SURJIT SINGH MANGAT
Surjit Rampuri, whose real name is Surjit Singh Mangat, was born in 1926 in the village of Rampur, now in district Ludhiana. As MA in English and Punjabi he retired as District Education Officer. He began writing verse from the early age of seventeen but published his first collection, Geetan Bhari Saver (Morning Full of Songs) only in 1956. Two other collections followed, Thari Chanani (Chilly Moonlight 1959), and Ichha da Janam (Birth of Desire 1968). These poems are largely in the romantic progressive tradition prevailing at the time.
But in these poems Surjit is more romantic than progressive-minded. That is, he wants a kind of socialist equality not only between man and man but also between man and woman. In one of his poems in the earlier collection. “Dukh da Moh” (Love of Pain), he writes: Frightened from pain I had hidden myself in the lap of poetry, When life would bring some comfort and pleasure I would cling to her tempting bossom And go to sleep. Ultimately I arrived at the secret That fighting against pain is best poetry.
In 1973 came a collection of ghazals, Supnian de Parchhaven (Shadows of Dreams). More ghazals came in two collections, Gaundi Hai Tanahai (Loneliness Sings), 1981 and Pir di Khushbo (Fragrance of Pain), 1984. As the titles indicate, these are poems in a genre that is apt to be sentimental as well as delicate, in the tradition of Urdu poetry, except in the hands of masters like Faiz in Urdu and Mohan Singh in Punjabi. Moreover, by this time, the progressive trend had grown weak all round.
Two other collections of poems were published, Budha Darya (The Old River), 1978 and Main Sirf Awaz Han (I am Only a Voice), 1981. In these poems, Surjit shows greater competence and independence of spirit. He is now attracted by the new sirens of experimentalism and existentialism. And yet the lyrical and romantic strain has matured with a more authentic experience of reality. Surjit had published a collection of songs also under the title Dard Kahani Ratan di (The Painful Story of Nights) in 1977.
He writes songs and ghazals more frequently of late. Surjit is generally hailed as a writer of lyrics and songs, which is the spirit of his ghazals also. Winner of Punjab\’s State Language Department Award for Poetry, Surjit Rampuri balances material gains against spiritual losses. It is the spiritual loss that engages Rampuri\’s attention. He is bothered about both the peasant and the poet.
They must struggle shoulder to shoulder. It is only then that they can bring about a revolution in the country: Oh you wielders of the pen, how long would you let the sickle lie idle? Oh you wielders of the sickle, how long would you let the pen feel hurt? “Restrictions and barriers are bad”, says Surjit, “but it is the dammed waters that produce mighty electric power.”
1. Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, 6 Vols., Delhi, 1995.
2. Sekhon, S.S. and K.S. Duggal, A History of Punjabi Literature, Delhi, 1992.