Spatiotemporal heterogeneities

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Two things for this year

As usual, we begin with caveats, apologies, and excuses for being horribly erratic with posts - that is not to say that there are teeming millions blocking internet traffic, vying for moments, scratching each other's eyes out, trying to read this blogspot; but one still flatters oneself with an apology - if not anything else it's a personal one. Hee, hee! So I am sorry. 2, 3, 5,7, 11,13,17,19, 23,... (for from 'Contact' we learn that prime numbers are the only way you establish contacts with alien intelligent life-forms, about whose existence you aren't sure! ;-)).

Okay, this necessitates another apology - for though I never make resolutions just because the earth has gone round the sun once more (starting at some arbitrary reference point - the Gregorian calendar - for all points are quite equivalent), if I were to make one, as our present culture seems to demand, it'd be that this 2007 I'll entirely give up the facade of carefully cultivated bored condescension (eg. read the last paragraph, and in the very improbable case you missed it last time 'round, you'll surely see it lurking there). Yet it's largely unjustified - okay, maybe one can solve certain simple differential equations, have a bit of a green thumb growing stuff, and enjoy spawning endless webs of mindless sophistry, and so on and so forth - but that hardly makes a remotely worthwhile case for a patronising attitude. It's slightly laughable, and I loathe the idea of laughing at myself. ;-) Which is why, here I am, this last day of the old year, putting up old knowledge on the blog. Ill-said, but probably necessary. See it's like this. Despite all my pretenses otherwise, I never was a great guy for poetry. It's true, I grew up discussing Nobonita Debsen and Shokti Chattopadhyay with Anirban in class IX, made a reasonable translation of Tennyson's Ulysses in X, put in the annotations for Rony and Arijit's obscure stuff in XII - but then, it's a phase that you live through - and then you either have it or you don't. I probably don't. But it rankles me. Let alone have spontaneity myself, I can't even appreciate most poetry. And then there'd be eye-openers - certain people would render the print so perfectly that it gives you goosebumps. Suddenly things will take on new meanings you never thought was hiding there, or suddenly you identify with a bit, and it all makes sense. I think of my mom's rendition of 'Aafrica', or Suman's 'Aat bochhor aager ekdin', or Aakash spouting John Donne. All those separated by so many years. And I'm a bit bothered on all these occasions. I feel that I have to take it from one language and put in another. That was not just a literary urge - for always it's been somehow significant to me, or to one of my friends. So I churn out poetry only under the most severe kind of stress, otherwise I make do with translations. Of course, on most occasions, they end up on the back of prosaic notebooks (anonymity of the public place), and then in due time are lost. No great loss to humanity, but because some of them made such a lot of sense, I thought it might be nice to keep some of them. Today in a last act for this year, I put a couple of them here. I owe an apology to my buddies for whom these were originally translated (though they hardly ever saw them), and maybe you'll see yourselves there, but regard it a part of the most-people-are-more-than-wise-enough-to-deserve-to-know campaign. I'd be glad if it makes any sense to somebody, and if it doesn't - well, too bad, I guess - I always was a fool. ;-) Both were done about three years ago, when both the world and I were so much more younger, and hence more touchy. It's not really intensely personal or anything, and anyway, 2006 has primarily been a year of detached objectivity, and we observe everything (everything) with a blissful, seemingly silly, but actually wise smile (no raised eyebrow though). That seems to me to be the sum of all spiritual philosophy.

Whatever! Anyway, a word on the two poems. 'Aat bochhor aager ekdin' is by Jibonanondo Das - considered one of the greatest Bengali poets of the post-Rabindranath era. He sort of is a transition poet, between more romantic traditions (the beauty of the Bengal country) and modern utilitarianism ("Priyo phul khelibaar din noy odyo..." (SM)etc.) - so he has a bit of both. I haven't read a lot of him - and most of what I have somehow seems to feature owls - his favourite kind of bird, I guess. And no, I never ever felt too suicidal, but just the way Suman rendered it, made all the philosophy of it stand out stark - awe-inspiring, and (then) a bit scary. But I love it still. The second one is 'Bojhapora' by Rabindranath Thakur, himself. The thing about this gentleman is that, his poetry is a bit like onions, as they say (hope that was not irreverent) - layers upon layers. I had heard/read it thousand times before, and indeed it was kind of very old-school cliched stuff, then suddenly one day all of it made new sense again, necessitating a translation.

I apologise for the quality of the translations - the fact that it sounds so forced in bits - but I have tried to keep it literal, not just philosophical, tried to preserve the rhyme-schemes, down even to the punctuation. So forgive me. Particularly for the modern 'Aat bochhor aager ekdin' with it's uneven, rugged feel, and lines of hugely varying number of syllables. Now if you have read so far, past all the verbiage to discourage the casual reader (;-)), read 'em - for though the English is infantile, but the spiritual content is worthwhile, I think.


