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Gulzar at JLF 2017: These poems don’t attack or bite. They only bark

At the release of his new collection of poems at the Jaipur Literature Festival, poet-lyricist Gulzar spoke of being the voice of the common man. “If you’re connected to the world around you, what happens in it must affect you in some way,” he said.

Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 Updated: Jan 21, 2017 15:38 IST
Supriya Sharma
Supriya Sharma
Hindustan Times
Gulzar,Jaipur Literature Festival,JLF
Poet and filmmaker Gulzar during the inaugural session of Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 in Jaipur on Thursday. (Himanshu Vyas/HT Photo)

Usne jaane kyu apne dayine kandhe par nilgai ka ek tattoo gudwaya
Maar jata kal dango mein
Achche log the
Gai dekh ke chodh dia

The eager crowds that hogged every inch of space at the Charbagh venue at Diggi Palace on the second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival cheered wildly as poet-lyricist Gulzar read out verses from his new collection Suspected Poems.

“If you’re connected to the world around you, what happens in it must affect you in some way,” he said. “This is what keeps happening inside me and I am sure you feel this way too. Aap kehte nahi toh mujhe kehna padhta hai.”

Through his poems — acerbic and laced with dry humour — Gulzar took digs at Indian politicians and commented on the political atmosphere and the condition of the common people. Clarifying that he wasn’t attacking politicians, he joked, “These poems don’t attack or bite, they only bark. The common man must at least have the right to do that. Sometimes we must sit together and think about the country too.”

Bahut se masley le ke gaya
Bade neta ki meeting mein
Wohi sabh hal karengey
Hamari chawl mein paani ka problem hai
Mere bachche ki fees aur dakhile ka masla hai
Usey dakhil karaney ke liye fund dena parta hai
Bade neta ne samjhaya
Corruption aur bhrashtchaar se humko yeh system saaf karna hai
Jab tak humey hamare haq nahi milte ladai larte rehna hai
hamare saath rehna tum hamesha
Main laut aaya waha se
Samajh aaya nahi ki kaun kiske masley ko hal karega

The poems, written in Hindi, have been translated into English by Pavan K Varma, who was in conversation with the poet. “This is not a political discussion,” said Varma of the session that began with a witty repartee between the two. “But the poetry is political. His (Gulzar) methodology is to provoke, ask questions and leave readers to think and find answers.”

While Gulzar let his poems do the talking, both he and Varma were careful to put the poems in their political and social contexts.

Mara nahi woh
Woh aur tha koi jo mara hai
Woh dehleez par para hai
Kissi ne ghanti bajai ghar ki
Woh apne bachchoko k kh ga sikha raha tha
utha, gaya
Kundi kholi ghar ki
aur ek awaaz goonji goli ki aasman main
Vichaar tha uske saar mein koi jo bolta tha
bechara dehleez para hai

“The death referred to at the end in the poem is not a physical one, but that of a certain tradition and thought process,” Varma said while discussing this poem on the death of MM Kalburgi.

The daily struggles of ordinary people for basic amenities and rights, political platitudes, high handedness, corruption, growing intolerance, the murder of rationalist and teacher MM Kalburgi and the attack on free speech, the plight of the poor — were some of the subjects of poems read out at the session.

Click here for our full coverage of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2017

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First Published: Jan 20, 2017 17:28 IST