A poet and/or a writer can do to a language what a mother can do to a child. The esteem and popularity of languages are largely a measure of its ‘wordy’ people. Their own tallness depends on many intrinsic things like power to contemplate, passion, courage, and observation. Like any other sphere, here too, individual’s ability to dedicate self fully to it changes the whole balance.
There are a lot of writers but few only have the power to become immortals with their work. Only some chosen ones have the power to write fire with their words. Out of those few, Shiv Kumar Batalvi stands apart. It won’t ever happen that anyone would be able to touch even the heights where he is with his writing. It’s a pity that Shiv had to leave this world so early but in his very small life span, he has created that verdict which is going to be remembered as long as a single soul even will be alive on this earth.
What Ghalib did for Urdu or Keats/Shakespeare did for English; Shiv did that for Punjabi. He is a flame that, unfortunately, lived only for a very brief period (23 July 1936 – 7 May 1973) but whose glow and fragrance is warming more and more hearts as the years’ pass. He is the youngest Indian, at the age of 28, who received India’s highest literary award, Sahitya Akademi Award in 1967, given by Sahitya Akademi (India’s National Academy of Letters), for his epic verse play based on the ancient legend of Puran Bhagat, Loona (1965), now considered a masterpiece in modern Punjabi literature, and which also created a new genre, of modern Punjabi kissa.
Needless to say, he lives in the hearts of his admirers, and through his passionate and enchantingly lyrical poetic expressions of the pathos of his time.
The Government of India posthumously awarded him the civilian honour of the Padma Bhushan in 2001.
SHIV KUMAR BATALVI – A BIOGRAPHY
Shiv Kumar was born in Bara Pind Lohtian (Shakargarh tehsil), in Punjab (now Pakistan). Shiv’s date of birth as recorded on his horoscope is July 23, 1936, while a later birth date, October 23, 1937, is recorded on his matriculation certificate that was the only official birth record at that time. His father was a Patwari by the name of Pandit Krishan Gopal. After the partition, his family moved to Batala. As a child, Shiv is said to have been fascinated by birds and rugged, thorny plants on the Punjabi landscape. Shiv was exposed to the Ramlila at an early age, and it is to be expected that he received what was later to become his instinctive understanding of drama from these early performances.
Shiv passed his matriculate exams in 1953, from Punjab University. He went on to enroll in the F.Sc. program at Baring Union Christian College in Batala. Before completing his degree he moved to S.N. College, Qadian into their Arts program. It is here that he began to sing ghazals and songs for his classmates. Shiv never gave the final exams he needed to pass to receive his degree.
Around this period, he met a girl named Maina at a fair in Baijnath. When he went back to look for her in her hometown, he heard the news of her death and wrote his elegy ‘Maina’. This episode was to prefigure numerous other partings that would serve as material to distil into poems. Perhaps the most celebrated such episode is his fascination for Gurbaksh Singh’s daughter who left for the US and married someone else. When he heard of the birth of her first child, Shiv wrote ‘Main ek shikra yaar banaya’, perhaps his most famous love poem.
In 1965 Shiv won the Sahitya Akademi award for his verse-drama Loona.
He married on Feb 5, 1967. His wife Aruna was a Brahmin from Kir Mangyal in district Gurdaspur. By all accounts, Shiv had a happy marriage. He had two children, Meharbaan (b. Apr. 12, 1968) and Puja (b. Sep. 23, 1969) whom he loved immensely.
By 1968 he had moved to Chandigarh, but both Batala and Chandigarh became soulless in his eyes. Chandigarh brought him fame, but scathing criticism as well, Shiv replied with an article titled ‘My hostile critics’. Meanwhile, his epilepsy got worse and he had a serious attack while at a store in Chandigarh’s Sector 22.
Shiv Kumar Batalvi, the poet, literally dominated poetic gatherings in his short life.
