M A I N   N E W S

Thirty years to nowhere
Batalvi’s birth celebrations shifted to a wedding hall

Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Birha da Sultan

Shiv Batalvi was the youngest recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award at 31 (in 1967) for his epic verse play Loona (1965) which was based on the legend by Bhagat Puran. We may or may not give a befitting formal tribute to Punjab’s popular “Birha da Sultan,” he will continue to live on in the hearts of the people. His lyrics continue to evoke a myriad emotions—pathos, passion, romance and the pangs of separation.

Most people in the region are familiar with at least a few lines from Batalvi, How many times have we heard:

Kee puchhade ho haal faqiraan daa Saadha nadiyon vichhre niiraan daa

(Why do you ask about the plight of mendicants, we are like the water separated from the river)

Ik kurhii jidaa naam muhabbat, gum hai gum hai

(A girl named love keeps on eluding me)

Jadon meri arthi utha ke chalan ge

Mere yaar sab humm humma ke chalan ge

Chalan ge mere naal dushman ve mere

Eh vakhri hai gal muskura ke chalan ge

(When they accompany my bier, a crowd of friends will surge, My foes too shall walk alongside but they will have smiles pasted on their faces)

Batala, July 29
When the Punjab Deputy Chief Minister attends the 75th birth anniversary celebrations of Shiv Kumar Batalvi here tomorrow, he will be doing so in a ‘marriage hall’ and not in the fancy ‘cultural centre’ named after the poet across the street.

Even in Punjab it should not have taken 30 long years to construct an auditorium, which the centre essentially is. But although the foundation stone was laid for the ‘first time’ in 1980, the memorial boasts of three foundation stones laid at different times by different politicians during the last three decades.

Sukhbir Badal’s decision to attend the function this year put the administration here in a flap and a nervous district administration hurriedly ‘shifted’ the venue to the marriage hall. Earlier, the incomplete and poorly maintained ‘auditorium’ continued to be used for various gatherings.

The dilapidated structure, which looks like a haunted house, goes by the fancy name of ‘Shiv Kumar Batalvi Cultural Centre’. It boasts of broken tiles and doors, a roof ready to fall and plaster peeling off from walls.

The Public Relations Minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan had recently announced that the auditorium would be given a complete facelift and would be declared fit to hold the state-level function.

The official explanation being offered is that security concerns pertaining to the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal’s visit are what forced the organisers to change the venue. The Deputy Chief Minister is slated to be the chief guest on Friday.

The administration today placed a large photograph of the poet inside the rundown building and all guest speakers who were invited were requested to go inside the dilapidated building and pay their respects and floral tributes.

Rahul Chaba, SDM, Batala, claimed, “We did not go in for temporary renovation. That way the money would have gone waste. An estimate was prepared for renovation work but later we felt that the private resort nearby would serve as a better venue.”

The administration did plaster the town with hoardings, which triggered off a storm in a teacup. The absence of the picture of the local MLA upset a section of the BJP, the alliance partners. But then the MLA happens to be Jagdish Sahni, who fell foul of the state leadership of his party by levelling allegations against the health minister. It is, unlikely, therefore, to matter much.

Sukhbir Badal, is certain to announce tomorrow plans to revive and restore the cultural centre. But people, bitten thrice already, are unlikely to take him seriously.





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