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Monday, March 01, 2010

Punjabi Poetry by Rajab Ali

It was at the funeral service for one of my father's aunts (the wife of a brother of his mother's) that I heard the kathhaa-vaachak (preacher) recite a few couplets by Rajab Ali. It was my first encounter with his poetry and I was enthralled. The departed lady's oldest son i. e. my father's cousin later promised to collect as many of Ali's verses as he could and put those down in a notebook, for me. I never found out whether he was able to do that as he succumbed to cancer a few years down the line and, somehow, I did not get a chance to meet him in-between.

Apparently, the poet was an overseer in the irrigation department, posted in the Malwa region of Punjab, before 1947 (after which he moved to the newly-formed Pakistan, along with his family), and he spent a good part of his tenure at my paternal grandmother's ancestral village and a few surrounding ones. Many of those from my parents' generation and those preceding it still recite and listen to his kavishari over there, probably not as often as before though. So, it was quite a pleasure to come across some of his poems posted online, in the Gurmukhi as well as Roman scripts.

One does wish that the great man had been treated better by the country of his birth and provided with adequate security at the time of partition to protect him and his family against the violence that took place, so that he could stay and practise his craft in India, or by his adopted country, where his services to the Punjabi language never really received due recognition.


Alexandra B said...


I would love to read some more Indian poetry, translated of course in a language I could understand. I encountered a few verses in the book I read by Maitreyi Devi, I told you about it, and I love it. It's so rich in meaning. Perhaps, you could translate some lines by Rajab Ali in English? It's just an idea!

Best wishes,


Sidhusaaheb said...

With my limited capabilities, I can hardly translate much of poetry.

However, I will keep looking for Rajab Ali's poetry translated into English and most certainly send you English translations of other Indian poets' verses.

Anonymous said...

Reading this I get an image of a party of friends or family all huddled together in someone's livingroom, and taking turns to recite some of the poems.

It's a shame that some traditions die out, but good to hear that his poetry is still read and enjoyed.

Sidhusaaheb said...

Or on a charpoy ( ) or two or more, in an open courtyard...

Or even on a paved platform, perhaps, under a huge banyan tree... :)

Anonymous said...

Under a banyan tree sounds nice and cool, 'specially in the heat of an Indian summer I imagine :)