Amrita Reviews Leela

In good books

Amrita Chaudhry    Posted: Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Indian Express, Ludhiana:

Calling it a book on Punjabi poetry would limit the book itself. Thus, calling it a book of poems written in Punjabi would be apt. The all-time Punjabi classic Leela written by two brothers — Navtej Bharti and Ajmer Rode has come up for public discussion once again. The reason for doing so were two, first Navtej Bharti who is settled in Canada is in town on a personal visit and more importantly, to remind poets — aspiring and established — what good poetry is.

This is how Dr Sutinder Singh Noor, Vice-President, Bhartiya Sahit Akademi, and a well-known critic and poet himself said about the book at a recent seminar.

“In the present times, a lot of poetry is being churned out and Punjabi language too is falling prey to this. There is more bad poetry than the good one and if someone wants to seek a reference on what good poetry is then Leela is the book to refer to.”

Leela is nothing short of a classic. A bulky book that runs into more than 700 pages, it is an experiment that Rode and Bharti undertook way back in 1998. Despite the criticism that this huge volume would sink just like a massive ship, the book continues to amuse bibliophiles.

As Navtej explains, “After I shifted to Canada in the late 60s, I shifted from poetry to philosophy. For the next two decades, I felt philosophy had more answers to the questions on life than poetry. But soon the burden of being the knowledgeable one began to weigh heavy on my psyche. Plato always said that one should study philosophy only after one crosses 35. Analysing everything around me took away the charm of enjoying life, so I shut my rational brain and simply began jotting down whatever came to my mind.” Sitting hundreds of miles away, Rode too was experimenting with “writing poetry in five minutes. He actually attended an art workshop where one was asked to paint in flat five minutes after seeing a thing. This experiment was applied to poetry too. Leela was first called Panj minute dee yatra but was later named Leela,” explains Navtej.