Gulzar asserted that poetry is beyond manifesting grief, it should also touch the realm of “social consciousness”, while accentuating the contribution and vitality of Mir’s poetry in India’s freedom struggle.

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In the session, Gulzar recited one of Faiz’s couplets – ‘Maqaam Faiz koi raah me jacha hi nahi, jo ku-e-yaar se nikle to su-e-daar chale’, which losely translates to ‘No destination en route caught my fancy, as I left my beloved’s house, I went straight to the gallows’.

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Later, the octogenarian writer took a dig on how love is expressed through messages and chats in the smartphone era, as he was asked to explain the meaning of another couplet ”Mujh se pehle si mohabbat mere mehboob na maang”,  by path – breaking poet Faiz Ahmed.

“There is a pain of the society, of a career and money. I have to face several other issues, so don’t expect from me the kind of love we shared earlier. Now, I don’t have time to sit and text you anymore,” he recited.

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– prepared by Sabhyata Badhwar of NewsGram. Twitter:@SabbyDarkhorse