A question of identity

One of my favorite poems is “Parichay”(Identity) by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. I still remember parts of the poem:

It starts off as :

“Salil kann hoon ya paravaar hoon main?
Swayam chaya, swayam aadhar hoon main;
bandha hoon, swapna hoon, laghu vrut hoon main;
nahin to vyom ka vistaar hoon main.”

(Am I a dew drop or an ocean?
I am both the shadow and the origin (of the shadow);
I am tied down, a dream, enclosed in a small area,
or else, I am the expanse of the sky.)

The poem ends with the lines

“Bandha toofan hun, chalna mana hai,
bandhi uddaam nirjhar-dhaar hoon main;
kahoon kya kaun hoon, kya aag meri?
Bandhi hai lekhni, laachaar hoon main.”

(I am a captive storm whose movement is forbidden,
I am a captive waterfall,
Shall I tell you who I am, what the fire in me is ?
My pen is constrained, I am helpless.)

It’s a beautiful poem, and I think of it often now, it seems so appropriate. I am still exploring my new identity as an aspiring writer. My mind is full of stories, waiting to come out into the open. They stand like first-time skydivers at the door of the aircraft, afraid to look down, postponing the moment when they will leap out into the unknown.

Yes, I would like to tell you a lot more, but like the poet, I cannot find the words. My thoughts move in an awkward, erratic dance and my fingers refuse to give form to my rambling thoughts. I hope the words will flow smoother in days to come. I would like to watch the stories unfurl their parachutes and begin their colorful descent. I think you will like them too…


14 thoughts on “A question of identity

  1. Thanks for the visit & comment. I’ve blogrolled and Bloglined you πŸ™‚
    My Hindi is rusty at best, what exactly is ‘Lekhni’ – is it the quill or is it the feminine for author?

  2. I have always been amused by the pen names the poets keep, ‘Dinkar’ was the first one I read from my hindi textbook. Btw you can read Rashtrakavi’s other compositions(devnagari script) at the link on my comment handle.

  3. For some reason, everytime I read your name in other blogs, I thought of:

    Lekhni batlaa ki ab phir
    kaun Tulsi aa raha hai…

    I do not remember who it is by, which poem it is from but it is in my head amongst a random melee of Hindi poems, including Woh todti patthar and Ma kan ek kahani..

  4. Shefaly, I have not heard about the poem you mention, but maa kah ek kahani brings back memories. It’s also an unsolved mystery – I never understood what “guni” is in the last line “Nyaya daya ka dani – tune guni kahani”.

  5. Lekhni:

    The word ‘gunanaa’ in Hindi means to internalise or comprehend or otherwise adopt the essence of something.

    So if you remember the poem, in the end, the child summarises the gist of that story.

    Koi nirapraadh ko maare
    Nyaya kyonkar use ubaare?
    Rakshak par bhakshak ko vaare,
    Nyaya daya ka daani.
    Nyaya daya ka daani,
    Tu ne guni kahani…

  6. Beautiful. Chanced upon your blog from desipundit and the poems here brought out all the nostalgia. Dinkar used to be my favourit poet!

  7. Just chanced upon your blog – several years too late, now in the waning months of 2013! For the first time in the twilight of my life you introduced me to the genius of Ramdhari Sinh Dinkar. Your translation is superb – so much so that it does credit to the nom de plum you have used for yourself. I wish I could read the whole poem with its translation. I have always struggled with the question of identity, reason for existence and now, I can see the light in the poem you introduced. Thank you, Lekhini.

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