Sati Kumar


Sati Kumar. Stockholm. 1991
Photo by Amarjit Chandan

Satish kumar Kapil alias Sati Kumar, who has died of cancer aged 70 on 25 January in his home in Stockholm, was born in 1938 in the Malwa town of Rampura Phul in a Brahmin family of prouhits. After his graduation in Punjab, he went to Delhi University for further studies where he came in contact with stalwart Punjabi writers – Bawa Balwant, Devinder Satyarthi, Harbhajan Singh, Harnam and above all Amrita Pritam. As a result Sati began writing poetry, which was radically different from the popular romantic lyrical poetic strain of the times.

Sati Kumar claimed that he was writing modern poetry in the manner of French poet Rimbaud and the American poet Ginsberg. The mainstream progressive writers disapproved of these poems. This precisely was the time when he got a Bulgarian  fellowship – thanks to Amrita Pritam – to do research at the Sofia University.  

Sati married a Bulgarian girl and in her collaboration translated some parts of Ramayana and Mahabharata into Bulgarian. After a six year stint at Sofia, Sati migrated to Sweden where he lived till his end. From 1964-1979 he published four collections of poems, Pancham (1964), GhoriaaN di Udeek (1971), Rahao (1977) and Tambey da Rukh (1979). He edited nine books in Hindi mainly anthologies of modern Swedish poetry and his regular travelogues of East Europe published in Hindi weekly Dharmayug had a wide readership.

He staged a come back a couple of years ago in a book-length interview Mayajaal – Gallan ate Kavita (2005) and interspersed with poems from his earlier collections. The interview is a veritable autobiography of Sati Kumar along with a selection of his poems. It is a critique of Punjabi literature, Stalinist socialist realism in art and literature and of literary history of the last four decades. In 1995 Bhasha Vibhag of the Punjab government honoured him as ‘Shiromini Sahitkar’.

He is survived by his dramaturge daughter Aditi and engineer son Misho. His wife Ivanka predeceased him a few years ago. —

Madan Gopal Singh writes: Am deeply saddened by Sati's passing away. I have so many memories of him as a child and as a pubescent youth.  For a number of years, as a handsome young man in his 20s, he was an integral part of our life. Almost regularly, we would dine together and have endless cups of tea. As young children, we would look up to him like we would a film star. He exuded such rare charm and sophistication. I remember him with a sense of deep, personal loss.                 [26 Jan 08]

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