Dil Se: Secrets of the Hindi Poetry Blogger’s Heart

“The best and the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller
The internet and the social media hold the key to building the future that great thinkers like Buddha, Russell, Tagore, Marx and Lennon dreamed of. It has made it possible for thinkers, writers, musicians and artists to share their thoughts and art easily, quickly and widely. The subsequent emergence of regional language interfaces for computers and browsers has been an important breakthrough that allows people across the planet to transcend boundaries without losing their identities. One of the most amazing phenomenons in this sphere has been the evolution of Hindi poetry blogging.


I do believe that there is a line that separates creativity and populism, and at the cost of being branded a snooty conservative, I stick to my belief.

I chanced across Hindi poetry blogging through the Indiblogger network, and it was not out of my personal attraction toward Hindi poetry. I looked up the people who were reading and commenting on my work, and to my surprise, I found several of them were Hindi poets blogging in the Devnagri script. In spite of having learned my Ara, Balia, Chhapra, Darbhangas on the playgrounds of what was then Bihar and growing up with Lot Pot, I still struggle to read Devnagri, and a lot of the lyrical and syntactical devices of Hindi-Urdu poetry are totally lost on me. Yet as I read their work, often sporadically, since much of the time, I would not understand (or even be able to read through) what they were writing, I realized that some of it was at the level of the Prasoon-Joshi-Vishal-Dadlani kind of stuff that no Indian can escape any more. Not surprisingly, much of it was better.

As I got familiar with these blogs, I began to recognize an important trend, and that was how the idea for this post began to form in my mind. I decided to find out more about these bloggers and their fierce determination to change their world, one poem at a time. As our dialog evolved, I came out enriched not only by these poets’ incredible work, but also by their commitment to their craft. Join me as they share their journeys.


Amit Agarwal who blogs at Safarnama was born at Meerut to college lecturers. His poetry is simple yet intense. While he blogs in Hindi as well as English, his love and pride in his language is obvious in his writing. From Haiku to couplets, he enjoys experimenting with form and meter in the most refreshingly post-modern way imaginable. He uses his poetry to express the mysticism of life, celebrate the feminine, and to exalt the commonplace. He also is a master of layering his writing, where you find new contexts every time you read his poems. He identifies the major challenge of blogging in Hindi as being that of manuscript conversion. He says, “In spite of the availability of some good, user friendly software(s) I find lots of typos in Hindi posts which mars the flow and beauty of a verse. I wish all the Hindi writers be more patient and careful with the convertor and try to present their verses absolutely free of typos.”

Amit has also tried to address the language barrier by translating his own work into English and publishing it along with the original. He says, “I have lots of non-Hindi speaking friends who wish to comprehend and appreciate my poems. I provide translated versions for them, but sometimes fail to do so. Lately many of my valued readers have acknowledged that they were able to understand the verse in original Hindi, which really delighted me.”


Interestingly, many of these poets write both in English and in Hindi. Some of the interesting experiments that they have been involved in include writing poems based on prompts, poetry contests, collaborative writing, collective publishing and translating each others work. A recent “accident” comes to mind, that of Words, Silence and You, an English poem by Amit being translated into Hindi by Anu of My Dreams and Expressions, which was then translated back into English by Vivek of Musings Of Vivaldi, resulting in three distinct works based on a single creative idea.

Shashiprakash Saini of Shashi Ki Kavitayen was born at Jaunpur, and moved to Panvel in 1990 where his father was posted with ONGC. His father used to write poetry and Shashi believes he was born with poetry in his blood. Most of our interactions have been with him replying to me in Hindi verse, often cobbled together as we were speaking.

Presently pursuing his MBA from Banaras University, Shashi’s poetry is simultaneously earthy and contemporary, with topics ranging from dowry to child labor in addition to the usual love and longing that most poets hone their craft on. An absolute romantic at heart, his coming to write poetry at an early age has a funny story behind it. When he was in class 6, his friends told him that he could earn a lot of money from poetry and that if he wrote a hundred poems he would be granted a doctorate. It took him many years to realize that it was not so, but by then he had fallen in love with the magic of expressing himself through poetry.

