A cou­plet for every oc­ca­sion

FrontLine - - OBITUARY -

WAS Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee’s po­etry read be­cause he was the Prime Min­is­ter or did the fact that he could ex­press him­self through po­ems, so un­like most of his po­lit­i­cal friends and ri­vals, help him be­come the Prime Min­is­ter? Well, the hard yards of pol­i­tics are im­per­vi­ous to the mood and me­tre of po­etry. As for the for­mer, the jury is out. There are the old faith­ful who be­lieve that Va­j­payee did not do jus­tice to the poet in him, that pol­i­tics took a toll on his po­etry. They be­lieve that the poet who gave us Meri Ikyawan Kav­i­tayein (My 51 Po­ems) and Na Dainyam Na Palayanam (Nei­ther Self Pity Nor Escape) was a man who had a wide range of po­etry at his com­mand. He could use the pen as a brush to paint with words. He could use it as a scalpel to heal wounds, too. He could use it as a weapon to set­tle scores as well. He could write with equal fe­lic­ity about the dan­gers of war and Hindu mytho­log­i­cal el­e­ments. They point to his works like Hum Jung Na Hone Denge and Hindu Tan-man, Hindu jee­van. Each poem mer­ited a rewind o,r as they say in mushairas, mukar­rar (en­core).

So what pre­vented him from be­ing more pro­lific? Pol­i­tics, and its un­end­ing power strug­gle, a world where only the names of the char­ac­ters changed, the de­mands re­mained the same. Va­j­payee him­self once con­fessed, “Pol­i­tics ar­rested the flow of my po­etic propen­sity. Po­etry and pol­i­tics do not go to­gether.”


Yet to­gether they did go, en­abling Va­j­payee to rise many notches above the av­er­age po­lit­i­cal speaker. His speeches were laced with pauses, and po­etry. For those who cov­ered Par­lia­ment, and those who at­tended his im­promptu gath­er­ings in the evening, no mehfil was com­plete with­out a Va­j­payee cou­plet or two. Like a skil­ful prac­ti­tioner, more of­ten than not, he had a cou­plet ready for the oc­ca­sion. The gen­tle glow of the set­ting sun and the more amenable pace of life af­ter the hum­drum of po­lit­i­cal ex­is­tence dur­ing the day

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