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Vihang A.Naik, a versatile poet with compassion
I was never personal with Vihang A.Naik, but like all good poets he could make friends with readers due to his generous mind and simplicity. He gave a new definition to poetry and in his translations, ideas were recreated with a new sensitivity.

“HOW ABOUT making a poem within a poem? / You smell the Ocean and /the Sand. A life within a poem,” wrote Vihang A Naik. I knew him as a professor. But the day I read those lines of Naik, I felt something new about the art of writing poems. In Naik’s opinion, “A poem is composed because of “the dance of the black ink and little light.” 

He was Professor Vihang A Naik as we all called him. But he was a poet too, which I did not realize probably because of my familiarity with him. He was my friend on Facebook. We gossiped on this or that social issue. I used to tag on his wall, some of my writings on his wall. I knew he was a good scholar, a teacher and a dignified person who yet loves friends on the facebook.

He has his stint of humour and his posts invite comments from friends of varied age. Yes, before joining Facebook, his name flashed across my eyes when I occasionally opened at  the pages of various journals and magazines such as that of Kavya Bharati, A Sahitya Akademi Bi-Monthly Journal, or Poesis, A Journal of Poetry Circle or in The Journal of The Poetry Society. His Gujarati collection of poems include Jeevangeet (Gujarati Poems) published by Navbharat Sahitya Mandir (Ahmedabad) in 2001, dedicated to the cause of victims of Gujarat Earthquake of January 26, 2001.

All these were facts. But until one reads a poet, all impressions gathered earlier about him as a person seem to vanish. They just disappear like camphor in the air. He was a poet I knew. But the way he poetically campaigned for the earthquake victims his state, shows that Vihang the man who is no less important than Vihang the poet. He had a soft heart concealed under the veneer of an apparent seriousness. On Facebook posts his humourous comments produced giggles unbounded, reflecting his generosity and broadmindedness. He never spoke 'hi fi', never an intellectual storm in the cup of coffee. He knew friends are friends, not the readers of his poems.

There are many poets who can write. But there are very few poets who take the trouble of translating poems into another language. Vihang was one of those few, as he showed no less expertise in translation especially in his translation of Gujarati poems into English. A poet translating his own poems into English is a rare feat and also a rare contribution. In doing translation, poetic sensibility is the most important thing. I have read Bina Biswas translating many poems of Tagore. There is a sweet sensibility working in all her translations.

Among the modern poets, Professor Bina Biswas is doing some excellent jobs. Everyday one or two poems are translated by her for Wordpress.com. It is something more subtle and complex than language and idiom, rhetoric and prosody. Our common friend Vihang, too, goes beyond the beaten track. Pradip Khanwalla is an internationally known translator of the vachanas of the Veer Shaiva poets of the 11th and 12th century Karnataka into Gujarati via English  Flowers of a Spirtitual Revolution. But Vihang Naik’s task seems to be more difficult. He is a modern translator of modern poems of his time, and particularly his own poems. Every moment there remains a chance of missing the original ambience. A new idea may prove to be tempting. The job is still more tough. There are other  Gujarati poets like Venilal Purohit, Akha Bhagat, Ramanlal Vasantlal Desai, Jyotindra Dave. Vihang can easily be compared with either with them.

Vihang A. Naik throws light on the life of a very large city in all its shades, glory and misery in City Times and Other Poems. It is an anthology of his intuitive and philosophical poems. The poems are divided in 6 segments e.g. ‘Love Song of a Journey man’, ‘Mirrored man’, ‘The Path of wisdom’, Self portrait’, At the shore’, City times’. The segment titled ‘Self  portrait’ starts with a poem the diagrammatic sketch with 6 blank pages reader finds only 3 words at the tail-end of the page e.g. ‘discovered beyond  thought’. The title of this collection is also the heading for the last of its six sections , in which the city is unfolded as a marketplace, as a heaven for underdogs, and as a seed bed of change and is observed at evening, at mid-night, by moon light and through fog and haze.

The poet has something up his sleeve to say beyond the appearances. Vihang Naik throws light on the life of a very large city in all its shades, glory and misery in City Times and Other Poems. It is an anthology of his intuitive and philosophical poems. The Poems are divided in 6 segments e.g. ‘Love Song of a Journey man’, ‘Mirrored man’, ‘The Path of wisdom’, Self portrait’, At the shore’, City times’.

The picturesque imagery used by Naik in some of his poems, is quite captivating : “the sharp sunrise / in your eyes / yawns / to see vultures / mounted high / not too far / from the grab / of your eyes / scanning skies”. In  love poetry Naik excels with proverbial precision:  “You know me. / I know you. / Love” .The poet felt in a different way about the transitoriness of love which   is beautifully described : “ I felt love as short as haiku. / A time to part. Let us kiss and depart”. Just excellent as poetic expression.

Vihang A. Naik was born in Surat, Gujarat on September 2, 1969. He is younger to me by nearly a decade. But he is such a renowned personality now and acclaimed as a renowned contemporary poet writing in English, I feel proud of being his freind. Very few poets allow this nearness. He does with his easy gestures and there is no impediment posed by his scholarship. He was educated from the M.S. University of Baroda with Philosophy, Indian and English Literature. Professor Naik who is more known for his poems written in English displays a confident command of the poetic form to bring his ideas and observations to life.

The pieces that ponder the reality of poetic expression are perhaps most fascinating. Their reflexivity results in a most engaging colection of poems. Making A Poem is a intuitive, thoughtful and creative pieces that work together as a cohesive collection. A Fairy Tale quality permeates in some of his poems  ‘A Play’, ‘A Story’ and ‘The Poet as a Young Man’. But the same man could be  writing such lines in the description of Desire :” Tears flesh apart!/ feeding upon the fire/swallowing  air”. The abstract Desire in a human mind is never made so tangible and concrete in any other Gujarati poet. He could do this in many poems with an ease that comes to a great poet. "I don't know why I write, and why poetry in particular' wrote he, but his poems already gave us the answer. Poetry, is the fusion of thought and feeling for him.  

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