Jasmeet Kukreja, born and brought up in Kanpur, resident of Delhi, is an engineer and blogs both in English and Hindi, her Hindi poetry blog being Kavitayen Jashn. She started writing poetry in class 7 and her first poem was about Mother Teresa. She is a relative newbie in the field of Hindi poetry blogging and acknowledges the need to learn from the work of other poets as a first priority. One of the driving forces behind her going online with her poetry was her concern at the declining popularity of Hindi poetry among the modern youth. She says, “I don’t want the interest in Hindi poetry to fade away among the urban educated youth, and I thought in this age of Facebook and Indiblogger, I can publish my Hindi writing as my contribution.”

Jasmeet balances her professional and personal lives, but pines for the day when her identity as a poet will surpass her identity as an Engineer.

To a very great extent, the bustling online Hindi poetry scenario was not imaginable even a few years back. In 2006, there were only about 300 blogs in Hindi, with only 10 of them being updated regularly. For a long time, Hindi poetry online was an effort orchestrated largely by the non-resident population using English fonts. As Saru Singhal of Words, a wildly popular bi-lingual poetess, explains in her interview to the ITV Gold TV Channel, much of the present “boom” has been made possible by the large scale adoption of the social media by both the Hindi poetry reading population and Indian bloggers and poets themselves. Behind this lies another “small step for man,” the emergence of regional language interfaces for computers and browsers.

Computer interfaces need a standard or universal code to understand and represent scripts and characters. The industry standard for this is Unicode. Serious research in Unicode for Indian languages began almost three decades back, but it was three different thrust areas, all of which date back to the mid-noughties that enabled the present boom in regional language blogging. The first was of course, the research being done by IT giants to make their applications, browsers and operating systems more universally usable, especially by the huge non-English-speaking populations of Asia and other regions. The second was the open source movement which has been the greatest contributor to making software and information available in Indian languages. The third was the explosion of the mobile device market in China which was largely empowered by the availability of regional language interfaces. This triggered renewed investment in Indian language interface development. One must also not forget the Government of India, which has an entire Ministry dedicated to Information Technology and an official official language policy page written in English. Along with these three developments, there was the immensely important work being done by people in the individual capacity in making literature written in Devnagri available digitally.

The contribution of Ravishankar Shrivastava (a.k.a. RaviRatlami after his one-time residence at Ratlam, MP) in encouraging and promoting blogging in Hindi is acknowledged by most veteran Hindi poetry bloggers, though his name might not be familiar to those who have come into blogging after most of the regional language blogging hurdles have been overcome. His biggest contribution lies in bringing Hindi and Chhattisgarhi operating systems and translating Linux and Windows apps into those languages. Apart from his own writing, he also has created one of the most popular platforms for budding Hindi poets and writers at the seminal Rachnakar.


Another major catalyst in bringing maturity and exposure to Hindi poetry blogging is the role played by blogger networks like Indiblogger. In a field dominated by technology, vanity and opinion, Indiblogger enabled Hindi poetry bloggers to connect to each other and share their poetry and of course, their readership. As the language barrier has been overcome, more and more people have taken to the social media space to share their Hindi poetry. While this brings with it the age-old argument of high art versus popular art, it also increases manifold the sphere of influence that Hindi poetry now has.

One of the challenges that a rapidly evolving civilization has to face is the obliteration of traditional values and dated thinking. The danger in this is that more often than not, the baby gets thrown out with the bath water. What we see today is the growing realization that we have gone wrong somewhere. It isn’t as if we don’t know what has gone wrong, but the dilemma is more about what to do about it. The creative arts are one of the ways that we can help restore a connection to the wisdom that can repair this damage. As Robert Pinsky says, "Poetry connects us with our deep roots, our evolution as an animal that evolved rhythmic language as a means of transmitting vital information across the generations. We need the comfort and stimulation that this vital part of us gets from the ancient art."

