Journeys with Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai
I saw myself, I was the
I made the world, I myself seek it
Travelling into the stark deserts of Kutch, I Saw Myself explores the contemporary presence of epic love legends of the region, such as Sohini-Mehar and Sasui-Punhu, brought to throbbing verse by the powerful eighteenth-century Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. As the authors travel to villages to meet folk singers and lovers of Latif’s poetry, immersing in sessions that stretch into the night, they unearth a unique, thriving love-soaked ethos in which the call to oneness rings out like a defiant manifesto for our divisive times.
Retelling epics along with other tales and historical events that created the field of experience from which Shah Latif’s poems sprang, I Saw Myself brings into English a selection of his finest poems. A spell is cast, of story and song, of metaphor and meaning. The insights that emerge are subtle, even startling, radical at times, solace-giving at others, but always deeply meaningful.
Title: I Saw Myself
Editors: Shabnam Virmani & Vipul Rikhi
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
About the Authors
Shabnam Virmani initiated the Kabir Project journeys in 2002 and has since been exploring the philosophy of Kabir and other mystics through a deep engagement with their oral folk traditions. Her inspiration and joy in this poetry and its wisdom has taken the shape of documentary films and a digital archive, songs and performances, translations and curations, urban festivals and rural yatras and more recently, infecting students with the challenge and wonder of mystic poetry. All this as part of her work at the Kabir Project in Srishti, Bangalore. Earlier she has worked on gender issues through journalism, video and radio work in the community.
Vipul Rikhi is a poet, translator and singer, immersed in the oral traditions of Kabir and other Bhakti and Sufi poets for years. He is the author of a novel, 2012 Nights, and a collection of poems, Bleed. He was a literature fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany in 2010-11. In the course of the magical journeys with the Kabir Project, he developed a deep love for singing mystic poetry in the folk music traditions and now performs widely. He is currently based in Goa.