Friday, December 16, 2011

An Ode to ChNaad Sadagar

The moon is half dead and all the ships are sunk

Returning, like a squirrel in snow – watched closely by the stars,

You listen to the mountains as they sing out your grief

And you listen to the leaves as they chant out your cold wrath.

You are returning home now.

Aware of the inevitability of flesh,

With memories of the empire toppling before your eyes

and recollections of faces that haunt the pale shadow of your feverish dreams,

You feel like a spirit lost in the ancient forest –

trapped by oaks that stand like astute sentries;

You see the last gods departing from the realm which was yours once,

You hear the dirge of your fellow-losers,

You run from the frozen wind as it shoots sharp arrows at your withering ribs,

And you know that all is lost.

And you know that you, who had left home in search of gold,

who had ran wild through the seven seas like forest-fire,

who had sailed beyond where the light meets darkness,

who had the sun and the moon and the world by his side for a while –

had found what you sought to find,

and had gambled it all away.

You are returning home –

Naked, burnt and destroyed.

Were the stakes too high?

Did they draw faster than you?

A serpent raises its hood and hisses from inside your hollow,

and the night bleeds for you;

And, as you beat your retreat,


waiting, for the thunderbolts to strike you down,

and for all your hatred to engulf the world –

you reach a river – and you see a strange boat

that shall carry you across for a dime.

But you have no dime, and so you kill the boatman

and you row across to the other side –

to realize

that you have not lost.

It back comes to you – like a rapture that floods the veins of a dead man who springs up

from his grave and rushes to light –

the strength to live.

Now you know that you have nothing more left to lose

And you know that your children will grow up to become strong and brave –

And they will gamble once again.

And perhaps, they will win.

And thus, we carry the crosses of our fathers and mothers –

through the squall and the tides,

through a million dazzling strokes of lightning,

through visions of rainbow trapped doom,

through put out candles beside pianos,

through music choked off by gunshots,

through flowers eaten up by black insects,

through revolutions twisting the rubik’s cube time and again,

through hoisted skirts pulling us to the mark,

through silently suffering prisoners bound by blood and chromosome,

through greed, caprice and wisdom,

through toasts raised to the fervent mortality of being,

through the worship of instincts leading to pain and bodhi,

through the cobwebbed void in which we are doomed to keep on swimming,

and through the consummation of acceptance,

we carry them.

And we place our cards, just like our great ancestors did,

hoping to win.

If we win,

we raise the stake and we decide to deal once more.

And if we lose,

we hand out our burden to our children

dreaming of their future victory.

And our children do the same thing when their turn comes.

Chandradhar, I salute you –

Not because of your bravado or vanity,

But because you managed to pull your ace out when it mattered most.


unlike us,

you knew it while you were doing so.

The strange thing is that, in your case, your children actually managed to win.

But that is beside the point.


atindriyo said...

ChaaNd Sadagar (চাঁদ সদাগর) happens to be a folk hero from the poetic lore of MongolkabYo (মঙ্গলকাব্য) - a tradition which developed and flourished in Bengal in the period between the late 14th/early 15th Century to mid 18th Century AD.

He was a sailor who was said to have rebelled against snake Goddess Manosha (মনসা) and is the protagonist of the Manosha-Mongol (মনসামঙ্গল) poems, several versions of which survive today, including those by Kana Horidawtto (কানা হরিদত্ত), Biprodash Piplai (বিপ্রদাস পিপলাই), Narayan Deb (নারায়ণ দেব), Bijoy Gupto (বিজয় গুপ্ত), Ketaokadash Kshemanando (কেতকাদাস ক্ষেমানন্দ), Jibonkrishno Moitro (জীবনকৃষ্ণ মৈত্র) and Jawgojjibon Ghoshal (জগজ্জীবন ঘোষাল)

here's the original legend for those who care:

i have developed my poem from a certain portion of the legend, and i have made ample use of poetic license (i sincerely hope that i do qualify for one) to deviate from the original legend so as to construct a tenor, (if it may be called one that is) which is completely different from the theme of the original folklore as it exists in various narratives of the Manasamangal (মনসামঙ্গল) poetic tradition.

atindriyo said...

p.s. No one killed any boatman or crossed any river in the original Manosha-mongol.