Anything But Monochromatic

  • Abid Ahmad
  • Publish Date: Jan 21 2018 9:31PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jan 21 2018 9:31PM
Anything But Monochromatic

Shafi Shouq’s translation of S Razi’s poetry collection Yak Ranghi Hindi Saayi Nebar is a labour of love and craft


Life is a puzzle. So are attempts at defining it. Far from defining life, we end up reconciling with it in ways that puzzle us again. Any creative faculty we employ to make sense of life flies into the complexity life holds. The result is that we end up celebrating life as it is. And that is where we somehow tend to create beauty. Celebration is beautiful for celebration is our creative pursuit.

The beauty of creativity was supposed to lie in its suggestivity, in its attempts at evasiveness and flight from the harsh and dark realities of life. Monotony is monstrosity. And poetry is a flight from both. 

But S Razi takes life head on. He is not a poet writing on life. He is a poet of life and living, with all its humdrum detail. He finds beauty not in suggestivity but in clarity of thought and its execution. The proof is his poetry collection Yak Ranghi Hindi Saayi Nebar, which has now been translated by Prof Shafi Shouq as Far From The Shades Of The Monochromatic.

Razi’s poetry broadly deals with the themes life revolves around – suffering, pain, maturity, existential dilemma, struggle, the quest for identity. But the beauty of this book lies in that it deals with these themes in a manner that is unique and distinct. As Shouq notes, “Razi’s forte lies in his prowess of discovering significance among the things that are usually relegated to insignificance by the codes of the practical living: trees, birds, dogs, insects, rustic people, streams, pebbles, bears, and all other objects that acquire voice only within the framework of the fable and the parable.”

His poetry reads like the grammar of truth, drab and dull in its exactness but mandatory in its existential utility. It is epigrammatic, pithy, pointed and piecing to the extent of being brutal. It is dark, too. It does not sooth you. It challenges you. It upsets your long-held myths about life and its motifs.

It pierces deep into our consciousness and makes us look at life afresh. Life is not all about lies and fabrication; life is about the deadly chambers of our heart, mind and soul which are dark, gloomy, sinister. Life is diabolic, and this collection is a great reminder of that fact.

Here’s a sampler:

‘A reserved person’

I’m so taciturn that my secrets

Are impenetrable

Even to the clairvoyant


What can one do

Of that field of mine

Wherein the deeds of my hands

Are known to all.


The clarity and the suggestivity in this poem seem to be at odds with each other. Notice the tension between the known and the unknown – they seem to be fighting it out in the open.


‘The unchaste’

“The dog has made the vessel

Unchaste,” they said.

“No problem, I told them.

“Seven times cleaning

Shall make it chaste again.”

I further told them,

“A dog, bathed in zumzum

A hundred times

Is ultimately a dog,

An unchaste one.”


These lines have an echo of Lalla Ded.


‘To the wayfarer’

Now that

You took to the stick

And put on a hermit’s cloak,

March ahead

Never look back

The road shall of itself

Sing you panegyrics.


I am reminded of YB Yeats’ observation that the journey of life itself is the goal of life:

“Cast a cold eye

On life, on death

Horseman, pass by.”


‘The blunt blade’


Your teaching me history

Proved of no avail!”

“Why so?”

“Different are the people

Different are the fetters

Different their cravings.”


Let’s unlearn the history as taught to us and learn it the way it is – real history stemming out of real life.


‘The mechanical world’

A handful of husk

A handful of rice

Once brothers to each other.


The machine intercepted,

Pushed them apart:

“You – nothing to me,”

“I – nothing to you.”


Let me remind you that we are reading poetry, not real life fiction.


‘Our world’

“It is a cow”

“What is it?”

“It is a cow.”

“It gives us milk.”

“What does it give us?”

“It gives us milk.”

“Only when

we feed it well.”


This is the way of the world.


‘Universal grammar’

The noun

Is the name of a thing,

Srinagar, the cow, the chair

Etcetera, for instance.


“Why not!”

Man too considered a THING is a noun

Or a noun if considered a THING.

“So, I understand,

Why this thing too is being USED.



Critic: “Any evidence

You have

Regarding God Almighty?”

Believer: “You and your neck.”

Critic: “What?”

Believer: “That before the invention of the mobile phone

He has bestowed on you a flexible neck.”


Such power of observation and contemplation!


‘Weak point’

The same “I”

And the same

my life.


The weak point of the poet we all share.



The dogs

Might be barking,

Or giving vent to their anger, or

Cursing us, or

abusing us in foul language.


One thing is certain,

They are not praying for us either.


‘Truth of the time’

“Tell me please

Who are you?”

“Me? Sir I am nobody.”

Then why you are you?”

Talking so loudly and bold

“Because in our times even

Zero has its own value.”


Mind, the poet is talking of only numerical value.


‘The tongue’

The tongues

Are of many a type:

The ones that I have come across,

I may reveal to you as well:

This is a file tool,

This a knife

This one scissors

This one a brush

and this one a balm

Hardly available.”


It is safe to say Razi has changed the rules of the art of poetry, and Shouq’s translation does justice to his art. The epigrammatic quality of the original has been deftly retained. Surely, the translation has added to the pointedness of the original and added to its beauty. In fact, it reads like original poetry. That’s likely because the translator is a polyglot and a writer in multiple languages.

That said, there are typos errors here are there that must be addressed in future editions.

Also, although the title reminds of the novel Far From the Madding Crowd, the word “monochromatic” is too scientific and could have been replaced with a more poetic word.