A Day Eight Years Ago (Aat Bochhor Aager Ekdin – Jibonanondo Das)


And thus it came to be known

To the morgue he had gone;

Yesterday – in the dark Spring night

The young moon had set

When he felt this need for death;

His wife was by him – the child too;

And love was there, and hope – moonlight – yet he saw

What specter? What broke his sleep?

Or hadn’t he slept for long – now in the morgue he slumbers deep.

Was this the sleep he wanted!

Blood frothing at lips like a rat of plague

In a dark corner of this stinking den

He sleeps, never to wake again.

‘…will never wake again

To know deep pain

The incessant – incessant weight

He didn’t have to take - ’

This was said to him

After moonset – in the strange dim

Near his window, like a camel’s neck

A silence did to him beck.

Yet the Owl wakes;

And the diseased old Frog begs,

“Two more moments pray – for the warm love of a new day.”

I perceive lost in the herded darkness

Beyond the heartless barricading nets each side,

The mosquito wakes in his black world and loves the flow of life.

From blood and rotting flesh, flies fly into the sun,

Flying in the golden beams I have seen their fleeting run.

What life like an intimate sky

Over their minds hold sway;

Throes of the ‘hopper – refusing to die

In the hands of the child at play;

Yet when the moon sank, in the primal dark

To the Peepul you went, some rope in hand, all alone;

The life that belongs to the bird and bug – Man does never meet,

In this knowledge.

The Peepul bower

Didn’t creak in protest? Fireflies, like golden flower,

Didn’t in throngs shower?

The ancient blind owl didn’t say,

‘Old man moon’s gone for the day?


Let’s catch some mice now!’

This profound message the owl didn’t convey?

This taste of life – smell of ripening corn in an autumn even’ –

Even this for you was burden;

In the morgue your heart found peace

In the morgue – in clammy heaps

Like a crushed rat, your bloody lips.

Yet listen

To this dead man’s tale –

In the love of a woman he didn’t fail;

No wants he knew

No desires of a married life left due.

Beyond time, pleasures of the mind and sinew,

This all he knew;

In pangs of hunger, pains of cold

This life did never cry

That’s why

In the Postmortem room

He lies on the table of doom.

I know – yet I know,

A Woman’s Heart – Love – Progeny – a Home – is not all;

Nor Wealth, nor Achievement, nor a will to prosper –

Some other hurt and helpless wonder

Plays the blood in our veins

And tires out all other sense,

Tired – oh so tired;

To the Postmortem room

That Fatigue can never come nigh;

That’s why

In the Postmortem room

He lies on a table of doom.

Yet wonders, every night I see,

The old blind owl on the Peepul tree

Blink his eyes and say,

‘Old man moon’s gone for the day?


Let’s catch a few mice now –‘

O old grandma, even today a wow?

Even I’ll get old as you – and send the moon away

To his death the end of day;

By the time we end our strife, we’ll empty the vast reserves of Life.


Dealings (Bojhapora – Rabindranath Thakur)

(done: 11-12/05/04)

Tell your heart today, ye fool,

Things may turn for better or worse,

The truth you take easy and cool.

All weren’t made as you, nor were you made like all,

Someone pushes you to death, you cause ‘nother’s downfall!

Yet why this tug-of-war, now that you think of it?

Reach out ye hand real earnest, peace you’ll find quite a bit.

Sweet is the morning light, despite all blue’s the sky,

When Death comes sudden I find – I’d rather live than die.

The one for whom I closed my eyes, and let oceans of tears shed,

Even without him I see, the World-beautiful doesn’t end.

Tell your heart today, ye fool,

Things may turn for better or worse,

The truth you take easy and cool.

After many storms at sea, you found this harbour of peace;

There were rocks in the water, hurt hard your hearty bliss.

For the moment your ribs quaked, and cried out at the fateful run

- But is that like reason enough to pick a fight with everyone?

If you can, stay afloat, that’d be the best for this round;

If that be too much to ask, just sink without a sound.

This is nothing fantastic, a rather simple thing to be;

Where all worry the least, that’s when ships sink at sea.

Tell your heart today, ye fool,

Things may turn for better or worse,

The truth you take easy and cool.



Blogger i149 said...

my dear old boy, as always, i am delighted to read/hear your views.. verily, in this blog, you have transcended yourself..

11:30 AM  
Blogger Aparna Ray said...

hello, do you have the entire poem bojhapora? Do complete it then!

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anupama said...

too good!

10:17 PM  

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