Calling him a wizard would not be right. He is way gentler than just a performer with tricks. He is no wordsmith either. He is not just in the trade of writing, you see. And he sure does not weave anything. Gulzar says as he feels. And that is as beautiful as it appears simple. Ahead of his visit to Chandigarh to release the English version of his poetry compilation, ‘Pluto’, as translated by Nirupama Dutt, HT City had a brief chat with him on the city, the languages he loves, and how he sees the new world.
Since you have been visiting Chandigarh over the years, what are your thoughts on Chandigarh?
I have always found it to be a place of peace. Large, vacant spaces represent a certain sense of calm.
But people call it ‘paththaran da shahar’, a city of stones, with no soul.
I only see a well-planned city where everything is on order; where you can breathe easy, with no jostling, no congestion as compared to the metropolitan cities. Where people see khaalipan (alienation), I see a certain sukoon (tranquility) in Chandigarh.
How do you feel about translation of your work? Does it leave it without the intended feeling sometimes?
It’s like pouring a scent, ‘itr’ (perfume), from one bottle into another. It is bound to lose some of its quality, but it reaches new people, a wider readership. How else would we know of someone creating beautiful work in Bangla? Or Punjabi? English is the language that connects.
Having used and been read in many languages, which one do you find most beautiful then?
Bahut mushkil hai aise kehna. I cannot pick one just like that. Certainly Urdu has its aristocracy. Urdu bole toh fakir bhi nawab lagta hai. But Punjabi is my own zubaan, my mother tongue. It carries the scent of the soil; tabhi Punjabi mein gaali diye bina maza hi nahi aata. I live in Maharashtra and when I go to the real Maharashtra outside Mumbai, the Marathi there is a lot like Punjabi. And Bangla is so sweet that, if you live in Kolkata for a few days, even your Urdu becomes more rounded, like Bangla! Aap har cheez zara golgol karke boleinge.
How do you see the link between Urdu and Punjabi?
They are very closely connected. In fact, great Urdu poets like Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Krishan Chander, all have Punjabi as their maadri zubaan. And they express themselves beautifully in Urdu.
But to carry forward Urdu in particular, do you see writing it in scripts other than Persian — say, Devnagri — as a way forward?
A lot of my Urdu poetry is published in Devnagri script, making it accessible to a vast array of people who have studied Hindi. That is a logical way ahead.
Even Punjabi is written in two scripts — Shahmukhi in Pakistan and Gurmukhi in India.
There’s a history there too. There was a time when the men of the house wrote Punjabi in Shahmukhi, to keep it closer to the court language; but the women of the house used Gurmukhi. But there is actually a movement going on in Pakistan to use Gurmukhi as the script.
Since you speak of change, how do you see the new generation?
I see it as way more evolved and intellectual than the previous generations. Way more transparent, and honest.
Does social media help in that?
That’s only progress. It is so much easier now to write even, all thanks to new technology. How can there be something bad in it? I don’t see it like that.
Gulzar will be in city on March 13 and 14 for releasing his book, as well as receiving an honorary doctorate from Panjab University.