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Kunwar Narayan’s Informed Serenity

Hello folks!

Hope you’re doing well. Today we’ll discuss about an award-winning Hindi poet. To know more about him follow this link:

It is often said that an artist lives a thousand lives, as the essence of his life lies in his creation that remains with generations to come. But don’t you wish some of your favorite artists were still alive? If we run a poll today, there would hardly be anyone who would not wish to meet his/her favorite artist face to face. This leads us to the question: what do we lose when an artist dies? Of course there’s the finality of death that makes a person unable to do anything anymore (well, assuming ghosts are not people) and unfortunately artists are no exception. When they die, they take away with them the faculties that enabled them to create. So, no more new books of your favorite author will hit the stands or no more new paintings of your favorite painter will ever be exhibited. This is saddening. But is this the only reason why we feel the pangs of sorrow poking our hearts whenever we reminisce about the artists who are long dead?

If poets like Kunwar Narayan did not exist, ‘no’ as an answer to this question would sound utterly pretentious.

Kunwar Narayan took his last breath at his home on 15th November 2017. He was awarded the Jnanpeeth Award in 2005 and Padma Bhushan in 2009 for his contribution to Hindi literature. He was a poet, a short story writer, a critic, a translator and above all, the most appropriate personification of his own body of work. This is precisely why the reason for mourning his death goes beyond the impossibility of any new piece of poetry or prose coming out from his pen.

He led a simple life. Almost unnoticeable in the cacophony of political debates and literary snobbishness of last fifty years. Yet his work reflects the frustration of an idealist. Like this excerpt from his poem ‘Ayodhya 1992’:

सविनय निवेदन है प्रभु कि लौट जाओ किसी पुरान — किसी धर्मग्रन्थ में सकुशल सपत्नीक…. अबके जंगल वो जंगल नहीं जिनमें घूमा करते थे वाल्मीक ! (I beg you Lord Ram, Return safely to The stories of some Purana — some scripture This jungle is no longer the one Where Valmiki used to roam)

Manglesh Dabral, his colleague and friend has said, “He used language as a prism to look at love and also on death. Through his poems he discussed all its dimensions. In the modern, troubled and uneasy disquiet, he spoke of sanity and serenity and reflected deeply. The ambit of his knowledge was very wide.”

This serenity is reflected in this excerpt from his poem ‘Kavita’:

उसे (कविता) कोई हड़बड़ी नहीं कि वह इश्तहारों की तरह चिपके जुलूसों की तरह निकले नारों की तरह लगे और चुनावों की तरह जीते वह आदमी की भाषा में कहीं किसी तरह ज़िन्दा रहे, बस (Poetry is never in a hurry To make itself evident Through posters on walls, Processions and slogans in streets, Victories in elections All it has to do is to stay alive in the language of humans)

The answer to the question why should we read or write poetry could not have been answered in a simpler yet profound manner. It opens up the possibilities of consequences of reading poetry. It can be a source of mere entertainment or a life changing lesson. Since its objective is to only exist, the poet is absolved of the crime of wasting his time writing poetry. Probably this is how Kunwar Narayan liberated himself as an artist.

Can we draw some inspiration from his life and try to balance the rush in our lives with the state of ‘informed serenity’ i.e. being actively involved without making any fuss about it? Is it possible to liberate ourselves as normal human beings by merely acknowledging the fact that we just have to stay alive in the drama of life? Can this line of thinking be motivating enough to fulfill our desires? These are the questions he left for us to answer. This will probably take a lifetime to answer. Till then, can we just sit back and contemplate? It’s not difficult, is it?

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