Sunanda Beecha Mehta
TODAY we talk of the need for unity and a casteless society. A century back, Charan Singh wrote:
“Banish this madness and wash the ink off your face
Hindu, Muslim, Sikh brothers, save yourselves, do not become a destructive race
No religion ever preaches hatred and enmity amongst each other in the least
The one who propagates hatred is a sinner be it a pandit, maulana or priest”
He also wrote about women’s rights:
“The world seems right only because she is the queen of your domain
Then in calling her a footwear, don’t you feel any shame?
All sacred texts call woman an equal partner as a fact
Those who call woman a footwear are actually also that
Their tongue is foul and their minds are inferior
Who are born of women but say that she is like a footwear.”
(Poem: Ghar di malkaan ya jutti?/Owner of the home or footwear?)
These were the verses I grew up with. Along with scores of others — less serious perhaps, but still with the seeds of reason deeply embedded in all the rhymes. A small, fragmenting book called ‘Asli Badshahian’ was often taken up by my father and passages from it read out, his voice laced with joy and pride. Because SS Charan Singh ‘Shaheed’ was not just a poet who delighted and dispensed life lessons through his deceptively simple lines, but also his grandfather. And my great grandfather.
As a child though, he was, for me, mostly the ancestor with a great sense of humour who wrote about a boy with a terrible dictatorial father and who when asked by his mother to be charitable to his friend who was fatherless, offered to give his own dad to him in charity (Aadam bo/I can smell a human). Or the godman who came to his village, renowned for his patience, losing it completely when the poet repeatedly asked him his name a dozen times, thus exposing his duplicity (Shanti da imtihaan / The test of patience). Or the woman whose husband is imprisoned because he stole a sack of grain, crying before the jailer to release him just for a day, not to meet the family, but to steal another sack to replace the one that got over (Kisse lai nai ronda koi/ No one cries for anyone).
Lessons were learnt subconsciously — of the need to be kind, of the importance of being true and genuine, of how all have their own interests at stake.
As I grew up and became a journalist, Charan Singh afforded a deeper, more layered understanding of himself as a prolific writer and human being who lived his words. From working since the age of 15 after his father’s untimely demise; to elevating himself from a proof reader to an author in that first year itself; to giving up being a court chronicler at the courts of Maharajas of Nabha and Patiala to launch his own independent newspaper called ‘Mauji’ that became a runaway success; to educating his six daughters same as his sons, leading to many of them becoming successful career women in that era; and to denouncing everyone who stood for oppression or fraud, be it godmen or feudal lords or the British through his satirical verses, he quite certainly practised the fearlessness and progressiveness that he preached.
I started to reread his poems. The paper had browned even more, the fragmenting pages disintegrating even more — but the brilliance of his lines shone brighter than ever before. I knew it was high time his words were reintroduced to a whole new audience. Thus was born ‘Majestic Musings’, a collection of 50 of his poems translated from Gurmukhi into English over the two years of Covid-19. With its release this month, I pay tribute to the man who has given our family the genes of writing and to the world priceless moments of mirth and timeless words of wisdom.
Today, we talk of unscrupulous politicians. A century back, he wrote:
“With their words, they try to bring down the sky, today’s leaders
But from them, you will not receive a single pai, today’s leaders
They make friends only for selfish reasons, today’s leaders
Adept at changing faster than seasons, today’s leaders”
(Poem: Ajkal de leader / Today’s leaders)
We talk of press freedom. A century back, he wrote:
“Hearts of lions tremble when it roars, my pen!
It flies over mountains shattering them as it soars, my pen!
Weak, miserable and feeble get protection from my pen!
While the powerful evil are eliminated, face destruction by my pen!
Pray that it always remains independent, bringing hearts together, my pen!
Its own heart is moved as it moves others’ hearts; may it live forever, my pen!”
(Poem: Meri kalam/ My pen)
May it live forever, indeed.
— The writer is great granddaughter of SS Charan Singh ‘Shaheed’
Most Read In 24 Hours
Don't MissView All
Nijjar was killed in Surrey in British Columbia on June 18
Serious matter, cooperation must: Canadian PM
Recalls ‘Silk route’, an ancient trade corridor used by Indi...
Says those occupying positions of influence are resisting th...
Probably winning Telangana, certainly winning Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, 'very close' in Rajasthan: Rahul
Speaking at a conclave, the Congress leader says idea of ‘on...