Modern Punjabi Poetry: Mohan Singh and Sharif Kunjahi

old-streets-of-lahore

Translated by Randeep Singh

MOHAN SINGH

Mohan Singh (1905-1978) was a Punjabi poet who, with Sharif Kunjahi, introduced modernism into Punjabi poetry.

Born in Mardan (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan), Singh was a lecturer in Persian. He published ten books of poetry in Punjabi, including Savve Pattar (‘Green Leaves’) in 1936 and Wadda Vela (‘The Late Morning’), which was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award in 1959. His poems bear the influence of Punjabi, English, Persian and Urdu literary traditions, at once sensual and socially thoughtful, exploring love, sex, nature, exploitation and inequality.

The Poem (‘Kavita’)

His own self veiling
The creator beauty made
Seeing beauty’s intense glow
Love seized Beauty intensely
When love’s spell struck
Passion danced in the heart
When that roused passion spoke
A flood of poetry it became

Apnī zāt vikhālan badle
Rab ne husn banāiā
Vekh husn de tikhe jalve
Zor ishq ne pāiā
Phuriā jadoñ ishq dā jadū
Dil vich kudī mastī
Ih mastī jad bol uṭhī
ñ haṛh kavitā dā āiā

 

The Spring (‘Basant’)
(abridged)

In the dream of spring I dwell
The pain of separation I tell
The river of tears its banks breaks
Seeing one who lent me solace once
Wipe your tears my voice says
“What God does is for the best”
Mohan! Had I not died
How would you have been a poet?

Dekh basant khwāb andar maiñ
Dasī pīṛ hijar dī
Hanjhūāñ de dariā phuṭ nikle
Dekh chirokā dardī
Pūnjh athrū mere bolī
“Jo rabb kardā changī,”
Mohan! Kinj bandā tūñ shāir
Je kar maiñ nā mardī

The fair maiden of beautiful spring
Who reached the prime of her youth
Whether in the beating hearts of nightingales
Whether the yearning eye of the bumblebee
Whether the mustard flower scattering gold
Whether the dew stealing a silvery hue
A queen is the spring, the Heer of legend
The town of Jhang Siyaal* rises anew
In this lovely spring season
I gaze at someone’s picture
Sorrows floating, my scarf falling
I adopt sorrows anew…

Husn bharī basant dī chail naḍhī
Sīgī sikhar juānī te aī hoī
Kite hik sī dhaṛakdī bulbulāñ
Kite bhaur dī akh sadharāī hoī
Kite sarhoñ ne sonā khilāriā sī
Kite tarel ne chandī luṭāī hoī
Sī basant rānī yā ih hīr jaṭṭī
Navīñ jhang siālāñ te āī hoī
Es sohnī basant dī rut andar
Aiveñ kise dī foṭo maiñ che baiha
Bahe ghamāñ toñ pallā chuḍān lagiā
Ulṭā sajre gham saheṛ baiṭha…

* Jhang Siyaal, the town of Heer in Heer Ranjha

 

SHARIF KUNJAHI

Sharif Kunjahi (1915-2007) was  a Punjabi poet, lecturer and linguist. Born in Kunjah, Gujrat District, West Punjab, Kunjahi was a lecturer in Persian who later went on to teach Punjabi at the Department of Punjabi at the University of Punjab.

Kunjahi published two anthologies of poetry, Jag Raate (‘Sleepless Nights’) in 1958 and Orak Hondi Lou (‘The Dimming Light’) in 1995. His lyrical poetry draws on the metaphors and imagery in the classical Punjabi tradition to describe the more modern realities of the divide between the poor and wealthy and the change in social values. Along with Singh, Kunjahi is the founder of modernism in Punjabi poetry.


Passing by that village
(‘Use pinḍ koloñ‘)

Today, I pass by that village
From where I had never wanted to move
Where I found something to do everyday
What thing? In truth, to be where you were
A place of pilgrimage the village was

Aj us pinḍ de maiñ koloñ langh chaliāñ
Jithoñ kade hilaṇe toñ dil nahīñ si kardā.
Jithe maiññ nit piā rahindā koī kam sī.
Kam kī sī, sachī gal e jithe terā dam sī.
Tere dam nāl pinḍ hajj vālī thāñ sī.

What a beautiful name it had
To listen to its name gave one life
To look upon it brought one’s eyes peace
Gazing at its trees from afar relieved all weariness
Waving their branches they beckoned to us
To stand beneath their shade was to relish paradise
Today, I am passing by those trees

Kiḍā sohnā nāñ sī,
Uhdā nāñ suṇ ke te jān pai jāndī sī.
Dīd uhadī akhīāññ ṭhanḍ apaṛāndī sī.
Dūroñ rukh tak ke thakeveñ lahi jānde san.
Bāhīñ mār mār ke uha in pae bulānde san.
Suarg dā suād āve uhanāñ heṭh khaliāñ.
Aj jinhāñ rukhāñ de maiñ koloñ langha caliāñ.

Today, nothing tugs my feet
No breeze from your village comes
No one’s desires are there in my path
From the roof’s terrace no one waits
The acacia flowers veil me in my solitude
As if someone were passing a cemetery
Today, I pass by that village

Aj mere pairāññ nā khich koī hondī ē.
Pinḍ valoñ āīvā pinḍ nūñ nā ponhadī ē.
Kise diāñ chāvāñ merā rāh nahīñ ḍakiā.
Koṭhe ute chaṛh ke te kise nahīñ takiā.
Kikarāñ de olhe ho ke sabha toñ ikaliāñ.
Aj inj pinḍ de maiñ koloñ lagha chaliāñ.
Jivēñ koī kise gustān koloñ laghadā.


I Too Shall Think 
(‘Unj te maiñ vī sochāñ‘)

I too shall think as others all do
But what’s in my heart I shan’t hide

When the time came to hand you a ladle
Why was it from the server pried?

That flower blossoms which spreads its fragrance
That flower droops from whose tears time dried

What sin has your “Intercontinental” cooked up?
You shared not nor at morn the millstone plied

Better dirtied are hands than henna adorned, Sharif
Which with mud and water plaster the leaking roof-side

Unj te maiñ vī sochāñ jo soche har koī
Farq ainā ae, maiñ nahīñ apne dil dī kade lakoī

Velā jadoñ kade vī tere hath phaṛae ḍoī
Soch ki usne kioñ pahle vartāve hath khohī

Khiṛnā use phul dā jisne vanḍī mahik duāle
Jhaṛnā use phul dā jis te akh sameñ dī roī

Tere “inṭar-kānṭīnainṭal” toñ kī gunah pakāiā
Nā tūñ vanḍ chune taṛke uṭhe ke chakkī jhoī

Libṛe hath “sharīf” uh mahndī rangiā nāloñ change
Chondī chat lippan nūñ jihṛe hathāñ miṭī goī

 

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