Punjabi poet Lal Singh Dil lived and died a bachelor. But a collection of his memoirs, presented in English by one of his many crushes, now reveals how his romantic heart had a special place for quiet, one-sided love affairs.
The book on life and times of the Naxalite Punjabi poet -- titled 'Poet of the Revolution' and published by Penguin India -- reveals many crushes, including the mighty Indira Gandhi, fellow poet Amrita Pritam and writer-journalist Nirupama Dutt.
The last-mentioned Dutt, who is based in Chandigarh, is the woman behind the memoirs finally reaching the English reader, five years after Dil died an impoverished tea-seller. In a moving introduction to the book, Dutt writes, "In fact, for someone like me, who has not experienced the 'companionship' of a man, these flights of fancy seem quite in order."
"People were not so kind and many mocked the crushes he had, which ranged from a college girl with two plaits to Indira Gandhi, to the likes of me and the celebrated Amrita," she told HT.
The translated memoirs, published in Punjabi in the '90s, are slated for a formal release in Chandigarh and the national capital next month. The book also carries translations of 20 of Dil's Punjabi poems, and a poem about him by his London-based friend Amarjit Chandan,
In the foreward, celebrated short-story writer Prem Parkash describes how Dil's "one fascination would end and another would begin, and this would go on but Lalu [Dil] was never disappointed".
"A nikah was not for him and, not surprisingly, it never happened," writes Parkash, "But Lalu was satisfied with his fantasies."
Besides the written word, the book carries some photographs of Dil as taken by Diwan Manna and Parnab Mukherjee.
A heart red and large -- know Lal Singh Dil
Lal Singh Dil (1943-2007) was born in Ghungrali Sikha village near Samrala, Punjab, in a Dalit family. During college days, he was drawn to the Naxal movement, arrested and imprisoned for three years. He then shifted to UP and converted to Islam in a bid to escape barriers of caste. His three poetry anthologies -- Satluj Di Hava (The Satluj Breeze), Bahut Saare Suraj (A Million Suns) and Naglok (City of the Snakes) -- have remained the subject of academic theses, much debate and adulation. He died in penury in Samrala, running a roadside tea-shack in the later years of his life.