Tag Archives: Umashankar Joshi

(249) Expositions of Chosen Poems – 3 (The Flute Vendor-A Gujarati Poem)

(249) Expositions of Chosen Poems – 3 (The Flute Vendor-A Gujarati Poem)

Click here to read in Gujarati

My friend Mr. Sharad Shah of Ahmedabad had commented my earlier post of this kind. It was an English poem of William Wordsworth titled as “We are Seven”. In his opinion, Indian poetry like written in Gujarati, Hindi and any other Regional languages compared to English ones have much more taste and beauty. In reply to his comment, I had only written that we cannot make any generalization that particular language has very good literature and others don’t have. It is true that the literature of Indian Regional languages could not spread worldwide in spite of being it superior. It is but natural that any literature written or translated in any International language has much more scope to spread.

Today, I am determined to give my exposition of a Gujarati poem titled in English as “The Flute Vendor” written by the Late Umashankar Joshi {1911-1988), a renowned Man of Letters of his times and will be remembered for the years to come as and when Gujarati language and its literature is going to be discussed. Mr. Joshi had received many literary awards.

By the way, I am tempted to say that during the course of my Post Graduation, I was awarded the Certificate of Extempore Speech Competition with second rank by Umashankar Joshi, the Chief Guest of the Function of College Annual Day then. I picked up a cover of the unknown subject on the stage and just like the improvisator, I had delivered my speech on the subject “If Mahatma Gandhi were alive!”.

Before to proceed on my exposition of the poem, my Readers will have to be familiar with the poem in discusstion. I am going to give you the poem in Gujarati first and then its translation in English in its poetry form.

વાંસળી વેચનારો

’ચચ્ચાર આને !
હેલી અમીની વરસાવો કાને !
ચચ્ચાર આને !
હૈયાં રૂંધાયાં વહવો ન શાને !’

મીઠી જબાને લલચાવી હૈયાં,
રસે પૂરા કિંતુ ખીસે અધૂરા,
શ્રમીણકોને અમથું રિબાવતો,
બરાડતો જોરથી બંસીવાળો.

ઘરાક સાચા સુણવા ના પામે
વેગે જતી ગાડી મહીં લપાઈ જે
બંસી સુણંતા પ્રણયોર્મિગોષ્ઠિની.

‘ચચ્ચાર આને !’
ના કોઈ માને
અને ખભે વાંસળી-જૂથ એનું
થયું ન સ્હેજે હળવું, ભમ્યો છતાં !

‘ચચ્ચાર આને!’
લો, ને રમો રાતદી સ્વર્ગ તાને !
‘ચચ્ચાર આને?’

‘દે એક આને !’
‘ના, ભાઈ, ના, ગામ જઈશ મારે,
છો ના ખપી ! ઈંધણથી જશે નહીં.
ચચ્ચાર આને ! બસ ચાર આને !!

પાછા વળંતાં, પછી જૂથમાંથી
ખેંચી મજાની બસ એક બંસી,
અષાઢની સાંજની ઝરમરોમાં
સૂરો તણાં રંગધનુ ઉડાવતી,
એણેય છેડી ઉરમાંથી ઝરમરો !.

જીવંત આવી સુણી જાહિરાત, કો
બાર મહીંથી જરી બ્હાર ઝૂકતી
બોલાવતી તાલી સ્વરેથી બાલા.

હવે પરંતુ લયલીન કાન,
ઘરાકનું લેશ રહ્યું ન ભાન !

– ઉમાશંકર જોશી

A Flute Vendor

“Four annas1 a piece!
Have a shower of nectar
deluge your ears!
Four annas a piece!
Why not let
your suffocated hearts gush?”

Cried loudly the flute vendor
enticing with a sweet tongue
the bosoms
of those relishing melody
but with empty pockets,
unfairly tormenting the toilers!

The genuine customers
were bereft of music.
Cozily listening to the flute
of amorous words
were those
speeding in cars.

“Four annas a piece!”
And despite wandering
no one bought
and the burden of the bunch
on his shoulders
diminished not.

“Four annas only!
Buy and revel
day and night
in heavenly melody!”
“Four annas each?”
“Sell for an anna.”
“No sir, no.
Will return to my village
though they remain unsold.
This is no firewood stock.
Four annas each.
Only at four annas a piece.”

Turning back, he picked
a nice one from the bunch of flutes.
In the drizzle of Ashadh2
he too began to spray from his heart
a fount of rainbow notes!

Hearing this live display
a maid from a window peeped
beckoned him with a clap.

Ears immersed in lilt the vendor
remained oblivious of the customer.

– Umashankar Joshi

1. An anna was one-sixteenth of a rupee. Now, 4 annas = INR 0.25
2. The first month of monsoon

This is a Free verse poem i.e. without any metre/s written in free style rhyme and also just like telling a story on a particular episode. The hero of the poem is both a workman and also an artist. In the beginning of the poem, his role seems to be of a hawker or a vendor of flutes. By carrying the bunch of flutes on his shoulder, he verbally advertises for his product in his different slogans spoken in flowers of speech. All his efforts prove to be in vain. The certain class of the people have no any value of flutes in their minds. The flute is just like a commodity for them made of a narrow hollow bamboo with very simple workmanship of some holes to be opened and closed with the finger-tips while blowing the air from mouth from one end of the flute played vertically or horizontally. Some labor-like common people cannot afford four annas of the flute and hence they bargain and demand the flute at one anna a piece.

In my view the original Gujarati text of the translated line as “This is no firewood stock” indicates that he would rather use the unsold flutes as fire-wood but won’t sell the flute for one anna. He wandered and wandered through streets but the burden of the flutes did not decrease from his shoulder. He was not disappointed with the flop day of his business. He drew a flute from the bunch and began to play. This was his live advertisement and as a result a girl gets attracted. She leaned from the window and by clapping tried to call him for the purchase of a flute. But now, the flute vendor was engrossed in playing the flute and therefore he could not pay attention towards this prospective customer. His ears were engaged with hearing the tune of his flute. This time he was neither a workman nor a salesman of the flutes, but he was an Artist, a true Artist.

Thus the poem ends in such style of a Shakespearian Sonnet as “Ears immersed in lilt the vendor, remained oblivious of the customer.”

– Valibhai Musa


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