The book namely, ‘Meri Chonvi Kavita’ penned down by Balbir Madhopuri earlier has been translated into English by T.C. Ghai with finesse enabling the readers of English language to have access to the enriched collection of selected poems of a renowned writer. Balbir Madhopuri, a well- known literary figure has won international acclaim for his autobiography Changiya Rukh (The Lopped-off Tree) written in Punjabi; later translated into many languages with its popular English version, ‘Against the Night’ published by Oxford University Press in 2010.

The wondrous recreation in English by T.C. Ghai from the compendium of Balbir Madhopuri’s Punjabi poems expresses the inherent meaning of the poems undeniably. The underlying essence of the anthology of the poems is a mirror to humiliation, suffering and plight of the so-called lower castes at every stage in their lives. The inherent practice of exploitation based on birth ascribed status has gripped our society completely and any attempts to shed it seems to be insufficient and rather, negligible. His own narratives arouse the emotions of the readers compelling them to get rid of this discriminating hydra-headed monster present in the society. In ‘Sanskriti’, he laments the rigid mindset of the high-caste Hindus who are not ready to come out of this fixed restricted mindset and regime. The poems are dialogical engaging the readers in this exchange of ideas. The Extract included in the book namely, ‘Being a Tenant’ from Changiya Rukh: Against the Night provides an evocative connotation to the exclusion that is transcribed in the collection of poems.The poems also illustrate Balbir Madhopuri’s rustic background and his closeness to the serene natural surroundings, which is transcribed in his poetic expressions of various phenomena of nature bringing solace to the readers. The wide spectrum of nature is depicted in the vicissitudes of landforms and vagaries of weather and nature in its opulent shades like blossoming flowers, twinkling stars, lush green velvety grass, flying insects, floating ducks and swimming fishes etc. are imageries that finds realistic and vivid exemplification in this collection.

He desires to instill essential humanitarian values into the people and in the poems like, Against the Wind, a lot of inexplicable things are elaborated and explained in a naturalistic manner. The metaphor of an insect that flies in the rainy season to meet its end in the burning flames is described as superior to one that staggers and crawls and is crushed under the heels connoting that meeting one’s higher purpose in life despite all odds is superior than inaction. The moments of silence are the times when one reflects and introspects about oneself, near relations, broken relations, close friends etc. and this is time when the real purpose of life can be contemplated and one is impelled to be determined to stick to one’s resolve. The poem on Life radiates his opulence and optimism towards life that is in a constant state of flux and despite all odds wants to blossom like a bud or sprout like a sapling in mud.

His poems grant fundamental dignity to the women and this is depicted in poems which have mention about mother, wife, daughters etc. and this discourse envisions an ethical treatment and a dignified status to them in the torturous environs of the family and the society.

The deteriorating social and political conditions of Punjab during the era when Sikh militancy on the rise in the decades of 1980s and where arms and carnage were the ways of life instead of farming, is outlined in his poems with a heavy heart but despite this decline, the poet hopes a fresh wave and ‘Waiting for a Cool Breeze’ reiterates his optimism. Sunshine and Shade that tread parallel to each other are juxtaposed with parallels of the wings of duck that remains dry despite being immersed deep in water and of how the fruit- bearing branches of a tree bend in humility but how a stiff tree has to yield with the force of the wind and sways.

This poetry, in short, categorized as Dalit literature depicts the plight of the vulnerable groups whose experience in our cultural milieu is totally different. They are not only subjected to futile practices that had been embedded in the historic milieu deeply but their plight in the modern circumstances has become more pervasive and insidious. The menacing caste-driven atrocities, social embarrassment, humiliation, exclusion, subordination and psychological abuses that they are subjected overtly or covertly are cumulative factors leading to horrifying instances in the unequal social order and such episodes of ill-treatment from the life of the author are eye-opener to one and all, laying urgent need to herald a open and democratic society, which still seems to be elusive.

The poet’s own personal experiences make the illustrations even more effective and stimulating, pulling the strings of hearts of the readers. The anecdotal mention of various mythological and historically popular figures like, Banda Singh Bahadur, Farhad, Eklavya, Shakuni, Narad, Mirza- Sahiban etc. corroborate and substantiate the underlying currents of thought spontaneously and vividly. The poet desires that his poetry should have a direction and provide meaningful guidance to the people and hopes to inspire others despite being ‘dark-skinned’ that has an explicit message for the society. And the English version by T.C. Ghai recreates the same intense emotions and delivers humanitarian message to awaken society towards stimulating Dalit consciousness.

Book Review of: My Caste- My Shadow- Translated from Punjabi by T.C. Ghai
Book by-* Balbir Madhopuri
Published by: LG Publishers Distributors

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