Shiv Kumar Batalvi: Master of Metaphor

In the Punjabi literature, the name of Shiv Kumar Batalvi stands out amongst the poets. He was the master of metaphor. He drew his metaphors from the rural life of Punjab, animals, birds, farming, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Guru Granth Sahib and the Patwaris and quarrels about the land. As with all gifted poets, he had keen eye to observe the life around him. This closeness to the soil may have been the effect of his father being the Land officer.

His poetry expressed the anguish and helplessness of the downtrodden, oppression of the women in the male dominated society.  The epic “Luna” as narrated by him is the fitting example of the latter. Luna, daughter of poor man was forced to marry the King who was like her father in the years and she was just a young woman. The king who had a son by his another wife was just about the same age as Luna. Luna, naturally chanced to see him and developed a soft corner for him. A society which was intolerant to women freedom and equality labelled her a ignoble and characterless woman. The story was rewritten by Shiv, who questioned such insults to her and instead asked why the society never raised a finger at the king for marrying a girl the age of his daughter with poverty and beauty as her only faults.

He never compromised about his poetry in his life. He wrote for some films also but poems were already written by him and these were adopted in the films. Many of his poems became the anthem of the youth in Punjab and even today no upcoming serious Punjabi singers is satisfied till he renders some poetry of Shiv. The last in this line is the singer Rabbi Gill who sang the sufi song of Baba Bulleh Shah namely “Bulla ki Jana main Kaun” and the song became a rage. Other prominent singers who have sung the poetry of Shiv are Jagjit Singh, Surinder Kaur, Asa Singh Mastana, Mohamad Rafi and Mohinder Kapoor.

He fell in love with a girl belonging to Sikh community. The girl was married off to someone else by her father. Heart broken, Shiv resorted to fatalism and turned to the drinking. Many of his poems reflect the chasm between rich and poor and helplessness. He went away so soon and deprived us more of beautiful literature.

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