‘Asaan taan joban rutte marna…’ (I am going to die in the season of youth) penned legendary Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi in Mainu Vida Karo, one of his popular works. The words turned out to be his requiem, scripted before the litterateur’s death on May 7, 1973, at the age of 36 because of liver cirrhosis.
In his short life, Batalvi had already been hailed by many as John Keats of Punjabi poetry for giving it a new dimension and fresh perspective. Born in Sialkot, Pakistan, Batalvi later shifted with his family to Batala in Gurdaspur district, after Partition. The youngest ever recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award (in 1967 for his epic verse play, Loona), Batalvi became famous for his romantic poetry.
Said to be a dreamer as a child, unrequited love, it is believed, shaped the persona, sensibilities and psyche of the epoch-making poet. His first anthology of poems, Piran Da Panga, was published in 1960, and became an instant success. He is credited with almost 10 more publications and several articles, some of which his wife Aruna Batalvi got published.
While Batalvi’s son, Meharban holds a doctorate in Punjabi literature and is serving at Punjabi University, Patiala, his daughter Pooja is a Phd in economics and lives in the US.
On the legendary poet’s 40th death anniversary, we are reminded of one his lines, Ajj Din Chadeya Tere Rang Varga, adapted as recently as 2009 in a song in Hindi film, Love Aaj Kal. To pay him a tribute, HT City interacts with contemporary writers, artists and Batalvi’s admirers, who recall his genius.
Eminent poet and Padma Shri awardee
“Poetry and poets never die and Batalvi continues to live in our hearts through his ornate poetry. Though there is no comparison between Batalvi and other poets since every writer exudes his or her own aura, I do believe that Batalvi and Baba Bulleh Shah are amongst the most-read poets from the times of Baba Farid till the present. Batalvi comes second only to Waris Shah to have the distinction of making complete use of imagery, appreciation for nature and folk idioms in his poetry. His lyrics, which are laced with psychic pain, have an inherent musicality that can never be diluted by time.”
Hans Raj Hans
Sufi singer and Padma Shri awardee
“Celestial poets such as Shiv Kumar Batalvi descend on earth once in many centuries. I feel that the towering genius of Batalvi scores even over the great poet Waris Shah, who had only depicted the pain that Heer (lover of Ranjha from the epic, Heer Ranjha) felt, while Batalvi shared his own pain, agony and heartfelt deception in love.
I have extensively sung andrecorded Batalvi’s poetry, but with great caution and a sense of fear.I term his words as ‘balde akkhar’ (burning words) because I believe that he is a poet whose poetry emits both the warmth of romance as well as the deep seated pain of dejection in love.”
Litterateur who has done doctorate on Shiv Kumar Batalvi's works
Punjabi University, Patiala
“Batalvi was not just a poet of pathos, as is projected by many naïve writers and critics, but a versatile poet who had touched upon diverse themes of socio-cultural relevance, patriotism, nature, humanistic values and much more in his verses. Apart from Waris Shah, it was Batalvi who made brilliant use of rural imagery and phrases in romantic poetry. The new generation poets must emulate Batalvi in use of his imaginative vigour in rural folk metaphors that immortalise his verses.”
C R Moudgil
Ex-director, Haryana Punjabi Sahitya Akademi and an old associate of Batalvi at Bhasha Vibhag, Patiala
“Batalvi has taken Punjabi poetry to a spectacular level and he owes his popularity to the Punjabi language department. Established educational and cultural organisations must institute annual awards in his name and give research scholarships to students to carry forward his legacy. Sahitya academies should translate his works in various languages for wider a readership.”
Gulzar Singh Sandhu
Writer and former editor of a Punjabi daily
“A poet of folk consciousness and modern sensibility, Batalvi excelled with a freshness in vocabulary, diction, imagery and rhythmicflow of words which appear to be floating in waves of sea. Most of us are exposed to his verses that have a musical quality, and efforts must be made to give Batalvi’s poetry global recognition.”