SHIV KUMAR BATALVI The Poet of the Masses

To a born poet, poetry comes as naturally as leaves to a tree. Shiv Kumar Batalvi, whose birth Anniversary falls in the month of July, is to be classed among those few true poets who lived and breathed poetry right from their early days. No wonder, he was the youngest recipient of lhe prestigious Sahitya Academy Award for hk outstanding contribution to Punjabi literature. In this article, DR. MANJIT SINGH projects the passionate singer as a man snd as a composer of some of the immortal verses of Punjabi poetry.

hiv Kumar Batalvi, the young est recipient of th
e Sahitya Academy Award for his contribution to Punjabi literature, is known today all over the country for his deep sensibility and his poignant melodies. He not only wrote poetry but also expressed his views on different forms of literature in scintillating prose which includes character-sketches and even translations of foreign fiction. A born poet, Shiv Kumar Batalvi was very popular among the masses for his poems, full of plaintive emotions, which he used to sing in his captivating voice. He was always highly applauded at Mushairas. lt is a fact that he was given time at the end of a Kavi Darbar (Poetic soiree) because after listening to his poetry the gathering began to thin out as many felt that they had heard the best poet of the occasion and need not stay on there. He started writing poetry in the year 1957. The language department, Punjab, organised a Kavi Darbar at Dalhousie in the same year. Barkat Ram Yuman a poet-guru of Shiv Batalvi met him there. Shiv recited his poem:
Gama dee raat lami en
ke mere geet lamen nen
 Na bherhi raat mukdi e
 Na mere geet mukde nen
(l do not know which is longer : The gloomy night or my songs. There is no end to either of them).
Although Shiv Kumar was not officially invited there but the fellow poets admired his poetry and he was paid a remuneration for reciting this wonderful poem there. After that Kavi Darbar he was always invited to participate in the mushairas and was listened to with great love, eagerness and attention. He was born on July 23, 1936 at Barha Pind Lohtian in Sialkot District. His father Krishan Gopal Mahajan and mother Shanti Devi helped him in using mythological and historical vocabulary for composing poetry. He passed matriculation from Salvation Army High School, Batala, and got admission in Baring Union Christian College in the same town. Without completing his F. Sc. he left the institute and joined a college at Baijnath to obtain a diploma in Civil Engineering, but the fate willed him to follow a different course and he soon had to change his entire approach to life.
During his stay at Baijnath, he came across a girl named Meena, in whose search, he felt, his soul had been hankering for numerous births. After getting her home address, Shiv became friendly with her brother and came closer to the family. Meena promised him to be his wife. From then on, Shiv created his own world of fantasy where he dwelt and got a deep inner satisfaction. As a result, he could not pay any attention to his studies. Suddenly, Meena died. Without her, Shiv felt he could not live even for a moment and the loss produced some of his sweetest songs which are marked by deep pathos. The process of poetic creation, which derives its intensity and truth from the lived experience as well as from the dynamics of an imaginative transmutation, found its grand synthesis in Shiv Batalvi. He wrote in his poem 'Shreen De Phul' Marean geetan di Meena mar gai, Reh gia pandhi muka pehla hi koh (The Meena of my songs is dead. With her death, the traveller could not go beyond the first leg of his journey).
Shiv discontinued his studies and returned to Batala. He tried to forget Meena but couid not, and went on to produce some of the finest poems from the personal tragedy. His was a poetry of the contemporary generaiion of love, despair, agony and death. The poet does not feel delighted on the occasion of his birthday. He cannot commit suicide, for that would be cowardice :
Adhi raatin uth uth rovan
kar kar chetey moean nun
Maar duhathran pittan jadh main
Tut jae koi tara nein
(l weep at midnight on the loss of my beloved. My anguish is so deep that even the stars feel it and some one would fall out of its orbit).
Another source of inspiration of his poetry was Ansuhia, who came into his life and promised him life-long companionship. Now Shiv felt somewhat comforted but when she went abroad without giving any prior intimation to him, he could not reconcile himself to this loss of another beloved. He sent messages to her to return but she did not respond. Shiv likened her to the bird ,Shikkra, (the young one of a hawk) and said
Maye nin maye :
Main ik shikkra yaar banaya
Uhdey sir te kalgi
Te perin jhanjar
Te uh chogg chuginda aayea
Choori kutan, te uh khaanda nahin
Uhnu dil da maas khavayea
lk udaari uuc aici maari
Uh murh vatni nan aayea.
( O mother; I befriended a shikkra. I gave it my flesh to feed on but it never returned, once it flew away).
His first collection of poems 'Peerhan Da Praaga, appeared in 1960. ln these poems, he depicted his personal sentiments, his beloved's attitude, pangs of separation and concept of death. The main feature of his poetry is that he used such vocabulary which has never been touched upon before in Punjabi poetry :He derived his powerful imagery from the folk culture and rustic life of Punjab. His symbolism, diction and the novel usage of myth enriched Punjabi literature in a unique way :
Thaba ku julfan walea
Mere hanian mere piarea
Pirhan di pathkan josh ke
Gira asan banwa lia
Hadan da balan bat ke
Umran da ava ta lia
Kacha piata ishq da
Ajj shingraffi rangwa tia.
(The poet addresses-his beloved who has luxuriant hair and says that his love for her has matured through a painful process of incineration where his pains and bones have been used as a fuel).
