Auckland-based Kiwi-Indian ghazal writer Shiv Sharan Singh Bhagirath, fondly known as Shiv Bhagirath has recently been inducted into the Indoz Hall of Fame by Indoz Punjabi Sahit Sabha Brisbane, Australia.

Mr Bhagirath, who arrived in New Zealand from Jalandhar, Punjab in 1989, has earned recognition and respect for his work in Hindi and Urdu speaking community in Auckland.

So far, he has published his books in Urdu/Hindi (Gharaunda Pyaar Ka) and a Punjabi (Satrang) book. He is also a regular writer for Urdu Hindi Cultural Association of New Zealand’s community magazine.

An electronics engineer by profession, Mr Bhagirath has also served as Board of Trustees Chairman at Fairburn Primary School and Otahuhu College for nearly 20 years.

Recently, The Indian Weekender met up with him to find out more about his work and life. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

IWK: Tell us about the honour that you have recently received in Brisbane.

Shiv Bhagirath: I became the eighth inductee into Indoz’s Hall of Fame on June 8, 2017. I received this award for my work in Hindi and Urdu ghazal writing. I feel very humble and thankful to be honoured with this recognition.

IWK: How and when did you start writing and what inspired you to write ghazals?

SB: There are two types of ghazal writers. One is those who are naturally born. And second is those who study to become a writer. Then these writers also write two types of poetry. First is what relates to the visible world and the other one is that relates to the invisible (un-drisht) world.

I am one of those natural born writers who write about the invisible world. Ghazal writing is in my blood as I come from a family of ghazal writers where my grandfather, father and my brother were all ghazal writers. I can also write songs but I specialise in ghazals.

IWK: When did you realise that you had that writer in you?

SB: I started writing from very young age as it was in the family only. Whenever I read my ghazals to my father, he always said “tawazun ghat hai” meaning it lacks balancing/focus. And I spent next 28 years of my life finding that focus/balance. But later, on his deathbed, my father told me that the 'tawazun' was always there from day one. 

So, it was an awakening and realisation for me and when now wherever I go and sing my ghazals, I feel as if I am singing it to my father.

IWK: When you first arrived in New Zealand, did you take up writing as a full-time profession?

SB: Ghazal writing is like samadhi or meditation and for me, the definition of meditation is immersing one’s self in something eternal. My mind and soul are emotionally wedded with ghazal writing. You don’t need time, place and comfort to write ghazal. Many of my ghazals were written while I was doing something else. And so I write on whatever piece of paper I find.

After coming here, I worked as an electronics engineer. The highest achievement of my career as an engineer was that I installed the navigational light at the Power Centre 2 at the runway 1 of Auckland Airport in 1993.

I have worked in various fields. I am a professional truck driver. I also have the pilot license to fly a helicopter. I have a diploma in finance. I graduated from Guru Nanak Dev University and was the topper in Public Administration, Political Science and English in 1981.

IWK: How many ghazals have you written so far?

SB: I haven’t counted them yet. But I have A3 sized scrapbooks at my house filled with ghazals. I can say they would have nearly 1500 ghazals. It is a count for only those that are numbered. But there are several unnumbered writings too which I would write on the backside of phone bill or any other piece of paper, for which I don’t have any count.

IWK: You are known for a special dedication that you presented to Manmeet Alisher, the young bus driver that was burned to death in Brisbane. How did you come up with that creation?

SB: At that time, I was in Auckland. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to present that writing to Manmeet’s father in Brisbane. When I met him I realised that our griefs and worries are nothing compared to what their family had to go through.     

As a shayar, I felt that as if someone very close to me, my love was burned. And I wrote what I felt at that time.

“Ajj meri awaaz de tukde tukde hogaye,

Khambaa’n de parwaaz de tukde tukde ho gaye

ik paagal jehi teeli jali,

janooni bhambarh mach geya,

cheesa’n cheekaa’n ubhriyaa’n,

sog maatam mach gaya

ik sajjar rutt sawer nu,

ik ghupp haner dass geya,

duniyaa de ron dhon ch

mera yaar moya khapp geya

Manmeet jehe pukhraaj de tukde tukde ho gaye

Ajj meri awaaz de tukde tukde ho gaye

Khambaa’n de parwaaz de

tukde tukde ho gaye”

IWK: What would be your advice to aspiring writers?

SB: My belief is to not give others something that you would never take when given to you. To all those who are already writing or want to write, I want to say, whatever you write just think if you would be comfortable for your daughter or sister or mother to listen to it.