Harbhajan Singh Hundal, The Red Rose. (Punjabi Poems) Kapoorthala: Chirag Prakashan, 2003, Pages 32, Price- 32/-

Harbhajan Singh Hundal is a major voice of Punjabi Poetry who has written fifteen books of poetry and twelve books of prose that includes travelogues and autobiographical writings. He has also translated the poems of Pablo Neruda, Mayakosvsky, Bertolt Bretcht, Mahmood Darvish, Sardai Yasnin and Chinese and Black Poetry into Punjabi. Besides leading a life of progressive and democratic poet Hundal has been awarded by several Govt. and Non-Govt. Institutions. The Red rose is a slender volume of Punjabi poems translated into English. It is collection of thirty seven odd poems, penned under the pressure of different emotional tilts. As the poems of the collection are translated, Hundal admits the imperfectness of translation:

Every language has its own idiom, its own rhyme-system and its own rhythm. One has to work hard to bring oneself fully in tune with the voice in which a poem speaks in its original form. The shades and nuances of meaning has to be mastered before one can venture to undertake the work of translating a poem in the foreign language. And with all the preparation one has made, one shall not be sure whether one has been able to capture the true atmosphere of the poem or not. (3)

Though Hundal has overcome the obstacles of translation and he has excellently conveyed what he wishes to. The very first poem, ‘The Creative Process’ makes us understand the secret of creative process. The poet drawing reference from his childhood when he questions his mother about the origin of his existence and gets no response and is deluded by a fairy tale to avoid the answer, has to say at last:

“How do you compose your poem?

  I remember the mother’s answer.

 How should I answer them?

 Strange are the secrets

 Of the creative process.” (4)

‘What Will You Do’ the second poem is written in jail during the days of emergency in which the poet cross questions us:

“The whole fragrance of flower

  Should be detained behind

This barbed wire.

 But one question,

What colors would you give to the fragrance?

Please tell what would you do?” (5)

As the poet is a man of social concern, many of his poems are dedicated to social figures and the people of the world like ‘The Injured Dream’ (Dedicated to the heroic Palestinian people), ‘The Leader I Love’ (dedicated to Lenin), ‘To Pablo Neruda’, ‘To Punjab’ and ‘A Poem on Nazim Hikmat’. Besides the poet has translated the Punjabi Ghazal which is a very popular form of Urdu. The poet is essentially revolutionary who thinks:

The revolution is not a desire

To sleep carefree after a minor success.

It is burning desire to walk on a thorny path of a jungle.

On the way are gallows

As well as the celebration of victories. (5)

The title The Red Rose is a symbol of hope and radiance. In the poem ‘Better Days Will Come’, the poet hopes for a better tomorrow and dreams for a happy Punjab devoid of terrorism:

The days of washing hands in blood

Of brothers will end.

The red rose will bloom by the wall

And grand mother will tell fairy tales to

The children and mumble and prayer:

‘My Children! Live Long May my age be added to yours.

May my age be added to yours! (13)

Similarly in ‘The script of blood’, the poet symbolically represents the story of man who after doing dirty job repents:

At last the rains came

All the blood letters

Were wiped out from the face of earth

The earth again bloomed with

New red roses.

On looking at the scene,

He felt ashamed.

Standing all alone, he was asking the

Way of temple for repentance.” (12)

The English rendering of the Ghazals is also meticulously done by the poet who has never let the meaning die for want of words and simplicity is maintained by him:

Stop talking about the next world

Talk about the guests just arrived (30)

The Ghazals of the poet are the mixed bag of thought which depicts poet’s motley colors of imagination as well as produce a lasting impact on readers’ minds and hearts. The poet who is a solider of pen considers his art of poetry as a potent weapon of fight with the evils of society.

You have power

Club- wielders


And the repressive state-apparatus on your side

I have paper



And Poetry. (31)

To the poet, poetry is everything. He himself says:

And at other times

Iron bars of a dark-cell. (29)

And he adds:

The natural out-flow of poetry is my longing and dream.

Without it life looks meaningless. (29)

Thus we can say that the poetry of Hundal is a treasure-trove of various experiences of a veteran poet and a revolutionist who has devoted his whole life for the prevention of Human Rights as well as for the enhancement of Literature by projecting fine Literature. The present collection gives an evidence of genuine poetic inspiration of the poet who has been widely acclaimed and admired.          

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