His next anthology was published in the year 1961 under the title 'Lajwanti'. ln this book, his poem 'Shisho' is indeed a marvellous one. He has portrayed the miserable life of a poor family exploited by the rich and the powerful. The later try to make 'Shisho' the object of their lust. The poet laments that the beauty of a poor girt like Shisho is a curse rather than a boon for her family, and a source of suffering and misery for her parents :
Ronde rehe sitare ambrin
Phurhi pa nimane
Sari raat riha chann betha
Shisho de sirhane
Shalla baanj marivan mape
Dhidon bhukhe bhane
Uc ghar jamen na koishr'sho
Jis ghar hon na dane
(The plight of Shisho is mourned by the weeping stars in the sky and th6 moon sitting by her side all through the night. The poet prays that it-is better that the destitute parents of a girl like Shisho should not give birth to her).
 ln 1962, he got admission in the Government Ripudaman College, Nabha in the pre-University in Arts. Although he could not appear in the University examination, yet he wrote another book 'Atte Dian Chirhian' during his stay there. This book is entirely different from the other two books written earlier. Here, the poet seems to be under the influence of a new experimentation. The impact of Freud is clearly visible in this collection wherein he seems to be the basic motif :
Main aksar iss taran vi sochda han
Ke sare jeev jantu te prani
Ke van trin poun, mitti, agg, pani
Hai sari kaam chon upji kahani
(The poet often thinks that ail the creatures and the five fundamental elements are the products of sex).
For this book he got an award from the language department, Punjab. ln 1963, came out 'his next collection 'Mainoo Vida Karo,. ln all the poems the poet's death wish is predominantly projected.
Like Keats, he prophesies hrs death at the prime of his life :
Asan tan joban rute marna
Murh jana asan bhare bharae
Hijar tere de kar parkarma
Asan tan joban rute marna
(The poet has a premonition that he  would die at the prime of his life suffering the pangs of separation from his beloved).
With this book Shiv Kumar completed half of his poetic journey. After this he wrote 'Birha Tu Sultan comprising 111 poems including 1 new ones. The poet seems to be weary of the city life where he spent much of his time. He says
Lohe de iss shehar vich
Lohe de lok rehsan
Lohe de geet sunde
Lohe de geet gaunde
 Lohe de iss shehar vich
 Pital de lok rehende
Sike de bol bolan
Shishe de ves pounde
 (This wasteland is inhabited by lifeless and unfeeling persons. Their approach to life is totally materialistic and they are not what they appear externally).
'Dardmanda Dian Aheen, was published in 1964 and it contains only 25 poems which the poet selected from the four books i.e. Peeran Da Praaga', 'Lajwanti,, 'Atte Dian Chirhian' and 'Mainoo Vida Karo'.  Shiv, in his writings was influenced by some celebrated poets of the world. ln his preface to this book, he acknowledged the impact of Micoveski, Keats, SheIey and Shah Hussain.
Then came in 1965, Batalvi's magnum opus 'Luna. It gave a revolutionary turn to the famous legend of Punjabi literature. His 'Luna' is cast in an entirely different mould from that of Kadaryar and Puran Singh. Throughout the ages, Luna had been condemned for seducing her step son, Puran. lt goes to Shiv's credit that he raised Luna to the pedestal of a tragic character who had revolted against the unjust social order which permitted the marriage of a young girl to a man of the age of her father :
Dharmi babal pap kamaya
Larh laea sade phul kumlaya
Jis da lshran roop handia
Main Puran di maan Puran de han di
Pita je dhi da roop handave
Loka ve tenu laaj na aave
Je Luna puran noon chahve
Chri tarheen kahe kiun jeebh jahan di
(Luna laments thai her father had done a great injustice to her by marrying her off to an aged person whose youth had already been consumed by his former wife i.e. lshran. His son Puran is of the same age as she (Luna). The society does not raise a finger if an old man marries a girl of his daughter's age why is she termed characterless if she desires Puran who is of the same age as she).
 'Main Te Main, his last poetic work came out in 1970. This long poem reveals the predicament of the poet's self. lt picturises the dilemma of an alienated person whose sensitive soul suffers at the hands of an indifferent society : -
Mere layee uss din suraj
Barha manhoos charhia iee
Main apne sahmane jacl app
Pehli var maria see
Main uss din bahaot roia see
Main uss din bahoot dariatsee
(The poet envisions his physical death and says that he wept a lot on his death. lt was an ominous day for him and he was full of fear). 'Aartee' was published in 1971. Il includes poems on varied themes written by the poet from 1963 to 1965. This great poet died on May 6, 1973 in his in-law's house at Keerh Mangial village in Gurdaspur District. "This was the end of the man but the beginning of a legend ', says O. P. Sharma in his book on Shiv-Batalvi. After his death, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar brought out a book 'Alvida' in 1974. The "book was edited by Dr. Piar Singh and contains some of his unpublished poems. Mrs. Arun Batalvi, the poet’s widow, mustered courage to edit the poetry of her late husband entitled 'Sog', 'Bhireharha', 'Asan Tan Joban Rute Marna' and 'saggar Te Kanian,. Shiv Kumar Batalvi will always be remembered for his invaluable contribution to Punjabi literature. He wrote for the people and the people who enjoyed his poems in their solitude, discussed them in the seminars with warmth, verve and vivacity. He appeared as a bright star on the horizon of Punjabi poetry, and true to his death-wish, he disappeared when his glory reached its zenith. His doleful notes would continue to echo in the minds and memories of the lovers of Punjabi literature for centuries to come for they are written with the pen of imagination, dipped in 'the ink compounded out of the agonies and aches of a bleeding, lacerated heart.

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