17 June, 2021

A Modern Kabir

Nagarjuna's poetry resonated with a socio-political conscience

A Modern Kabir

REVERED by the most demanding of critics, appreciated by the most ordinary of readers and listeners of poetry and loved by the youngest of budding poets, Nagarjuna was fondly called "Baba" by innumerable admirers across the country. He had the rare quality of striking an emotional chord not only with practitioners of the fine art of poetry but also with any human being who came across him. It was this empathy with people and their social situation which characterised Nagarjuna's personality both as a poet as well as a citizen. 

Born Vaidyanath Mishra in Bihar's Mithila region in 1911, he was destined to become a compulsive traveller, giving himself the appropriate nickname 'Yatri'. He started his poetic journey in Sanskrit, but soon started composing in his mother-tongue, Maithili, using Yatri as his nom-de-plume. He was given the Sahitya Akademi award for his Maithili collection in 1965. And though he published his first Hindi poem in 1935, a collection could appear only much later, in 1953. 

Nagarjuna traversed a varied terrain both literally...

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