Images in the Mirror is an anthology of 49 Kashmiri poems of P N Shad translated into English by R N Kaul. The translation is simple, sometimes beautiful and sometimes just word for word. Noted poet and short story writer, Dr. K L Chowdury writes in the introductory paper, ‘I am not sure if Prof. Kaul has achieved the stated objectives. I will leave it to the readers to judge.’ He also says that no translation of poetry can ever, fully and faithfully, reproduce the beauty, soul, and spirit of the original. Vijay Bakaya, former chief secretary, comments in the preface that the poet does not reconcile to a life in perpetual exile. R N Kaul in his translator’s note states that his translation is near prose, just paraphrased rather too literal.
This anthology is the emotional and existential poetic outflow of coexistence, love, hatred, separation, exile, yearning for home, relationship, nature, romance, deceit and treachery. Prem Nath Shad has about ten books at his back. His poetry is full of universal love and goodwill but exile forms the major portion of his poetry in the Images in the Mirror. There is the secret of sustaining love. Poet’s birthplace is the most graceful all over the world. Hindus and Muslims are like two beautiful eyes of a person. How can they look in two different directions? But some evil eye has robbed the city of its gold. He has lost his native hamlet. The devil has devastated his paradise. Losing his hearth and home is a tragedy. His body and soul are both in distress. His lips have lost speech. Beauty has lost its pure bloom. Nor has love that old gusto. The blazing brand is extinguished. Love’s zeal has gone gradually. Once the poet was there with his blooming childhood and then with hearty youthfulness, full of fire. Now his eyes lack sheen, and his songs of love are betrayed. He has no regret if a flower withers. For him the tragedy is struck when a bud decays. He is in exile living with his pain of nostalgia:
Facing the desert heat/We have to aim at fame/ We have to live amidst thorns/And be happy with the pain.
Spring has arrived. Morn and eve are colourful. Each wave is on a caper. The water is cool in the spring-stream. Bud and leaf are colour. Faded longings feel revitalized. Dreams are being fulfilled. Some wicked agency may crack the joy of blossoms. Somebody may convert almond blossom into burning coal. The night of 19 January, 19990 pricks. Shiva’s picture is fixed on the wall. Heartbeats are heard. All eyes are focussed on it. All eyes glued on the frame. All murmur: Om Namah Shivayei. What a horrible and malicious night! It devastates everything. Times become brazenfaced. Criminals destroy roads. The victim never knows the butcher. Nor does the murderer know the victim. It is only for formality that the poet calls himself Shad, a happy man. Inside his heart the separation from the land of birth gnaws:
The albatross of my loss/is around the neck of my life. /I had to pour tears into my/smiling mouth.
There is need of the light. Lamps should be fuelled again. Let us dip into the sea and churn out the truth. Let us unravel the mystery. Otherwise, one feels like dew on the fire. The poet knows that shadows play the tricks. Brother gets separated from brother. Graves open their mouths. Crematoriums widen their grip. Addresses are swallowed. When a fledgling bird cannot trace back to his nest he returns mad like the poet. The exiles may brighten their skin with cosmetics. But nothing will avail. It is like rinsing a gnarled plank of wood and painting it too. The memory is etched on every drop of the tear. Homeland gives a clarion call. The morning in spring is agog. The flute is heard behind the hill. Relationship and the hope never die. The delinked will get connected. Springs will be again ours:
How long can pain be throttled/ The heart will soon heal up/ the soul’s wound…… We shall write the past anew,/brighten the future pages./This let us announce to the world./
Shad writes simple, that is why he is common man’s poet. He is not blocked in exile, weeping and pain of separation from Kashmir. He writes romantic couplets with rhythmic and acceptable terminology within the mould of common man’s ethics. Some mysterious call is felt stirring the within. He wants one glimpse along the riverbank. Seeing the flame of beauty in full is his aspiration. He wants his beloved to lift the veil partially and cast half-shut eyes towards him. Shad is caught in the cage of love. He is lost. He sees her in divine attire deceiving even the dead.
The heat of love has shrunken his warmth. All his pains will vanish, all anger and anxiety will go if she comes. He wants to make her gambol and laugh. But sometimes this all is but a joke for him. The destiny betrays him. The cupbearer fans a joke. Jugs of wine are displayed. But not a drop allowed to be tasted. The desires are crushed. People are uprooting trees and live in glasshouses. People look after false dreams. But if today’s call too will go waste, how long can hope sustain? So does the poet mourn? The translator, R N Kaul is no more. He has authored about seven books. P N Shad does not need any introduction. His poems ta ba draas (And I Left) and maj chhi akhar maji naasaan (Mother is after all a mother) are all time hits. Soft-spoken P N Shad has earned respect in the Literature in Exile. In R L Shant’s adorning words, ‘The humility with which he accepts the popularity he enjoys in Jammu as well as in Kashmir makes him simply adorable.’ P N Shad is the poet of ‘relationship’. The poet tells the friends that they are like blossoms of spring shining glorious:
Your friendship will strum the strings to melody/And Shad’s songs will reverberate abroad.