Monday, February 13, 2006

Swarnjit Savi: A Poet who Paints

Dr. Jaspal Singh

AS a painter Swarnjit Savi has held dozens of exhibitions of his posters and paintings in different parts of Punjab. He conceptualised and painted seventy representative poems of renowned Punjabi poets from Baba Farid to the present times in the form of beautiful posters. The lingual texts in these posters got transformed into paintings, which in turn got 'translated' back into original articulations. This way colour and alphabets got a unique metamorphosis that appeared like Einstein's 'four dimensional space-time continuum'. Besides being a painter, Savi has about half a dozen collections of poems to his credit. His Dehi Naad, a collection of evocative poems has been commented upon in prestigious literary journals and was later on put to English translation as Desire by Ajmer Rode. Kameshwari a verse play by him was staged both at Ludhiana and Chandigarh in 1998 and is still remembered as a daring experiment in the theatre of 'Desire' with very strong Freudian overtones.
Savi's flirtation with colours and alphabets has spawned his latest collection of poems titled as Ashram, published by Lokgeet Parkashan, Chandigarh. It carries about six dozen sensitive poems. The poem 'Harf Rang Bhijje' takes upon itself most of the semantic load of the entire collection. The poet here expresses his feelings thus, Haraf Rang Bhijje/Tairde canvas de utte/Jiun Kuunjan dian daran/Haraf ibadat/Haraf chirag muhabbat de/ Jagde bujhde tare/Haraf kisse da niggha hath jiun hath wich howe/Haraf naal jiun cheer ke langhe/Arth de jungal/Wang leek de raushan raushan/Haraf kabutar komal komal/Udd udd den sandeshe durin/Haraf jiun tare/Jurh jurh banade/Khat tere wal komal bhawi/Haraf jiun patta phuttda komal/Phull di dodi/Pai muhabbat trel nu takdi/Mar mar jandi/Pai sharmandi/Haraf jiun machhi tarhfe thal te/Mangdi pani/Rang meri jiun muuk vedna/Antar man tak vehndi jawe/Rang te canvas/Ik duje nu milde jiun galwakrhi/Failde turde..., Wich smundar buund jiun koi/Jism jiun turde addh supne wich/Duur duur takk neel roshni/Jan koi prem kahani..." (Alphabets steeped in colours are floating on the canvas like a flight of the Siberian cranes in the azure sky. Alphabets are a form of prayer, holy lamps of love, twinkling stars or a soft suave touch of a warm hand. The jungle of signification blazes through the alphabets like a streak of illuminating light. Alphabets are like smooth and silky pigeons carrying messages far and near. Like stars in the sky they connect, making configurations in the form of love letters. They are like tender leaflets or a coy flower bud waiting for the sensual touch of dew. Alphabets are like a fish out of water, being perceived through the mute agony of my heart. Colour and canvas affectionately meet each other, moving and expanding like a drop of water in the sea or like a somnambulist moving around in the blueness of the night or like the unfolding of a romantic tale.)
The charm of alphabets and colours leads the poet back to his roots. 'Chupp-chan wichio Langdian' is an autobiographical poem produced by the poet's fertile fantasy. Here he is reminded of the wrinkled face of his maternal grandmother whose wrinkles looked all the more charming when she smiled. At times she would make him climb down her giant wooden chest to dig out something buried under the loads of knick-knack. Then his poetic flight carries him to his grandfather who was the village blacksmith making and mending all kinds of farm implements. Two childhood lady teachers also prominently appear in his fancy. This particular poem has a huge bagful of odds and ends of the village life, which can be easily developed into a full-length novel.
As the poet breaks away from his Jagraon soil and shifts to Ludhiana, the largest and the richest of the Punjab towns, his perspective adds another dimension to his vision. Here he does his masters in English literature and rubs his shoulders with some well known writers, painters, media persons and literary commentators. Now he is more concerned with Desire and its Oedipal ramifications. He avers, "Mai ohi han/Smundar chon/Kamana rahin uthhia pani/Te use smundar 'ch/Vapis parat aia han." (I am the same water of the sea, rising and ebbing by the force of desire.)
Freud leads the poet to Einstein. He meditates over the nature of time in these lines – "Hey, kaal/Mai tainu iko pal dekh riha han/Hazaran dishawan ton/Terian akhan 'ch/Khauf, udasi, anand, guurha hanera/Te anant/Sabh ik pal 'ch kaid/...Pawe naal bannia/Sirf visual kaal." (Eh, Time, I am looking at you from thousand angles right now. I can see fear, agony, ecstasy, darkness and eternity in your eyes. Everything is detained in a trice. Only the visual time can be tied to the bedpost.)
In Savi's poetic discourse bird as a symbol occurs time and time again. In the poem 'Kabutar', he makes a very fine distinction between the wild pigeons and the domesticated ones. Both these species represent two different ways of life and two different civilizational patterns.
In Ashram Savi has tried to transcend his own limitations which may in course of time open up a new poetic panorama to be explored by this poet-painter of Punjab. Already he has gone beyond his romantic ruminations and even beyond his existential concerns. Now he is more interested in the matters associated with 'desire' as a cosmic category rather than as a wayward impulse of an individual.

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