‘Triveni’ by Gulzar: Poet of small things : The Tribune India

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‘Triveni’ by Gulzar: Poet of small things

‘Triveni’ by Gulzar: Poet of small things

Triveni by Gulzar. Translated by Neha R Krishna. Penguin Random House. Pages 195. Rs 499

Book Title: Triveni

Author: Gulzar. Translated by Neha R Krishna

Renu Sud Sinha

ReNAISSANCE man Gulzar wears many hats but remains a poet first and foremost, and understandably, his poetry is evergreen, finding a connect with hearts across all ages for all times.

Shaped by the Progressive Writers’ Movement, his poetic sensibilities reflect across his oeuvre.

To give voice to the emerging social realities, Gulzar came up with a new poetic form in the early ’70s, which he named Triveni after the confluence of Ganga-Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Triveni is a short poem of three lines where the first two express a complete thought but the third line, like the hidden Saraswati, either changes the meaning and perspective of the poem, or gives it a surprising twist, revealing an entirely new viewpoint.

Published initially in the Hindi magazine ‘Sarika’ for nearly three decades, these poems were first published in a collected form in 2001. Since then, many have translated this new genre.

Neha R Krishna, a young poet and author, is the latest entrant to this club. She has translated ‘Triveni’ into a Japanese form of poetry called Tanka, which means a short lyrical poem.

In her translator’s note, she elaborately explains about the various formats of Tanka, one of the oldest forms of Japanese poetry originating in the seventh century and her reasons to transcreate Triveni into Tanka, the major being the similarity of the forms. While her note is informative, for an average reader, it comes across as being quite technical.

The three-line form of Triveni also finds parallels in other classical Japanese poetry forms such as Haiku and Senryu as well as our own doha.

There are thematic similarities as well. Despite their brevity, these forms beautifully capture the multilayered essence of life, of human relationships, hollowness of society...

In Gulzar’s own words, “I keep munching life all the time. Sweet, sour and bitter moments.” ‘Triveni’ is a collection of many such moments.

His artistry as a wordsmith comes across loud and clear where the mundane reflects the profound and day-to-day drudgery seems lyrical.

a few friends

living with me, left with someone

and never returned —

on the shelf there’re empty spaces

from where books were removed

Romance is couched in reality:

car’s tail light turned red,

maybe while leaving, you thought

to stop

or to come back — but

breaking the signal, you veered off

“Translation,” according to Gulzar, “is capturing the feeling that words evoke and that’s more important than the meaning of words.”

As a translator, Krishna has been able to do justice to Triveni, capturing the lyrical sensibilities and the musicality of the original. But then she has strong bearings in the short-poem format, evident in her two poetry collections in Haiku and Tanka, ‘Inks’ and ‘No Urgency to Be Home’.

It’s been over 50 years since Gulzar created this language of poetry, yet, as Hindi writer Kamleshwar said in the original Foreword, “Triveni’s third line that questions the established norms remains the voice of every heart.” The language and the words are relevant even today.