2008 Review

Honouring Poet Surjit Patar
On the 8th of April, 2008, at New Delhi’s Stein Auditorium, the Anād Foundation moved joyously, even if a bit elliptically, into the domain of the contemporary poetry. It was nonetheless a decisive move imbued with classical dignity and a childlike desire to look into the future – to caress, as it were, the modern. It moved with the avowed zeal of cultural activists. It was not surprising therefore to see the Anādis move in with their paraphernalia of a rich musical heritage following the tender but enthusiastic footsteps of a nine-year-old prodigy, Leonardo Amar Dhyan Singh, who mesmerized the audience with the dexterity with which he touched the pakhawaj and made it come alive. He indeed was the little magician who ushered us into this new and resonant world of poetry.
The occasion was to celebrate poetry. It was also an occasion to honour one of the finest living Punjabi poets, Surjit Patar, whose stature as a writer has grown over the past decades across continents and has assumed a near iconic status amongst the Punjabi readers.
Leonardo Amar Dhyan’s performance – short, luminous and crisp – was followed by a cascading spell of the poetic word which some of the best known Indian poets wove as the evening deepened into a saturated night. A large number of litterateurs from various languages had come together to participate in this ceremonial of poetic exuberance. A few of these poets were invited to the stage to recite poems in honour of their friend and colleague Surjit Patar who was being felicitated as the first recipient of the Baljit Kaur Tulsi Anād Kāv Sanmān. The young and graceful Anamika opened the evening with her poignantly feminist poems in Hindi. Satchidanandan, the eminent Malyali poet, followed with his poems in Malyalam that carried an incisive imprint of political morality. The veteran Balraj Komal regaled with his nazms in Urdu and had an old world resonance. The high point of the evening, however, was the recitation of poems by widely respected Hindi poet, Ashok Vajpeyi whose style was playfully mocking and intuitively philosophical at the same time.
The ever busy groom of the day was undoubtedly, Bhai Baldeep Singh who came briefly onto the dais to give a succinct but emotionally charged peep into the background of the award – the initial deliberations involving the eminent lawyer KTS Tulsi in whose mother’s memory the award is instituted, Dr Upinderjit Kaur, the Mininster of Education, Languages, Civil Aviation, Vigilance and Justice in the present Government of Punjab. He made an impassioned case about why the scope of the award needed to be widened to include all the Indian languages.
It was also an occasion of remembrance. For, the legendary poet, Surjit Patar, was honoured with an award instituted in memory of one of the most piognant and forceful women poetesses of the Punjabi language, the late Baljit Kaur Tulsi who started writing while still a school going kid in an idiom which was markedly feminist and unusually combative and intrepid in questioning the repressive patriarchic modes of governance. The award was gracefully presented by Dr. Upinderjit Kaur and accepted with touching humility by Surjit Patar who brought the evening to a close with evocative recitation of some of his highly political, reflective and introspective poems he has written in the last quarter of a century.

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