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A Lyrical Confluence Of Hindi Poetry And Spirits

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Alcohol and poetry have a connection as old as time. Motifs around intoxication, the theme of complete abandon and utter surrender have all been reconciled with enjoying a drink or two in lyrical poems that talk about love, loss and longing. Many times, poems about lost love, solitude and loneliness are rife with the symbolism of the effects of alcohol on the mind. At other times, the surrender to universal powers is often encased in a metaphor about enjoying a drink that would induce a transcendental experience in the drinker.

Whatever the mention, all kinds of English, American, Urdu and Hindi poetry are rife with symbolisms and metaphors alluding to the world of liquors and the effects of a stout drink on an ailing mind and body. In fact, John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale is a classic illustration of a lyrical work doused in intoxication, from its references to hemlock to the poet’s mention of a ‘draught of vintage’ as he contemplates the most morbid emotions around the finality and numbness of death.

Hindi Poetry And Spirits

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In Hindi poems too, allusions to liquor are aplenty and more often than not explore either utterly exuberant themes or akin to Keats, rather morose ideas that have more to do with a sense of bleak, cold winters with only a drink to keep the poet company. Either way, references to intoxication, liquors and spirits appear quite often in Hindi verses illuminating the sheer genius of the artist who manages to bring a sublime quality to these mentions without letting them overshadow the overarching theme of the poem.

This is evident in the works of the renowned poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, who despite writing an entire poem about alcohol consumption insisted on unravelling some deeper ideas associated with the act of drinking. In Madhushala or The House of Wine, he writes about the physical act of drinking but the reader finds this description of the wine house and about taking a sip of liquor to be something more profound. Hidden in the verses about a house of wine are Bachchan’s contemplations on life and its varied stages, its hidden desires and some of the joys of celebration. 

In the lines that describe how the figure in the poem keeps on drinking glass after glass, Bachchan elaborates how this act discloses his desires to sip a drink and hide away his inner joys. The poem is a collection of verses with the common theme of consuming liquor running through the lines that describe significant moments in life.

While Hindi poetry has had a flourishing relationship with liquor, the same can be found in many Urdu compositions as well such as the works of Mirza Ghalib which make heavy references to romance as an intoxication and to numbness as becoming a reliever of the sharp pain of heartbreak.

In Hindi Social Commentary

hindi poetry alcohol

Poets like Kumar Vishwas have also incorporated liquor into rather humorous works that talk about social issues. Some of his lighter works are about enjoying the essence of life where liquor is found in his description of how a social gathering can become that much more fun if there is just a hint of booze involved. This could also be read as a way to forget enmities and forge friendships over a drink enjoyed in a pub.

Then there is a poet like Dushyant Kumar who makes a passing reference to alcohol as a way to cope with the troubles of life that seem like tall, looming mountains. However, these are subtle references which have deeper connotations like surrendering to a situation and avoiding an impulse reaction, often coated in the apparently straightforward metaphor of boozing.

Ultimately, Hindi poems are rich, lyrical traditions complete with a distinct vocabulary and rhythm wherein the introduction of metaphors around spirits only adds to this enriching repository.

Disclaimer: Alcohol addiction is injurious to health. The references to intoxication in the above essay are artistic expressions only and do not endorse drinking as a means to address mental health issues.