ਸੁਰਜੀਤ ਪਾਤਰ ਦੀ ਕਵਿਤਾ


Surjit Patar’s Punjabi Poem

Translated by: Dr. Tajwant Singh Gill


Does Language Die

Original in Punjabi

My Language is on the verge of death

Each word each sentence gasps for breath ‑

dhami-vela1,  pauh-phutala2 , chhah-vela3, lauda-vela4 ,

diva-vatti5, khau‑pia6, kaura-seta7, dhaldian khitian8,

gharian9, pehar10, bind11, pal chhin12, nimkh veehare13 ‑

They have all met with their bitter end,

May be because with time-piece at hand

Rests now the whole custody of Time.

hart di mala14, chane da ohla15, gatti de hoote16

kanjan17, nisar18, aulu19

chakhan20, boore21, tindan22, brimming with water

Are all emptied of all water now

All, after suffering insult,

Are worn out in tube-well’s flow

Fated to get swept

Of which I have hardly any regret.

To be regretted is the fact

into thin air, are all epithets gone

which father and mother had garnered,

Rendered inane are the close ties

which aunt and uncle had refined.

Only yesterday, a child

to his daddy thus surmised :

“Leaves in our tray have faded,”

Likewise the, daddy replied

That the fact wasn’t at all otherwise.

In a situation of the sort

Only God may save my language!

Of my language

How can even God be the saviour?

Deserted by hungry generations

God, Himself, gasps for breath

Under His benign protection

Lies my language gasping, dying,

By God, on the verge of death is my language.



Lies dying my language

For the people so ardently aspire

To remain alive

Whose mother-tongue is my language,

Aspire to remain alive the people

Upon whom this has a claim

But what is more crucial

For a person to remain alive

or for the language to survive?

I know it for certain now

You too will observe

A person thus claiming to live

Keeps drawing breath

But does he remain human at all?

Without turning me sentimental

Tell me this in short,

When on each and every thing

God inscribes the name

Of its consumer in English,

Why any father or mother

Be so callous as to wish

Their child to board a sinking ship?

Apt in short is the wish:

“May my child live and prosper

If so very inevitable is dying

Let this archaic language die then.”



No, no thus will not die my language

This is not the way a language dies,

Due to some words getting extinct

Does not die a language.

If not God Himself

Will side with her the mentors

Sufis, saints, fakirs,

Poets, rebels, lovers, heroes,

Only when they cease to be there

Shall die my language.

It may happen, otherwise even

With suicidal situations faced

Homicidal situations to reckon with,

May get replenished

More living may get my language.



In a situation of the sort

To fellow-writers sitting

On dharma against authorities

I was constrained thus to surmise:

Leave it so

Remonstrate not

With bureaucrats

On official files

To append notes

In my beloved Punjabi.

In their officious hands

Its words will feel

So humiliated indeed.

It is not my desire at all

That someone with machine-like hands

May scribble words of my language ‑

Words in which inheres Nanak’s illuminating touch,

Words in the scrapers of which

Like pearls lie intact

The tunes Farid had framed,

In them are pulsating

Impulses Ravidas revealed,

In them breathe Namdev and Kabir.

Whichever administrator

With his machine-like hands

If at all, then scribbles,

That shall be some order only

Unable to enrich the language,

Rather will get grievously hurt,

Its innermost soul

Whoever out of hatred, fear

or some vested interest

Learns a language

How can he write words

Fearless, selfless, suffused with love!

What vanity these officials flaunt

To believe that my language

Cannot at all do without

Their officious touch?

These piteous creatures don’t know

My language never sought protection

From Balban or Babur

Some top ruler or prime minister.

Nanak, Farid, Bulla, Amrita, Pash,

All strove to make it prosperous

My language was never a slave

Of kings, officers, officials, sardars,

From the very beginning

What a remarkable vehicle

It has always been

For sufis, lords of pain and pang

Custodians of beauty.

With lords, kings and monarchs

It has never sought refuge,

It has ever been a vehicle

For lovers pining for love

And votaries vowing to beauty.

With lords, kings and monarchs

It has never sided

On gurus, votaries, mentors

It has ever and ever relied.

Of government circulars,

Communiques and commends,

Of regal gestures, gesticulations,

It was never the instrument,

Of lullabies, blessings, prayers

Of heart-felt songs, it is ever the vehicle.

We should leave this place, I contended

For our villages, towns and homes,

To lands within and without,

To suffuse our Punjabi

With love, rage, passion,

With blood at hearts’s command,

With wisdom deriving from life,

With greenery, popularity, potency.

With pleasure, feel for future,

With struggle for justice.

Why to get mired at these inane hands then?

But the idealogue retorts:

You have got emotional for nothing!

Right is your feeling

Your grievance, your pang is right,

But the issue is totally otherwise.

Sans power, terror, greed,

Language does not at all increase.

Rendered wordless by the ideologue’s retort,

Got silent, I cannot help thinking

His assertion is faultless, indeed,

There is no denying the fact

Sans power, terror and greed

Does not spread a language, at all.

But an inscrutable fear is there

Lurking in my mind somewhere:

The language that spreads

Through power, terror and greed,

Cannot these tricks repeal.

That is why I believe

We should at once proceed

To our villages, towns, homes

Native and foreign lands

And suffuse our dear Punjabi

With love and rage

The blood of our veins,

Our wisdom as well,

With greenery, popularity, potency,

With hope in the future,

Pleasure in the present

And struggle for justice.

Why to get mired at these inane hands?

1. early moring 2. sun-rise 3. afternoon 4. evening 5. time to light the lamp 6. meal-time 7. late-night waking up 8. clusters of stars 9. hours 10. quarters 11. a while 12. moments 13. twinkling of the eye 14. pots around the Persian wheel 15. privacy that a column affords 16. swings which a bullock-driven seat provides 17. pulley 18. acquedet 19. trough 20. pinnions 21. gears 22. pots brimming with water.



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