LEISURE: IT COULD BE VERSE

India Today|July 20, 2020

LEISURE: IT COULD BE VERSE
Responding to the pandemic with poetry, Gulzar writes of melancholy while finding hope in humanism
Shreevatsa Nevatia

Poets and writers, according to Gulzar, perform an essential function—they give the period we live in, our era, a register. “And even if they write a small editorial, they record the times we live in. That is what is happening now,” he says. As the pandemic has worsened, Gulzar has been using a friend’s Facebook wall to publish his recent poems. “I’ve written several poems that illustrate today’s news.”

In May this year, for instance, Gulzar published a poem on the plight of migrant workers. It had an affecting refrain: “They will go to die there—where there is life.” Explaining the dichotomy, he says, “The problem is that they had come to cities to stay alive, but they had left a life behind.” The 85-year-old poet and lyricist use everyday examples to describe a pastoral abundance—squabbles, sugarcane, harvest, cousins. While he isn’t unaware of problems that beset rural populations—“the land you own becomes smaller and smaller”—he feels our cities have no life to offer. “You come here to work, and then one day, you buy a saree for your mother or a dhoti for your father. That can’t be contentment.”

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July 20, 2020