Surjit Patar, a poet for all seasons : The Tribune India

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Surjit Patar, a poet for all seasons

Surjit Patar, a poet  for all seasons

Surjit Patar (1945-2024). File photo



Pritam Singh

SURJIT Patar’s death has been mourned not only by the global Punjabi community but also by the lovers of poetry in many other languages into which his works were translated. An Odia scholar said she was planning to collaborate with Patar to translate his poetry into Odia, but his death had dashed her hopes. Patar sahib and I got connected and eventually became friends when a Punjabi academic, Amandeep Kaur Brar, invited me as a keynote speaker and him to preside over a seminar on Punjabi language and culture.

I met him last during a visit to Punjab in 2023. We talked for hours, discussing the relationship between intellectuals and poets. He admitted that he did not understand some of the economic concepts mentioned in my articles but was able to sense the feelings behind the arguments. He shared an amazing insight — in every intellectual, there was a poet who provided the emotional power for the intellectual endeavours. I stated that his poetic sensibilities enabled him to sense the feelings behind economic concepts. I told him that I considered poets to be the soul of any society and that any intellectual exercise was bound to be influenced by the soul-stirring power of poetry.

I brought it to his notice that during the farmers’ agitation against the three farm laws enacted by the Central Government in 2020, his poem ‘Eh baat niri enni hi nahin...’ (this dialogue/struggle was not merely that) had played a key role in helping me understand that this was not merely a protest against marketing and farm prices but an existential struggle against the attack by agro-business corporations on agrarian culture, civilisation and ways of life.

I finally understood that this struggle was an epochal one and not an ordinary agitation over economic demands. I was convinced, therefore, that it could not be defeated — and that is precisely what happened. His poem, I said to him, was an intellectual breakthrough which demonstrated the complex interplay between poetic expression and intellectual pursuits. He seemed visibly touched. He gifted me a signed copy of his latest anthology of poems. We hugged each other affectionately and promised to spend more time together during my next trip to Punjab.

I will never meet him again but will keep in touch with him through his poems. Those meetings will acquire new and, perhaps, higher meanings.

#Surjit Patar


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