Homage  to Surjit  Pattar

Surjit Pattar

The  well-known  Punjabi poet  Surjit  Pattar  passed  away  in  Ludhiana  on  May  11  at  the  age  of  79.    He  was  a recipient  of  Padma  Shri  award,  and  his  poems  have  been  collected  and  published  in  several  volumes.  He  retired  as  a   professor  of  Punjabi  from  the  Punjab  Agricultural  University.  He  was  also  the  President  of  the  Punjab  Arts  Council. 

For  me  and  many  of  my  friends  who  were  a  part  of  the  Naxalite  movement  in  the  1970s,  a  particular  poem  of  Surjit’s  struck  a  chord in  our  hearts.  When  after  the  lifting  of  the  Emergency,  we  were  released  from  jail  at  the  end  of  the  1970s,  we  returned  to  our  old  homes,  seeking  to  get  our  bearings,  unable  to  forget  the  past  and  our  comrades  who  became   martyrs,   and  yet  trying  to  overcome  the  sense  of  disillusionment  while  attempting  to  adjust  to  the  present.  Surjit  captured  our  dilemma  in  a  poem  entitled  Ghar  Lotna  Mushkil  Hae  Aaj  with  these  moving  lines  –

        “To  go  back  home  now  is  difficult/  Who  will  recognize  me ?

          Death  has  put  its  mark  on  my  forehead 

          Friends  have  left  their  footprints  on  the  face.  

          Another  face  stares  at  me  from  the  mirror

          My  eyes  sparkle  with  a  dead  glow

         Like  the  light  from  the  broken  roof  of  a  house.

          When  an  old  friend  meets  me

          A  thousand  memories  rush  –

          Memories  of  the  forgotten  love  for  the  dead  gods……

          When  the  hymn  floats  from  the  Gurudwara

          I  remember  him  who  is  no  more…

          If  anyone  looks  for  him/ I  feel  frightened

          For,  now  in  my  heart  I’m  more  alone…”

Sumanta Banerjee is a political commentator and writer, is the author of In The Wake of Naxalbari’ (1980 and 2008); The Parlour and the Streets: Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta (1989) and ‘Memoirs of Roads: Calcutta from Colonial Urbanization to Global Modernization.’ (2016).   

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