Like the sheen of silk, poetry flows. Raw emotions, wrapped in words. A calling of the heart, an open wound, the sound of silence, the dance of the wind.
Poetry is elegance, expression. It is experience. Unfinished, unfabricated, unrestricted, and unborrowed. It’s yours, it’s mine, it’s theirs, it’s ours! A holy scripture of the lives lived truly well.
Poetry is where words, like innocent children untouched by filters, leap out of the boundary of rules and rise into the air with a fragrance that lingers on.
This World Poetry Day, we celebrate the poets of our country, who weren’t just flesh and bones, but mirrors; mirrors that truly reflected what they saw, felt, and lived. Mirrors that shattered the fallacy of society with their words, mirrors that didn’t duck in front of authorities, mirrors that weren’t silent, and mirrors that truly believed that beauty lies skin deep.
Kalidasa was a highly-distinguished Sanskrit playwright, poet, and dramatist. His writings, primarily based on the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas, provide a texture to the rich, Indian literary works. His works reflect the then Indian society and are widely referred to by Indologists and historians. Till date, his work remains unparalleled. In fact, his epic poems inspired the 19th century German artists.
Kalidasa’s poetic work of great stature – Kumarasambhava, talks about the romance between Lord Shiva and Parvati and the birth of their son, Kumara, whose divine emergence helped in restoring cosmic harmony. The way Kalidasa describes Parvati’s beauty can be relished through the following lines
A diadem adorns the night!
Of multitudinous stars;
Her silken robe is white moonlight,
Set free from cloudy bars;
And on her face (the radiant moon)
Bewitching smiles are shown :
She seems a slender maid, who soon
Will be a woman grown.
With words that create magic with the mundane, Ghalib soared to fame after his demise. A poet at the royal court, Ghalib, who would have been 223 today, enchanted people with his distinctive writing and continues to intrigue the young generation even today. Cloaked in the fabric of Urdu and Persian, the eminent poet composed his first poetry when he was 11. Ghalib’s poetry wore many scents. Romance, loneliness, loss, betrayal, and philosophy. Here’s a piece of Urdu world’s Wordsworth, Ghalib’s andaaz-e-bayan style of poetry.
Rone se aur ishq meñ be-bāk ho ga.e
dho.e ga.e ham itne ki bas paak ho ga.e
In love, bolder I became, once openly I cried
I was washed so thoroughly that I got sanctified
Be it unrequited love or patriotism, Amrita’s writings were poignant of the highs and lows of a woman’s life. Inspired by Sufism, Amrita, whose works spoke about feminism with authority and emotional purity, took to writing after she drew inspiration from her father (also a writer). The first woman to receive the Sahitya Akademi Award, Amrita writings have also been translated into multiple languages.
Amrita’s writing not only embodies her soul but creates a rhythmic twitch of nostalgia. Despite a troubled marriage, Amirta was like an unsinkable ship when it came to writing. In an interview with Mukti Verma (as translated by Shunali Khullar Shroff) she states – “I wanted to write at all costs, and I did.”
Her poetry was the voice of the voiceless, for it expressed the excruciating horror of the partition and post-partition period, especially with regards to the womenfolk.
Pritam was a lady much ahead of the times. We talk today about consent and marital rape, but Pritam, back then, through her work, Kunwari (Virgin), depicts the painful trauma that the first sexual experience can summon for some women.
Here’s an excerpt (translated)
When I entered your bridal chamber
I was not one but two persons.
One’s marriage had consummated and complete
the other had remained a chaste virgin.
To fulfill our union
I had to kill the virgin.
And kill her, I did.
Such murders are sanctioned by the law
Only the humiliation accompanying them is illegal.
Known by many as the Father of Modern Poetry in India, Nissim Ezekiel, was an Indian Jewish poet, playwright, editor, professor, and art critic, whose works also boldly reflected what it meant to be an Indian. The recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award and Padma Shri Award, Nissim Ezekiel’s poetic wisdom, was like a silhouette defining beautiful landscapes.
Inspired by T.S Eliot, Yeats and Ezra Pound, Sir Ezekiel has several poems to his credit. A student of literature, his style of writing was unique and evocative. Exploring the themes of language, patriotism, religious bias, and varied elements of daily life, Nissim and poetry were inseparable. Haskote, a poet, an author, who drew great inspiration from the poets around the time during the 1960s-1980s, once stated – “Nissim and Adil were always editing something or the other, and their offices would serve as meeting places for poets.”
Such was the everlasting affair between Nissim and poetry. Here’s an excerpt from the work of a poetic genius
Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher
To force the pace and never to be still
Is not the way of those who study birds
Or women. The best poets wait for words.
The hunt is not an exercise of will
But patient love relaxing on a hill
To note the movement of a timid wing;
Until the one who knows that she is loved
No longer waits but risks surrendering –
In this the poet finds his moral proved
Who never spoke before his spirit moved.
It’s hard to imagine India without the shade of Tagore’s timeless poetry. The Bengali poet’s profound works which are widely read even today, brim with surreal words and strong emotions. It’s not unknown that he was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and one of the greatest minds to emerge from our country.
Tagore had many facets to him, but the Bard of Bengal played a major role in introducing the world to Indian literature and has worked on almost every genre of writing. So stirring were Tagore’s words that his songs and poems gave Bengalis immense courage to surge ahead in their fight against Pakistan in the 1971 war of liberation. A strong guide, who held the torch of a New India, Tagore’s legacy can never be summarised in words.
A befitting glimpse into the mind of the philosopher, the painter, India’s bejeweled poet, Tagore…
If to leave this world be as real as to love it—then there must be a meaning in the meeting and parting of life.
If that love were deceived in death, then the canker of this deceit would eat into all things, and the stars would shrivel and grow black.
As the wings of poetry continue to grow across the globe, with poets and ignited minds penning verses for generations to rejoice, let this World Poetry Day be a reminder that there is nothing as vast and endless as poetry which brings forth the true sides of many lives. An emblem of hope, a battle scar, an ode to a lover, nature’s endless grace, poetry brings us closer to taste the divine composition of words and emotions…a flavour which one can never erase.