Friday, October 23, 2009

Ranjha or Heer?

Much has been made of Shiv Batalvi’s reputation as a heartbroken, jilted lover and as a perennial ladies man. Professor S. Soze in his book on Shiv in the Sahitya Akademi’s Makers of Indian Literature series describes Shiv as a dashing Ranjha type figure. But to me Shiv comes across equally as Heer. In poem after poem he slips effortlessly into the female psyche and writes in a voice which is stunning in its authenticity.

The Ranjha who wrote,

“Mainu tera shabab leh baitha,
rang gora gulab leh baitha”

(Your beauty was my undoing,
it was your fair skin that did me in)

is also the Heer who wrote,

“Aape ni maen baalari,
Maen haale aap mataan jogi
Mat kihra es nu dave?
Aakh su ni maae ihnu
Rove buhl chith ke ni,
Jahg kithe sun na lave!”

(O mother, I’m helpless myself
how then do I give solace to him
Tell him to clench his lips
when he weeps
Lest the world hears him cry)

The Majnu who wrote

Aj din chadhiya tere rang varga

(Today, the morning awoke
wearing the colour of your skin)

Is also the Laila who sang –

Kore shagna di meri mehndi
Jaadu di ho jave ve.....

(Blessed is this mehndi,
that I wear, my beloved,
on the first
of every month
The pain of lost love
flows through it
and keep its ever fresh)

What distinguishes Shiv’s love poetry is that he is not scared of the intensity of love and is able to inhabit it fully. He captures both the impetuous ardour of the parwana, the moth and the slow burning of the shama, the flame - with an equal understanding and empathy. Indeed, I think if anyone is looking to anoint the patron saint of separated lovers, they needn’t look any further than Shiv Batalvi.

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