Subho’s Jejune Diet is my humble effort to restore that connection that we seem to have lost in the whirlwind of consumerism and materialistic lifestyles. These Hindi poetry bloggers are a reminder that there is still hope. I wish everyone who chooses to awaken the poet in themselves all happiness and success.

I am extremely grateful for the inputs received from fellow bloggers in building this post. Poetry is a deeply subjective experience. So is this post. Neither is it post meant to be a comprehensive overview of Hindi poetry blogging, nor does it claim to pass any judgment on poets or poetry. If you have thoughts to share on the history and development of Hindi poetry blogging that this post has overlooked, please do so in the comments section.

Update - I found this post after publishing mine and I feel that anyone wanting to understand Hindi poetry in the contemporary setting that I have written about should read this post by Lalit Chowdhary.

41 comments:

  1. आप ने अपने ब्लॉग पे हिन्दी कवियों को जगह दी
    इसके लिए आप का आभारी हू

    जहा लोग आज कल ज्ञान बाटने से परहेज करते है
    वही सुभोरूप जी दिल खोल के ज्ञान बाटे जा रहे है
    बचपन मे हमारे पड़ोस मे एक हलवाइन थी जिन्हे हम दाई बुलाया करते थे
    वो हमे हर रोज़ पेड़े खिलाती थी और उनके पेड़े कभी कम नहीं हुए
    सुभोरूप जी आप भी कुछ वैसे ही है
    आप और आप के ज्ञान के पेड़े

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    1. kya khoob kaha hai..! very nice..

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    2. Shashi, you were among the first Hindi poetry bloggers that I started reading. So in many ways, I owe you a big one. It is my privilege to have been write about the work being done by people like you in this field. Thanks a million for your kind words.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing these. I hadn't discovered the Hindi writings yet.

    Having lived most of my growing years in the North and studying in Kendriya Vidyalayas, I love Hindi. Even after so many attempts, I am not able to understand Tamil (my native tongue) poetry like I understand Hindi.

    It is wonderful to have a taste of so many languages, though. And poetry seems to be the perfect medium to showcase that.

    Now, how does one go about changing the script in comments etc.?

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    1. I can totally identify with you, Juggler. I have my share of linguistic rootlessness, but like you, I try and use it to my advantage. But the work being done in the field of regional language blogging is, in my opinion, extremely important for a multicultural multilingual society like ours.

      I will leave it to the Hindi commenters to respond to your query on how to comment in Hindi. I have found my own way, and that is to type it into google translate and then copy paste it back into the comment box. अपनी टिप्पणी के लिए धन्यवाद.इस तरह.

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  3. धन्यवाद शुभोरूप. विशेष तौर पर रचनाकार.ऑर्ग का उल्लेख करने के लिए.
    मैंने इस पोस्ट के बारे में यहाँ पर लिखा है -
    http://www.rachanakar.org/2012/07/blog-post_12.html

    रचनाकार.ऑर्ग ने बहुत से नए रचनाकारों और सृजनधर्मियों को एक नया विशाल प्लेटफ़ॉर्म दिया है. अभी रचनाकार.ऑर्ग में कहानी लेखन पुरस्कार आयोजन किया जा रहा है. विवरण यहाँ दर्ज है -
    http://www.rachanakar.org/2012/07/blog-post_07.html

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    1. It was impossible to write about Hindi blogging without writing about Rachnakar and your work, Sir. It is an absolute honor to first have you here, reading this, and secondly, for being so encouraging in your post on your blog. Thanks for introducing your readers to this post. Wish you and your work all the best.

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  4. Subho..

    Thanks so much for writing this. I used to be an active reader and writer in Hindi earlier but the language got lost in many other not-so-important modes of communication. Thanks for bringing it to the light again. I didn't know you spent time in Bihar.. I always thought you were a thorough Bengali ;)

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    1. Thanks, Surabhi. Glad you liked it.

