Beyond The Beaten Track: Offbeat Poems From Gujarat (Heritage Collection)

‘Haiku’s (Jhinabhai Desai (Sneharashmi))

The Dewdrop

The dewdrop
has enclosed entire
the blue yonder

The Rose Has Bloomed

The rose has bloomed:
now eyes, nose and heart
are bickering

Exhausted by the Storm

Exhausted by the storm
winds doze lightly
on flowerbeds

After Dusting the Wife Thoroughly

After dusting the wife thoroughly
the master
sweeps the floor

“You Have Come, Son?”

“You have come, son?”
Dotage crumbled;
youth blossomed

The Shower Over

The shower over
the Moon dispersed
in the wet grass

Axe’s Blows Echo in the Wood

Axe’s blows echo in the wood:
in birds’ eyes

Dark is the Night

Dark is the night;
a township floats
on a raft of light

A 'haiku' is a Japanese 3-line 17 -syllable poem, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third line. As a genre it is believed to have been influenced by Zen (Dhyan?) Buddhism. Some of the best minimalist poems of the world are to be found among these haikus. These frequently relate the unrelated in a manner that creates wonderment. A haiku does not attempt much-capture an image perhaps or a feeling or a perception that otherwise would flee-but what it attempts often cannot be conveyed by reams of poetry. A couple of examples in English translation suggest its power. One is Issa's haiku on the death of his child: 'Dew evahporates/ and all our world is dew.../so dear, so fresh, so fleeting.' Another is Raizan's: 'Women planting rice.../ugly every bit about them.../ but their ancient song.'

Jhinabhai Desai was one of the first to write haikus in Gujarati. But he could not quite manage the 17-syllable form because Gujarati, like most Indian languages and unlike Japanese or English, is a phonetic language. So he, and others after him, wrote 17-letter haikus. When I translated the haikus I had selected, I found it difficult to put them in 17-letter formats ('though' for example has only one syllable but six letters). One or two I tried sounded pretty clumsy. I decided therefore to translate them as minimalist poems and even had the cheek to give them titles the originals did not have. However, my courage extended only to using the first line as the title! While I have abandoned the syllabic arithmetic, I have retained the 3-line format.

હાઈકુ (સ્નેહરશ્મિ )

સમાવ્યું છે, નિજમાં
વ્યોમ વિરાટ

ખીલ્યું ગુલાબ
ઝઘડો હવે આંખ
નાક ને હૈયે

તોફાને થાકી
વાયરા પોઢ્યા સ્હેજે
ફૂલની સેજે

ધૂળ ખંખેરી
પત્નીની પતિદેવ
વાસીદું વાળે

'આયવો ભાઈ?'
વૃદ્ધત્વ ખરી પડ્યું,
કોળ્યું કૈશોર્ય !

ઝાપટું વર્ષી
શમ્યું; વેરાયો ચંદ્ર
ભીના ઘાસમાં

ઘા કુહાડીના :
વને પડઘા : આંધી
પંખીની આંખે

રાત અંધારી
તેજ તરાપે તરે
નગરી નાની.

Category in Beyond The Beaten Track

Cameos-II (Gujarati Haiku)


Barring ‘After Dusting the Wife Thoroughly’ and ‘“You Have Come, Son?”’ that deal with human relationships, the rest have nature as the pivot around which the little poems swivel. But interestingly, some of these ‘nature’ haikus incorporate human sensibility, and that too, in intriguing ways. In ‘The Rose Has Bloomed’, human senses bicker over which aspect has primacy: rose’s colour and form; its fragrance; or its being a symbol of love! ‘Axe’s Blows Echo in the Wood’ links a tree’s destruction with the terror in the eyes of the birds about to lose their home. ‘Dark Is the Night’ photographs an awake town in a sleeping night.

About The Author

‘Sneharashmi’ (Jhinabhai Desai) (1903 – 1971) lost his father at 14, but he remained conscious of the limitless grace of God. He went on to study sociology and history at college, and became a school teacher. He joined C.N. Vidyalaya, and as the Principal, he contributed to making it one of the premier Gandhian schools of Gujarat. In 1961 he received the President’s medal for teaching excellence. He also officiated a few times as the acting Vice Chancellor of Gujarat University. Sneharashmi was deeply influenced by the Mahatma, as he was by ‘Gitanjali’, Tagore’s Nobel Prize winning book of ecstatic poems. The latter drew him to the unseen, the unknown, and the dim past. He was a pioneer of the haiku in Gujarati, a minimalist form imported from Japan but adapted to the phonetic character of Gujarati – 17 letters rather than 17 syllables. He published three volumes of haikus, two volumes of children’s verse, and a volume of his entire poetry. He also wrote several volumes of short stories, a novel, a collection of plays, a collection of character sketches, a volume of critical writing, several compilations of poetry, and several volumes of autobiography. He was the recipient of the Ranjitram and Narmad Gold Medals.