Minu Bakshi’s book of poems “Tishnagi” highlights her love for Urdu
Known primarily as a singer, Minu Bakshi’s book of poems Tishnagi, published recently by Rupa, will come as a surprise to some. But for Minu, it is the logical progression of her infatuation with the Urdu language.
The infatuation itself is hard to explain, however. Born into a Punjabi speaking family, and having been a student, and then a teacher, of Spanish, Minu’s love for Urdu must have had a distinct provenance.
“The interest in Urdu was inspired because of music, not by Urdu per se. When I was young, I was into pop music and The Beatles. And then when I heard Begum Akhtar, it turned my whole life around. It affected me to my soul. To be able to sing Begum Akhtar, I started learning Urdu. Not to write, but to sing. And if you don’t understand a ghazal how can you sing it well,” she asks.
The book brings together poems written by Minu as an impressionable 17-year-old, when she was invited for a mushaira on AIR, along with those written over the years. Many were lost along the way, for she never considered herself a writer. But an informal volume of poetry kept getting built up nonetheless. The idea for compiling this into a coffee table book grew over the last three years, when Minu found the necessary stillness of mind.
The book, designed by Ritu Beri, brings together all these poems, replete with metaphors of love, in three languages – the original Urdu, as well as Hindi and English transliterations. “My first thought was to translate it and I tried my own translations but I thought the beauty of Urdu would not come through. Even though my English is stronger than my Urdu, it just didn’t sound right. So I decided to have the transliterations to get it across to more people. How many people of our generation read Urdu? Even the speakers of Urdu barely read or write anymore. It’s quite sad but that’s how it is,” she says.
The book pays tribute to the poets and singers who have inspired Minu. “Faiz is among my favourites. Mir I rate higher than Ghalib, because it’s totally heart driven, and ahead of its times. I enjoyed Mehdi Hassan a lot but Begum Akhtar has been driving force behind both poetry and music.”