      Thorough Bengalis can be found in every corner of our land. Sadly, I cannot count myself among them. I am more of a disowned Bengali. Add to that the fact that I have spent years in Bihar, years in Maharashtra, years in Karnataka and years in Andhra, apart from years in Bengal, and I still cannot call any Indian regional language as my first language should give you a sense of my troubles.

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  5. ...an absolutely wonderful research like post Subho! I'm honored by being mentioned in it, and grateful for your kindness. I can understand the amount of time and effort you must have employed on it, and appreciate the same. Never mind if it is not that comprehensive as your writing generally is due to reasons beyond control. I'm sure the pilot sample does assure value and worth of the main consignment:):)..and all your learned readers know it:)Thanks a lot again:)

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    1. Glad you liked it, Amit. It was easy starting out, but daunting as I progressed and realized the immense creative energy that I was writing about. I am aware that I have not been able to do total justice to the work being done, but it was a beautiful experience just trying.

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  6. Nice post. Soon I would be reviewing a Hindi blog. No doubt a daunting task. But I agree that we need to encourage regional literature. So I need to dig my feet in and take up the task in all earnest. Hopefully at the end of it, I would be more comfortable reading Hindi.

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    1. Thanks, TF. It was very challenging for me too, not only because of my poor Hindi, but also because of my unfamiliarity with the territory. But it was a journey of discoveries, and I feel happy I have been able to undertake it. Regional language blogging is truly the big story of social change that is happening out there.

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  7. रवि रतलामी जी उन सम्मानीय ब्लोगर्स में से हैं जो बिना दिखावा या शोर किये
    इस क्षेत्र में अपना काम करते जा रहे हैं.
    उन्हें हिंदी ब्लॉग्गिंग का एक स्तम्भ भी माना जाता है.अंग्रेज़ी ब्लोगर्स भी अगर हिंदी ब्लॉग्गिंग के विकास को
    नोट करने लगे हैं तो यह रवि जीई के प्रयासों की एक बड़ी उपलब्धि है.
    'रचनाकार 'ब्लॉग मैं संदर्भ /संग्रह पुस्तिका के रूप भी प्रयोग करती हूँ.
    बहुत-बहुत आभार.

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    1. Alpanaji, as I was writing this post, I realized that it really is a tribute to the work done by Ravishankar Srivastava. Hats off to people like him who silently and ceaselessly contribute to the preservation and transmission of our culture.

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  8. an encouraging post SubhroJi :) I am honored to see my name here and equally glad to know such a wonderful person like you. I am sure this post will pushed Hindi talent to come in blogging world from their hidden cave. Many wishes to you ahead!

    Thank you so much!

    Jasmeet
    http://emotestar@blogspot.com
    http://kavitayenjashn.blogspot.in

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jasmeet. I know about the cave rather well; I spend most of my time there.

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  9. hi subhorup ji

    loved ur post....
    (i think,now u don't want the details u were asking :-)]
    thanks a heap for mentioning my blog.
    may god bless you and ur pen

    regards
    anu

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  10. This was a very informative and well researched post! I am bookmarking it. Want to get back to reading in Hindi for a while now. Thanks for posting.

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  11. My my!you do know a lot about a lot.

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    1. i discovered all of this as i dialog'ed with the hindi poetry bloggers and started reading up on the evolution of regional language blogging in india.

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  12. It's good to see a non Hindi blogger writing about it. When I posted my first Hindi post the no of comments and visits were halved but many asked me to write and since then there is no looking back. In fact, the most popular post on my blog is a Hindi poem. I think this generation is keen to read in Hindi. Thanks for writing. I read your post the day you wrote it but couldn't comment because of access issues.

    Happy to see Hindi flourishing. Thanks for writing this post.

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    1. saru, having people like you and some of the other people who have commented on this post read and leave a comment is more than i could have ever asked for. your contribution to making people aware of the phenomenon of hindi poetry blogging is almost as great as your contribution to popularizing poetry blogging through your own writing. thanks for your encouragement.

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  13. It is really heartening to know that blogging in vernacular languages is taking off. Our vernacular media is often treated with apathy if not contempt. With the decay and death of vernacular literature, our culture is lost. So keep writing in which ever language one can.

