Shiv Kumar : Love and Despair
The pessimist loves life more than the optimist. The optimist takes life as it is, whereas the pessimist craves for the things life has denied to him. He wants to live fully and richly; hence, his despair when life deals to him the cup of joy in another measure.
The theme of Shiv Kumar's poetry is the unlived life. He is sad and frustrated and wants to leave this world.... 'Where youth grows pale and spectre thin and dies'... unseen. His despondence and disillusionment find expression in poetry which provides the much needed release to his pent-up emotions. He is subjective in his outlook towards life. Nothing that happens outside his personal experience can stir his imagination. The intensity of his feelings and the profundity of his emotions engross the reader in such a way that he completely identifies himself with the poet and shares his hopes and fears, frustration and fulfilment.
Born at Bara Pind Lohtian in Shakagarh Tehsil, now in Pakistan, on October 8, 1937, he migrated to Batala, after partition. He joined F.Sc. in Baring Union Christian College, Batala, after his schooling, but could not pursue his studies due to straitened circumstances. He worked in the Revenue Department of Punjab for some time and then decided to lead the life of his own choice.
During the last decade or so he had been deeply involved in creative work. His untimely death on May 6, 1972, shortly after his tour of England, was mourned throughout the country. He was the youngest recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award in 1965. His first collection of poems Peeran da Paraga (A Handful of Pains), published in 1960, introduced to the Punjabi literary world a poet of agonies and tortures. The shadow of the death of his beloved is over almost all the poems in this collection. The poignancy of the poet's hurt feelings, the originality of his expression and the sensuousness of his imagery established him as a new voice in Punjabi poetry. This book was adjudged the best book of the year by Punjabi Sahit Sameekhya Board, Punjab. Ever since, his flight is sustained and at times his poetry appears to be bigger than life itself:
Tainu dian hanjuan da bhara
Neenpeeran daparaga btnm de, Bhatthi Walie.
(I shall give you a handful of tears, please parch the grains of my sorrow, O' Bhatthi Walie)
Lafwanti (Touch-me-not) came next. It embodies the feelings of a poet in love with a widowed girl. Here the pangs are not of love unfulfilled but of love unrequited. Like Browning he is hopeful of meeting her again, maybe in the next birth :
Phir vi mainun maut wakan haiyakin
Tu meri aglejartam vich maan banaingi
jaan meri trimat di kukhon tunjanaingi
jaan mere dukhan di tun belan banaingi
(Even then I am sure like death that in the next birth you will either be my mother or will spring forth from the womb of my wife or will share my sorrows as a beloved)
Failure in love and the psychosis of fear generated by unsheltered early life led to an abnormal view of sex. In his third collection of poems Aatte Dion Chirian (The Sparrows of Wax) one finds the poet in the throes of sexual desire which ultimately engenders the feelings of sex antagonism and abhorrence. His attitude towards sex undergoes a vital change and he is both fascinated and repelled by sex. This book was awarded the first prize of the year by the Languages Department of Punjab Government :
Muhabbat gall hai has do palan di
Jadon tak khun vich hai sek baki
Muhabbat kaam de boote daphal hai
Kejikan chet vich phulle pataki
(Love is only the need of the moment and that too as long as the blood is warm. Love is the fruit of the tree called Kama, just as in the month of Chaitra (Spring), the wild flowers sprout.)
Shiv fell a prey to pleurisy in 1963 and came face to face with death. In Mainu Vida Karo (Bid Me Adieu), published in 1963, he surrenders himself completely to fate and longs for the valley of death so as to sleep away this life of care. He is defeated, broken and crushed. He writhes in pain and stifles his cries :
Asaan taanjoban rutte marna
Murjaana asin bhare bharaye?
Hijar tere di karparkarman
Assan taanjoban rutte marna
(I shall die in the season of youth when everything in in bloom. After circumambulating the temple of thy separation, I shall die in the season of youth.)
The next book Birha Tu Sultan (Divine Separation) is a collection of poems already published and a few more which he wrote in the meanwhile. It got the first prize, being the best printed book of the year, from the Languages Department, Punjab. This book closes a grand chapter of his poetic career.
His art, perhaps, has found sublimation in Luna, a great poetic drama based on the mythical story of Puran Bhagat. The earlier bards saw the whole story from a moralistic point of view and eulogized Puran, an ideal son who repulsed heroically the luscious overtures of his voluptuous stepmother. Shiv Kumar is all praise for the nobility of his character and the firmness of his resolve but his tender and sympathetic heart finds affinity more with Luna, the stepmother than with Puran. He finds Luna more sinned against than sinning. The villain of the piece is not Luna but Salwan, the aged husband who did not hesitate to marry a girl, worthy to be his daughter. She is deprived of youthful response to her natural impulses and, as a result of it, her sex urge is distorted and depraved. She, as any woman, craves for the liberation of her suppressed personality and finds it hard to put up with her injured ego. The poet identifies himself completely with the woman and her volatile moods. He shares with her the conflict of moral values in her mind. This ambitious endeavour of epical grandeur created a stir in the literary world, which adheres more or less to the set pattern of morality and the established structure of sex behaviour.
Shiv Kumar cannot visualize beauty but in the form of woman. Like Keats he is overawed in the presence of feminine grace and charm. He is thrilled to the last fibre of his being and finds himself lost in a reverie. Such a state of mind then mellows into a lyric or on ode. Woman to him is not only a thing capable of creating reverential awe but also an object of sexual gratification. He is a victim of insatiable desires and unknown labyrinths of passion. To him life is miserably incomplete without the fulfilment of sex urge. In his poems, the consciousness of.... 'Infinite passion and the pain of finite hearts that yearn'.... is
paramount. There are certain streaks of D.H. Lawrence's philosophy of blood in his poetical outburst:
Muhabbat kaam da hi ikpara hai
Te shay ad kaam da hi naam Khuda hai
(Love is only on early stage of Kama. And perhaps the other name of Kama is God).
Kaam hai Shivji, kaam Brahm hai,
Kaam hi sab ton maha dharam hai
(Kama is Shiva, Kama is Brahma. Kama is the greatest of all the Faiths.)
Shiv Kumar is primarily an artist and not even remotely a propagandist. His poems are the products of fleeting moments of heightened sensibility. He grapples with the immediate reaction his experience creates in his mind and communicates it forcefully but delicately. His temper is romantic but the diction he employs is classical. He has deep roots in the soil and views disfavourably the attempts of the so-called modern poets who think western thoughts and write in a foreign idiom. His imagery creates an atmosphere very much akin to the life lived in the rural Punjab.