He was accorded a reception reserved for movie stars and Sampooran Singh Gulzar, the veteran poet, lyricist and filmmaker, clad in his signature spotless white kurta pyjama and shawl, acknowledged his fans with gratitude. Before Gulzar read from his latest anthology Green Poems, his translator Pavan Varma, who moderated the session, said that the poet’s new work treats trees, wells, water bodies and mountains as if they were alive: “As if they have their own voice, as if nature is evaluating people and not the other way round”.
Gulzar then read out elegiac nazms from Green Poems to an appreciative audience. These included EK Nadi Ki Baat Suni (about a river which longs to stop for a day and rest like a poem that has been recited), Ek Makaan Upar Uthne Ki Koshish Mein Hai (about shrinking urban spaces), Baadal Ki Saari Partein Cheel Ke Dekhein (where the poet wants to frisk a cloud’s pockets for droplets of rain) and Return to Thimpu (Where a proud mountain mocks man about the brevity of human relationships). In one poem, a village well laments that, since the arrival of the tube-well, nobody emerges from the fields to draw water from it. “The well used to be a social meeting point. There was a raabta (connection) of the village with the well, which is going away,” Gulzar explained.
He was quick to add, though, that he wasn’t stuck in the past. “I try and move with the times. If I stop and begin thinking about the past there will be a problem. Nostalgia is not a place to live,” he said.
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