Majboor's Kashmiri Poetry
Dr. A. N. Dhar
Shri Arjan Dev Majboor is a notable Kashmiri poet, besides
being a seasoned scholar and writer, who has a number of published materials-
books and critical articles to his credit. Since his displacement from the
valley of Kashmir (in the wake of the outbreak of turmoil there), he has been
very productive as a writer. In recent years, he brought our two valuable
volumes of his Kashmiri verse titled Padi Samyik (1993) and Teol
(1995), of which the former earned him the "Best Book Award"
from the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in 1994.
The publication of the Waves, (the volumes
under review), bears testimony to Shri Majboor's serious concern as scholar-poet
for the projection of Kashmiri literary works across the globe through their
translation into English, which continues to be useful and important as an
international language. The present volume is a laudable piece of work brought
out specially to serve this desirable objective -enabling a wider
readership from across this country and from abroad to have access to the
"Culture content" of the original poems.
The slender volume is neatly printed, it has an attractive
get-up, with a cover design and also drawings interspersed among the poems
- done ably by Vijay Zutshi., a talented sculptor and artist. There are in
all 24 lyrics in the volume - constituting a thoughtful collection of the
pieces selected from the poet's large works in Kashmiri and rendered into
English by Arvind Gigoo. The titles of the poems are eye-catching and
appropriate e.g., The Topsy-turvy Tree, Snow-man, Chiselled
Words, The Dance is On, Rootless, To the Swan, etc.
Having first gone through a fairly large number of Kashmiri
poems, now available in the Waves in English translation I find
that the translations capture both the essence and broad details of the original
pieces. Happily the author of the poems and the translator don't miss-match;
the two complement each other. The Waves, as a fine product. not
only reflects the rich content of the original poems but also reproduces the
free verse form of most Kashmiri lyrics To the Swan being perhaps
the only poem which is not in the free verse form in its Kashmiri version Teol.
However in the translation versions, the structure of lines has inevitably
undergone some alterations. The verse flows with ease in the translations too
and we immediately recognize in them the cultural content of the original poems.
Arjan Dev Majboor's deep rooted love of the beautiful valley
of Kashmir, the land of his birth and domicile, naturally flows into expression
in so many lyrics, some of them tinged with an element of nostalgia. This is
true of the long lyric To The Swan that comes at the end of the
volume Waves. In spite of the difficulties and hardships that the
poet must have faced as a ‘displaced' Kashmiri, he expresses no bitterness and
continues to see his cultural roots in the valley, looking at the same time
forward to the revival and regeneration of what, in his views, has suffered only
a temporary reversal. The theme of ‘exodus' finds adequate articulation in
other poems too such as Rootless and Prison. The
poet's hopes of revival and his aspirations also find expression in the poem
titled The Coming Millennium.
There are several poems in which we find the poet's acute
observations on life and Nature. Thus in the Portrait of a Child,
- are presented with the contrast between ‘innocence' and ‘experience'
in the lines that follow, almost reminding us of William Blake:
The old don't remember purity
children don't know defilement.
Several other poems are focused on the present social
scenario, especially on what obtains in the modern industrial towns - when
alongside the economic boom, our time honoured and cherished values have
nearly suffered a collapse. In the poem titled The Topsy-turvy Tree,
we find satirical lines conveying the poet's veiled observations on the present
urban culture, when people are facing problems such as scarcity of water,
deforestation, pollution etc., accompanied by a general reversal of old values:
The tree said:
"Why need water
when all are mad?
flowers will bloom up in the sky,
a whirlpool will trap all,
it will rain acid,
beauty will be auctioned,
the wise will weep,
the ignorant will multiply,
greenery will disappear,
stones will cover the fields,
the lakes will become sand
moans will resound.
Even memory will end."
There are a few poems including Creation, Secret and A
Juggler's Trick, that embody deep philosophical reflections on the
meaning and mystery of life. I am particularly impressed by the poem titled Chiselled
Words that is concerned with the poetic craft-touching upon
the poet's preoccupation with the problem of language and meaning. It depicts
the poet as a conscious craftsman. operating as a non-conformist in the
realm of language "wrestling" with words to accommodate them to his
purpose. In these lines the poet tells us how he remained engaged in the task of
I chiselled words
Then I said:
"Words, I have given you life.
Come out of the prison afresh.
Old canons don't become you.
Likewise in the poem Sign the poet dwells on
the evocative power of words. He conveys that the ‘signs' have to be read
intuitively and not to be deciphered through logical analysis.
Most of the poems that make up the volume under review are
finished products (as is equally true of the original pieces). Marked generally
by an intellectual tone, they sound 'modern' to our ears. Many poems employ
words (as phrasal clusters) that function as images and symbols - a fact
that also accounts partly for their tautness and density of meaning. The poems
reflect the poet's broad humanitarian outlook and his serious concern for the
preservation of our age-old culture.
Arvind Gigoo deserves to be complimented for his flawless
command of English and his fine craftsmanship and the author for his
accomplishment as a creative writer.
Waves is most welcome as a volume that is innovative
in several respects. It is a lovable book and makes pleasant reading.