The Poetry of Shiv Kumar Batalvi

Shiv Kumar Batalvi shone like a meteor in the field of Punjabi poetry. Sadly, like a meteor, he faded away at the early age of 36. Born in undivided Punjab in 1936 (or 1937, as his matriculation certificate testifies) his family moved to the Indian Punjab during the Partition. His father was a minor revenue official and they settled in Batala (thus Batalvi) in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab, the heart of the Punjab as it were. He was a precocious poet, beginning to write songs and poems as an intermediate student. Unlucky in love (twice according to most accounts) he wrote some of his finest romantic poetry in memory of the two women he loved and lost. He was the youngest ever winner of the Sahitya Academy award for his verse play Loona.


Shiv Kumar Batalvi 

He used to delight in outrageous behavior, often speaking disparagingly about amateur poets who used to abound in literary meetings. Unfortunately he was also an alcoholic and despite his superb literary output, was a slave to this addiction.

Towards the end of his life he was a bitter man, resentful of the attack on him by the leftist literary establishment. However he gave as good as he got, tearing his critics to pieces in his essay “My hostile critics”
His troubled life ended tragically early as he drank himself to death in 1972. He was just 36.

 A friend has been translating his poetry to the English.
These are two samples which I thought were excellent. I hope to publish more in the future


Jithe Itaraan De Vagde Ne Cho
  Jithe itaraan de vagde ne cho,

Ni uthe mera yaar vasda!
Jithon langhdi hae paun vi khalo,
Ni othe mera yaar vasda!

Nange nange paereen
Jithe aun parbhaataan,
Rishmaan di mahindi
Paereen laun jithe raataan,
Jithe chaanani ‘ch nhaave khushbo,
Ni uthe mera yaar vasda!

Jithe han muNgeeyaaN
ChaNdan deeyaaN jhaNgeeyaaN,
Phiran shuaavaaN
Jithe ho ho naNgeeyaaN,
Jithe deeviyaaN nu labhadi hae lo,
Ni uthe mera yaar vasda!

PaaneeyaaN de pahTaaN uhte
SaveN jithe aathan,
ChuNgeeyaaN mareeve
Jithe mirgaaN da aatan,
Jithe bado badi akh paeNdi ro,
Ni uthe mera yaar vasda!

Bhukhe-bhaane saun
Jithe khetaaN de raane,
Sajana de raNg je
KanakaaN de daane,
Jithe dahma vaale laeNde ne lako,
Ni uthe mera yaar vasda!

Jithe itaraaN de vagde ne cho,
Ni uthe mera yaar vasda!
JithoN laNghdi hae paun vi khalo,
Ni uthe mera yaar vasda!


Where perfumed rivers flow

Where perfumed rivers flow
There lives my beloved
Where even the wind stalls
There lives my beloved

Where dawn arrives barefoot
Where night paints henna on soles
Where scent bathes in moonlight
There lives my beloved

Where green branches of sandalwood trees
Roam naked to be touched
Where flames seek the lamp
There lives my beloved

Where the sun sets in the lap of water
Where a bevy of deer leap around
Where even the mighty cry
There lives my beloved

Where the farmer sleeps famished
Where wheat is of the color of my beloved
Where the wealthy lie in hiding
There lives my beloved

Where perfumed rivers flow
There lives my beloved
Where even the wind stalls
There lives my beloved


Jee chaahe panchi ho jaavaan 

Jee chaahe panchi ho jaavaan
Uhdda jaavaan, gaaonda jaavaan
An-chuh sikharaan nu choo paavaan
Is duniya diyaan raahvaan bhul ke
Fer kade na vaapas aavaan.

Ja ashnaan karaan vich zam-zam
La deekaan peeyaan daan da paani.
Maan-sarovar de beh kande
Tuta jeia ik geet maen gaavaan.
Ja baethaan vich khiriyaan rohiyaan
Phakaan pauna itar sajoeeyaan
Him-teesiyaan moeeyaan moeeyaan
Yugaan yugaan ton kakar hoeeyaan
Ghut kaleje maen garmaavaan.
Jee chaahe panchi ho jaavaan

Hoe aalhna vich shatootaan
Jaan vich jand, kareer, sarootaan,
Aaon pure de seet faraate,
Lachkaare eyun laen daaliyaan
Jyun koi Doli khede jariyaan.

Ik din aesa jhakhar jhule
Ud pud jaavan sabhe teele,
Be-ghar be-dar maen ho jaavaan.
Saari umar piyaan ras gham da,
Aese nashe vich jind handhaavaan
Jee chaahe panchi ho jaavaan

I want to be a bird
I want to be a bird
To fly, to sing
To touch the lofty mountains
To forget the ways of the world
Never to return

To bathe in holy waters
To drink the water of offering
To sit near the Mansarovar
To sing a broken song
To sit in the floral farms
To inhale the perfumed air
To warm the mountain peaks
That have been frozen for aeons
To warm them with an embrace
I want to be a bird

To nestle in the mulberry
To go in Capers, Mesquite and Cypress
And when the cold wind blows
To sway with the branches
Like swinging on a palanquin

One day there will come a storm
Destroying all our nests
I will become homeless and fearless
And drink the nectar of sorrow
To live in intoxication ever after
I want to be a bird

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