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A life of LETTERS

Manjula Kolanu
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Chatline Teacher, translator, writer, critic and humanist - Shiv K Kumar has worn many hats and all of them with aplomb. The journey has been eventful and rewarding, he reveals to Manjula Kolanu

“Iwas a naughty person,” he tells you. ‘Naughty' is not a word you would associate with a distinguished literary personality. After all Professor Shiv K Kumar has been better known as a poet, critic, translator, educationalist, writer of short stories, novels and plays almost all his adult life.

Taking a brisk walk down memory lane he leads you to Lahore where he was born, 91 years ago. He recalls his early years, “My father was a headmaster – strict, orthodox vegetarian, God-fearing, teetotaller, a staunch Arya Samajist who nevertheless learnt Persian and Arabic to read the scriptures in the original. Perhaps I inherited his love of language and liberal humanism. But he was also a pragmatic man who insisted that we pursue a career. My mother was a simple lady. My first poem was published when I was only ten years old when she passed away (I turned a professional poet only in 1970); she encouraged me to pursue my creative side. I was a lecturer in Lahore when we moved to Delhi during the Partition and I continued teaching till I left for higher studies in Cambridge in 1950.”

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