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Posted at: Jan 7, 2018, 1:34 AM; last updated: Jan 7, 2018, 1:34 AM (IST)BOOK REVIEW: THE PARROT, THE HORSE & THE MAN BY AMARJIT CHANDAN.

Homeless, yet rooted

Homeless, yet rooted
The Parrot, The Horse & The Man by Amarjit Chandan. Arc Publications, UK. Pages 106. £ 9.99 (Rs 850 approx)

Jaskiran Chopra

The subjectivity of poetry is what creates a new, beautiful world of words for readers and transports them into it, weaving images and themes in a rhythm.

Amarjit Chandan’s latest bilingual anthology of poems (English and Punjabi), The Parrot, The Horse & The Man, evokes an imagery that is rich in symbols and reverberates with echoes of his memory, his constant awareness of time in its various dimensions and his rootedness in Punjabi culture. Much of Chandan’s youth was spent in the small town of Nakodar in Jalandhar. He migrated to London in 1980. However, his poetry has a strong fragrance of Punjab and even when translated into English and other languages, retains a flavour that reflects his deep love for his roots.

A well-known, contemporary Punjabi poet, Chandan has always expressed through his verses an earthy mysticism that is evident in this anthology too. Author and Indian ambassador to USA Navtej Sarna finds in Chandan’s poetry “an awareness that is entirely global, a spirit that is homeless and rooted at the same time”. Memories, dreams, silence, sound and many faces of time prevail as important images and themes in this new anthology which has translations into English by John Welch, Stephen Watts, Julia Casterton, Ajmer Rode, Jaspal Singh and Vanessa Gebbie. Some of the poems were initially written in English by Chandan and we get them here with the poet’s own translation in Punjabi. This bilingual anthology will reach readers far and wide with its fine translations of the Punjabi verse into English while retaining the essence of the original with an exquisite grace.

The title poem, Totaa, Ghoda te Banda, has been translated by Julia Casterton as The Parrot, The Horse and The Man. It talks of how our dreams are taken away from us: “The parrot perching on the mango tree dreamed —The man put it in a cage and started giving it a lesson.” Dreams (supnay) are a recurring motif in Chandan’s verse that owes its beauty to a great extent by being blank verse. In the poem, Girls Embroidering (Kudiyan kaseeda kad diyan) traditional imagery mingles with a peek into the future, making the poem modern though it is based on customs of rural Punjab. While embroidering sheets which she will take along with her when she gets married, we see a young girl daydreaming. “The face of a baby emerges even before the face of its father whom she is yet to see. It’s hers.” The image is indeed enchanting. The poem, Tomorrow (Kal), again defines the future interestingly. Chandan writes: “Tomorrow is what is not present. Tomorrow is the dream we’ll share in the present moment of time ... Tomorrow is death. Tomorrow is life.” 

Trying to escape memories, the poet says: “I wish memories were letters you pick, read and put aside whenever you want to” in the poem, There’s No Escaping Memories (Kinwe milegi mukti mainu yaada’n to’n), capturing nostalgia. However, for Chandan the nostalgia is always controlled. It never takes over the entire poem. There is a balance between the heart and the mind in his poetry. ”

His deep love for poetry is expressed through the poem, Writers Meet at the Temple of Apollo. “Every poem is a temple. Every poet is a toiler who builds the has no windows. It opens in all the directions. The sky is its ceilng.” This describes Chandan’s poetry at the best.


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