Sharan Makkar, Manjit Tiwana, Kuldip
The Trio of Punjabi Poetesses
Poetry, all the world over, mostly deals with man's attitude towards woman. It rarely talks about woman's concern for man. From the Greek poetess Sappho (6th century B.C.) to Elizabeth Barrett Browing to Amrita Pritam is a long period but the names of poetesses can be counted on fingers. England can rightly boast of some great women novelists like Jane Austen, Emile Bronte, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf but after Elizabeth Browning there are only two poetesses worth the name- Christina Rossetti and Edith Sitwell. During the whole of the Mughal rule in India, only one Persian poetess emerged and that was Aurangzeb's daughter, Zebun-Nisa 'Makhff. Mirabai too is a lone voice in the wilderness of centuries. Perhaps woman is by nature reticent to express her thoughts and feelings. Lack of opportunity can be the other reason. But there is an interesting point to note. Whereas man easily identifies himself with woman, she rarely does so with the opposite sex. The main reason appears to be that woman is generally obsessed with her own longings and deprivations. She has not a single thought to spare for the aspirations and frustrations of man. It needs a Shiv Kumar Batalvi to give vent to the feelings of a Loona but no Amrita Pritam has experienced the psychic schism of a Puran.
In Punjab, for a long time, Amrita Pritam dominated the scene. Then came Prabhjot Kaur to vie with her. In the recent years have emerged Bibi Harnam Kaur, Manjit Indra, Niranjan Avtar, Jagjit Kaur, Jaswant Kaur Ahluwalia, Manjit Madhur, Sapan Mala and others. Now three Punjabi poetesses- Sharan Makkar, Manjit Tiwana and Kuldip Kalpana- have arrived, during the last one year, with their first collections of poems. They undoubtedly hold a promise for the future. Their attitude towards life is more or less identical, although they belong to different social milieus. They talk of unrequited love, impenetrable loneliness, gnawing frustrations and throes of negative existence. The symbol of cross occurs again and again in their poems. They disdain the moth-eaten standards of Janus-faced socity. They even question the traditional concept of sin and have scant regard for the age-old values of life. They are all the time possessed by the idea of establishing their identity on the quicksands of man's world.
Sharan Makkar has received education at the postgraduate level but she is a full-time housewife and has found her fulfilment in this role. She is better known as a short story writer but her collection of poems, Apradh da Shagan, has revealed to advantage the poetic aspect of her literary involvement. The poet in her is totally alien to the world of glossy ideas and flaccid emotions. She speaks in a language that is forthright, hence it conveys her viewpoint in a convincing manner. She probes deep into the inner recesses of her mind and has no illusions about herself-
A stone, if only viewed
A spark, if rubbed
An idol, if chiselled.
Life's meaninglessness is the haunting theme of most of her poems. She views human existence as a cross, on which every moment is being crucified. Or it is like boiling water which is evaporating with the passage of time. In her short poemArthheen She says-
I have lost
The meaning of my existence
In vain have I consulted
A good many dictionaries
There is a big void of silence in me
Words find it hard to fill it up
And to go on talking without a purpose
Looks like the bark of a dog.
In another poem Main Te Meri Main she has presented a beautiful idea about the present state of human existence. People are in a great hurry but they do not reach anywhere. Still there are certain persons who do not actually run, only their minds work at full speed. Their agony is of a different sort-
I see daily
A poster on the roadside
Wherein a man is running fast.
Truly a symbol of my innerself it is
To go on running and running
Without taking a single step.
Sharan is all the time eager to understand the scheme of things, not only in the world but in life also. Her innerself is not complete till it establishes a rapport with the male principle of love. What kind of relationship is this ? The thread of such a relationship is weak, if not invisible, but how true and binding it is. Her poem Rishte di Sanjh is in fact an idyllic poem-
A thread of relationship
Binds you and me.
Adam established with Eve
After partaking of the fruit of knowledge.
How weak the thread is
But it snaps never.
Tiwana has woven a fine web of sentiments and emotions in the collection of
poems Hham. She is a bit bold in her expression and has the courage to jeer at
the man who, like T.S. Eliot's Alfred J. Prufrock, is given to too many
decisions and revisions. True to her feminine ebullience, she believes in
frontal attack. In her poem Showcase, she says-
The girl was made of glass
And the boy of flesh.
She looked at him
And the glass asked the flesh
'Gobble me up, please'.
The boy thought of the poor digestive power
Of his big entrails.
The girl again said
Release me at least from the showcase'.
His feet became conscious of their delicate skin
The girl then exclaimed-
'If you must think, think at home,
You have nothing to do at the road,
I shall continue speaking in the showcase'.
The girl of glass kept on speaking in the showcase
The boy of flesh went on thinking at the road. She is a Lecturer in Psychology in a Government College.
Necessarily her attitude towards life is that of a psycho-analyst. A thinking mind can reconcile with life only at its own terms. It will never be satisfied with illusions and half-truths. The emotive response to life having vanished, all that is left behind is a long stretch of wasteland. The poem IkKahani is an attempt at finding an objective correlative for her melancholy state of mind-Daily I turn into a bird
To fly over the inward stretches of my being.
Wildnerness greets the eyes in every direction,
Save a withered tree standing stubbornly,
In the wasteland.
Climbing up the top of the tree
I find nothing but sadness all around.
Its shadows I see daily
In the eyes of those who keep awake at night. Like most of her contemporaries, Manjit does not make use of symbols to throw a veil of obscurity over her poems, rather her aim is to elucidate her point of view. She has realised with a jolt mat man is no more in a position to rush to the aid of a damsel in distress. In fact he himself needs confidence and assurance. Being a victim of repressions and inhibitions, he has his own problems to face. When at last he demolishes the wall of separation, the messy problems of adjustment and re-adjustment creep in-
He was thinking of pulling down
The wall of separation
Always I thought of crossing the wall
Instead of getting it pulled down.
One day the wall gave way
When we were listening to each other
Through the pores of the wall.
I could easily cross the wall over
can I pass over all these debris ? Whereas deprivation is the theme of Manjit
Tiwana, dereliction is that of Kuldip Kalpana. Her collection of poems Basti te
Sehra is the last arrival at the scene. She is a lecturer in
Punjabi in a Government College and has been brought up in a literary atmosphere. She appears to be suffering from mother-fixation and this has affected her insight and outlook. She feels forlorn and excites the emotion of pity in the reader. Luckily her intellectual awareness saves the situation. She retrieves herself at the last moment, so to say, from being stuck up in the mire of pathos. In her poem Basti te Sehra, She says-
You feel sorry
Since there is no wall for me (in this desert)
Nor is there any tree for me.
But tell me
Who has been blessed with shade
In this desert ?
There is much bustle and activity
In my habitation and my desert.
Only the season of the fulfilment of promises
Never visits this place.
While seeking solace in woman, man seldom realises that woman on her part may not be in a mood to respond to his protestations of love, since life for her is not always a bed of roses. In a world where everything has gone awry, how can life retain its equipoise ? Perhaps the broken pieces of life's joys and sorrows can be arranged hi such a pattern as can create an illusion of artistic homogeneity. In her poem College, she sums up her philosophy of life-Life cannot at will be given an aesthetic form
Like the furniture of a drawing room.
Nor it is like a wardrobe
Wherein you can hang changing seasons
Surely you will array
The decorative pieces of events,
But where will you keep
The cacti of accidents ?
Here you can only aspire
For the order of waves
(If waves do have an order ?)