Shirish Pai is credited with introducing haiku to the Marathi* speaking world.
Puja Malushte says in her paper presented at the 9th World Haiku Festival held at Bangalore (India) in February 2008, that Shirish Pai, a well known author and poetess is the precursor of the haiku movement in Marathi. She started writing haiku in 1975. She studied Japanese haiku, its origin, changes from tanka to haiku and its nature. She has published 5 Marathi Haiku books. She has also translated some Japanese haiku from English to Marathi. In these books she has given some articles regarding haiku and how to write haiku. These books work as a guide to new haiku writers. She hasgiven preface to a few haiku books of other haiku poets wherein she has outlined features of haiku. Thus, the credit goes to Shrish Pai to bring haiku to Marathi literature.
One evening, I met Smt Shirish Pai in her Shivaji Park residence along with Puja Malushte. Pai began by saying that Haiku is not a poem; it is a poetic wondering or a poetic exclamation. She said : Not all three line poems can become haiku. According to Pai, haiku is not a piece of thought- not even an expression of any feeling or emotion.
In the beginning she was writing haiku on nature only. When she began writing haiku in Marathi, haiku was not very much known widely; and people were making fun of haiku calling it derisively kaaiku (meaning why); even the great haijin Issa was referred to as gussa (meaning anger).
Pai remembers, with amusement, those writers who did not look upon haiku as anything great with any literary value, asking Pai as to why she was wasting time on pursuing haiku.
Shirish Pai was born in a famous literary family. For a long time Pai was the editor of an old established paper. Her father was renowned public figure, writer, journalist, poet, orator, educationist. He is the producer of the famous Marathi movie Shyamci aayi which won accolades and Presidential award.
Shirish Pai, who came into the literary world, following in the footsteps of her great father, recalled with sadness, that her father was not alive when she won name and fame for her haiku from the Marathi literary world.
She has now stopped writing any form of poetry and writes only haiku.
The sadness in the "caw caw" of the crow which comes and perches itself on the window can be shown in haiku- she says.
Someone who plucks flowers (with such force), plucks along with the flowers the buds as well. Pai mentions about the current scenario of violence against small girls in this context. If it is not a haiku (but a normal poem), this aspect can be explicitly told in so many words. Not in a haiku.
Pai recalls that the book of English translation of Japanese haiku presented to her by the well-known writer Vijay Tendulkar was the first step in her haiku journey; she was quite fascinated by that book. She read it again and again. She wanted to write haiku. She started writing. But she knew in her heart of hearts that what she wrote in the beginning was not haiku.
Sometime later, when she was alone watching nature in a garden and wondering with sadness as to why she was not able to write haiku, all of a sudden, her first haiku about the crow came into being.Thereafter, haiku came naturally to her - by itself, without any conscious effort on her part.
Pai says that one can not "compose" a haiku- definitely not with any laboured effort.Words, command over words and the usage of words - this is the basic requirement.Which word one uses, how it is used and where one uses it - this can make a haiku or kill a haiku. How one finishes a haiku is very critical to a haiku and this can, if not handled well, can spoil a haiku.
More than 50 books, many awards, accolades, invitations from all parts of Maharashtra to speak about haiku and to recite her haiku - all stand ample testimony to her standing out as an exceptional figure in the Marathi haiku world.
Over 83 years old, Shirish Pai does not much step out of her house, these days. She writes only haiku.
For those interested in haiku and want to write haiku, her advice is -
Read lot of Japanese haiku of the masters.
Read them again and again.
Realize for yourself how haiku is basically different from poetry and what are the elements of the difference. This should be felt and can be felt as you read more and more. Without reading the Japanese masters, you will never realize what haiku is. See how words are used and where they are used. Begin writing. See that your writing does not have even a single word which is not necessary.
Write again Keep writing.
Here are some haiku written by Shirish Pai ... Remember translation into English from the original Marathi takes its toll on the beauty of haiku.
The yellow butterfly lost in the yellow evening sun came alive in the shadow when I bent and saw.
On the windscreen of a speeding car, a tiny butterfly slowly came and sat quietly.
oh! such a mist
and so much
deep as the valley
each in a gusto
merging at a stream below
none in the dark—
raindrops ceaselessly tap
on the leaves
dust on the leaves
little butterflies saunter
in the silent wood
carry dust and dry leaves
and a butterfly
touch at the bushes
butterflies suddenly take off
leaving my garden
looking for something
a butterfly prances
in the mud and the street
talking to you
I see a butterfly
unaware of the whirr
of a butterfly above the head
a tomcat lazying in the sun
passing close by me—
do you know?
two butterflies fly away
as I near the bush
the delicate butterfly
and hurt the wings' hues
** Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language of the state of Maharashtra. There are 90 million fluent Marathi speakers worldwide. Marathi is the 4th most spoken language in India and the 15th in the world. Marathi has the oldest of the regional literature in the Indo Aryan languages. Marathi is estimated to be over 1300 years old.
My thanks to Puja Malushte - for this meeting - for helping me with, then and there, with equivalent English words on behalf of Shirish Pai