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    1. the significance of this movement lies exactly in the point that you have made. in the madness to be part of the global culture, we often end up marginalizing and abandoning our own culture. this movement is crucial in using the tools of a global society to broadcast and strengthen our roots.

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  14. Hi Subhorup

    You seem to have written this after extensive research. Kudos to you!

    I never learnt my mother-tongue Tamil at school. Till 7th class, I studied Malayalam which was a little tough for me as we did not speak it at home. Then we moved to TamilNadu and I chose Hindi as the language at school. Three years of Hindi. So with all this history I am a little bit of this and that when it comes to regional languages. But I love all three of them - Hindi , Tamil and Malayalam. Its a little tough for me at times to read the Devanagri script as you mentioned and sometimes tough to understand. Definitely translations as those given by Amitji help a lot.At Indiblogger I am seeing quite a few good posts on Tamil poetry as well and that has its own beauty like the Hindi world of poems.
    All the bloggers you have mentioned are very good poets and its great that today we have good platforms where writers in regional languages can portray their gifts...
    Excellent post Subhorup!

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    1. thanks for the inputs on tamil poetry blogging, jayashree. this trend is truly heartening.

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  15. I learnt hindi when in school, but then with all the things that happen in life changes happen..

    I do read hindi and punjabi now and then .. the bloggers mentioned i have visited them sometimes they are all very good


    Open letter to all Indians -Bikram's

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  16. I too enjoy reading Hindi poetry blogs and my most favorite is Hathkadh by Kishore Choudhury http://hathkadh.blogspot.in/ .
    Thanks for such a well researched post.

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    1. thanks for the pointer, kavita. looked it up, it is very nice.

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  17. I enjoy reading Hindi blogs. But, I also have a grouse with the software that leaves loads of typos. I have read Shashiprakash Saini, Saru and Amit's work. They are quite amazing. This is a pretty comprehensive blog. As someone passionate about Hindi, I rue the loss of good literature and magazines that deprive me of my touch with the much beloved language.

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    1. the death of print media and small magazines - that were small in size and circulation but big on creativity - can be offset by poets and writers taking to the social media and blogs. this not only allows them to reach a distribution-independent readership instantly but also preserves popular culture for posterity.

      the transliteration softwares are still lacking in many ways, but with softwares that allow you to type in regional languages, things are a little better now.

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  18. Shubhorup,
    What a beauty...it's a treat to read you, honestly!I must compliment and congratulate you on the massive effort of compiling this well researched blog. I enjoyed reading the minute details. Since, I was born and brought up in Delhi, I had to study Hindi in school. So,I actually enjoy reading Hindi poetry.
    Urdu is also the most musical of all languages in the world, but urdu words are not so easy to understand...:((
    Thanks for introducing me to a few more Hindi poets.Thanks! I shall check out their poems soon.

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    1. thanks, panchali. hope you enjoy the poets you discovered.

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  19. that's a lot of research on their work as well as their personal lives. visited this page before from Amit's blog.

    i still have difficulties reading Hindi but i am getting better and that's only because of Amit's blog. i simply love his inimitable writing.

    brilliant post. will read others as well.

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  20. Blogging in regional language with unicode technology is on the move. other than Hindi; Bangla and telugu blogs are also on the rise. It is very appealing to see Indian languages on the web.

    nice post .. as always .. :-)

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  21. quite a good compilation of bloggers and their blogs .. whose made their mark in regional languages as well ..

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  22. Mohabbat Mein Laakhon Zakham Khaye Humne,
    Afsos Unhe Hum Par Aitbar Nahi,
    Mat Pucho Kya Gujarti Hai Dil Par,
    Jab Vo Kehte Hai Hame Tumse Pyar Nahi..

    Hindi Shayari

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  23. Gum Sum Ankhen,Sooni Saansen,Toot,Ti Jurti Umeedain…
    Darti Hun Yun Kesey Katay Gi, Umer Hai! Koi Raat Nhi…

    Shayari Hindi

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