In the early 70’s Shiv came to Bombay for a literary conference. In keeping with Shiv’s outrageous behavior, there is a story about his trip to Bombay as well. Part of the conference involved readings at Shanmukananda hall. After a few people had read their work (one of whom was Meena Kumari), Shiv got on the stage and began “Almost everyone today has begun to consider themselves a poet, each and every person off the streets is writing ghazals”. By the time he’d finished with his diatribe, there was not a sound in the hall. This is when he began to read ‘Ek kuri jida naam mohabbat. gum hai, gum hai…’. There wasn’t a sound when he finished either.
Another thing great about Shiv, was that he wrote one poem :-
PRABH JI SAANU IK GEET UDHAARAA HOR DEYO
By saying, “Prabh Ji Saanu Ik Geet Udhaaraa Hor Deyo”, Shiv gave all credit for his writings to The Almighty God, as if all his poetry was from that Divine Power. This speaks of his spiritual leanings. This was the greatness of a poet who wrote best of the Punjabi ‘Geet’ but according to him it was only God who had bestowed on him the power to write and he had nothing, of his own, to write or say.
Shiv Kumar died in the 36th year of his life on May 7, 1973 in his father-in-law’s house at Kir Mangyal near Pathankot.
Joban rutte jo bhi marda, phul banne jaan tara…
(Whosoever dies in the age of blossoming, emerges as a fragrant flower or a shining star)
Few Geet/Songs written by Shiv Kumar Batalvi that can make you fall in love with his poetry:
The pain , the feeling of separation which Shiv has narrated here is saying it all.
Ik Shikra Yaar
Ki Puchde ho Haal Fakira Da in the voice of Shiv Kumar Batalvi
Ek Kudi Jida Naam Mohabbat in the voice of Shiv Kumar Batalvi
His Poetry is alive in the hearts of people
Mehran Dilan De Mahi
Ae mera geet kise na gaana
Tu Vida Hoyion
Mainu Tera Shabab Le Baitha
Same Ghazal in Jagjit Singh’s Voice
Hanjuan da bhara Peeran da paraga bhun de Bhathi Waliye
Ni ik meri akh kashni duja raat de uneendre ne mareya
Some Excerpts (Shiv Kumar Batalvi Poetry)
Mainu Vida Karo (Bid Me Farewell)
Assan Taan Joban Rutte Marna
Mur Jana Assan Bhare Bharaye
Hijar Tere di kar Parkarma
Assan Taan Joban Rutte Marna
Mainu teraa shabaab lae baiThaa
Vehl jad vii milii hai farzaan ton,
Tere mukh dii kitaab lae baiThaa.
‘Shiv’ noon ik gham te hii bharosaa sii,
Gham ton koraa jawaab lae baiThaa
Mainu teraa shabaab lae baiThaa
O mere sirjko
O mere sirjko
Tan de trashanhar butkaro
Tuhadi wansh wich hun bal nahin
1k swal jamna si
Jida uttar wi moran ton
Tusan sabna sen sangna si
Te jad men oodri thup nen
Mere jungle choun langna si
Taan bhuldi sabiyata men
Shaher de moran to khangna si
His personal works includes following :
- Piran da Paraga (The Scarf of Sorrows) (1960)
- Mainu Vida Karo (Bid Me Farewell) (1963)
- Gazlan Te Geet
- Aarti (Prayer) (1971)
- Lajwanti (Touch Me Not) (1961)
- Atte Dian Chirian (The Sparrows of Flour) (1962).
- Loona (1965)
- Main Te Main (I and Me) (1970)
- Dardmandan Dian Aahin
- Alvida (Farewell) (1974)
- Shiv Kumar: Sampuran Kav Sangreh (Complete Works); Lahore Book Shop, Ludhiana.
- Birha Da Sultan, (A selection from Shiv Kumar Betalvi’s poems), Selected by Amrita Pritam, Sahitya Akademi
His writings cannot be limited to this page or this website. He was a vast source of poems.
AnotherIndian.com pays heartily tribute to ‘the great poet’.