Balancing Emotion with Reason: Madhopuri’s Poetry
Rajesh Sharma
MY CASTE–MY SHADOW: SELECTED POEMS by Balbir Madhopuri. Translated from the original Punjabi by T.C. Ghai Aakar Books/LG Publishers Distributors, 2020, 118 pp., 295.00
August 2021, volume 45, No 8

Balbir Madhopuri lives in New Delhi. He grew up in Doaba, a region of Punjab known for its high population of Dalits. He has not forgotten his years of struggle against economic hardship and caste discrimination, but he does not advertise his pain and uses it instead to generate light and hope. In fact, he recalls with warmth the occasions when support came over the high barriers of caste, as when a Brahmin teacher reached out to him with affection and encouragement. It is a measure of Madhopuri’s integrity that he has chosen to live without bitterness, facing up to the demons yet not letting them eat him out.

Raj Kumar Hans in his introduction to the book correctly notes that Madhopuri staves off cynicism and so his poetry, despite the pain and anger, is ‘a calm expression of his understanding’ (pp. 10-11). Many victims of oppression become double victims, first the oppressor’s and then of themselves when they internalize oppression and allow ressentiment—as Nietzsche describes it—to possess them.

Continue reading this review