This month, Arvinder Kaur introduces us to the world of Punjabi haiku. Collected and translated by Kaur herself, this is a wide ranging and modern selection that gives us a taste of yet another current in the ever-expanding pond of world haiku.
Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language, the native language of over 130 million people worldwide. It is the 10th most spoken language of the world. Most of the people who speak this language live in the Punjab region and other northern states of India and in Pakistan. But Punjabis have emigrated to many countries and as a result Punjabi language also has a minority status in these countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada.
Haiku came to Punjab through one such emigrant, Parminder Sodhi, who moved to Japan with his wife and translated Japanese haiku into Punjabi and published his book ‘Punjabi haiku Shairi’ in 2001. Although there might not be an official date when haiku was first written in Punjabi, one can say with a fair amount of certainty that this book created a wave of interest in haiku in Punjabi.
Since then, Punjabi haiku has gained a tremendous amount of popularity and is being keenly practised by many Punjabi writers and speakers. Punjabis are known to be bold and brave and, as a race, are very proud of their roots and culture which they have fiercely guarded against centuries of foreign invasions. The short form of haiku has given a new lease of life to many a cultural trope that were on the verge of being forgotten. A plethora of haiku books and anthologies have flooded the literary scene.
The way this genre has taken root in the region seems to represent not just the way life lived here, but also gives a glimpse of how people connect with the larger world and with nature. Like all other forms of literature it encapsulates the hopes and fears of its people and connects them to their roots.The translations in this collection are mine and I have tried to include as wide a sampler of the genre as possible.
– Arvinder Kaur