- Hey, do you have parents?
- Both dead?
- Are you alone?
- what do you do?
- how much do you get every day?
- 20 paisa. 30 paisa.
- is that enough?
- What do you eat?
- how much did you make today?
- i haven’t begged today
- didn’t feel like
- feeling sick?
- Nice shirt. Chains and all! did you buy it?
- Did anyone give it?
- Where did you get it from?
- The drain
- and the pant?
- mom gave this
- Saw your mom die?
- what happened?
- she was sick
- where did she die?
- there. there.
- what was her name?
- And dad’s?
- Ever seen your dad?
- Mom told his name?
- how long back did he die?
- many days
- what’s your age? Seven?
- many days.
- Are you sick?
- Do you feel any pain?
- Can you sleep?
- Where do you sleep?
- On this rug?
-If it rains?
- Let it
- do you dream?
- can you recall?
- did you dream your mom?
- yes, once
- can you recall?
- how’s your shit?
- hard and sticky
- heard of Jyoti Basu?
- Indira Gandhi?
- Shakti Chattopadhyay?
- Uttam Kumar?
- I don’t know Uttam Kumar
- Never seen a movie?
- Where does the sun rise from?
- Here, there, everywhere!
- Do you know the name of your country?
- This, the land, the soil where you are sitting?
- BT Road
- Aren’t you scared?
- Of no one?
- I’m scared of the police
- You didn’t beg today. So, what did you eat?
- That pipkin of curd
- The one there that the shop has thrown away?
- So, you scraped the curd stuck inside?
- You know that dog?
- Yes, it is my dog!
- Your dog?
- My mom used to take care of it
- What’s its name?
- Robi. Oi Robi – Ooss. Ooss.
- Remember what I asked you first?
- ‘Do you have parents?’
- One of your eyes is huge and red – do you know this?
- Don’t you look at mirrors?
- Looked at one long ago
What’s your name?
Bangla text first published by Tarzan Minibook – 11 in 1980 and reproduced by Ripan Arya through his facebook profile on 21st January 2015
halhed! halhed! i sing for you
the sun is true and the moon is blue
your ghost flies from Portugal
and sails straight to Bally Khal
yours be the ship, admiral
shagor awthoi, TalmaTal
ratri awthoi, TalmaTal
yours be the oar and yours be the hull
your grammar book is the greatest thing
since Icarus and his wing
firang nam upkar arth
mirth takes birth on worthy earth!
you're so beautiful that love seems to be the running force of life
you fighting for the world
it's like Turgenev's mom-sparrow fighting for her baby
like light rising from darkness
like blind soldiers seeing the source of light
unlike mooby hairy bald pervs quoting Russian literature for you and thinking of you as Margarita
unlike moobier hairier perver pervs selling faith for votes
Adonis goes hunting with Angulimala
many houses burn within a radius of 100 kilometers
my love is so selfish that it romanticises fire and hates real flames
i'd rather look at photographs of you fighting for the world to come together and sing,
think that things are all in place in the universe
despite knowing that the construct of balance is elusive
and knowing that some people will forever walk the world
and see how the coldest, softest moment of the night turns blue in the sky in a few whiles
and see how mom-sparrows go out to fight for their babies
and see how the warmest, softest moment of the day turns blue in the sky in a few whiles
and see how mom-sparrows come back to fight for their babies
the house where i had stayed from birth till high-school ended had an occasional readhead Krishnachura swaying a headful of flowers in the green rain beside the window that opened to the South and an occasional orange-head Radhachura swaying a headful of flowers by the one that opened to the North
by the time i came to know that all trees are hermaphrodites they weren't there
but poetry with endless blue skies rolling overhead and words filling a few blank spaces up and all blank spaces wrapping words up - have always been there and so have memories of a couple of Bangla poets who would look at the skies and at the streets and feel hermaphrodite
the streets took one of them
life took the other
and poetry took both
it's like that, something taking in the binaries and the void - love is
and then, the roads are always thirsty and none of them lead to anywhere specific,
except for people who believe in battles, and for fools and philosophers
and for the moon behind the mirror
and for all lamps that flicker
and for the uneasy relationship between storms and nests
and for the easy relationship between the sea and the seagulls
and for the relationship between fishes and the water where ease and diseases flow by, like life, like Eliot's women for Prufrock and Yeats' horsemen passing by
unlike mooby hairy bald pervs quoting English literature to feel good about loving you,
the transparent cold of death wraps eyes of fishes
i have seen them staring at blank spaces from the other side of highly polluted slabs of ice
and in Lorca's city there's everybody asleep
and Pagla Meher Ali screams: 'Beware!'
and flames of devotion burns the sages
and hot streets burn musafirs
in the city the times are harsh. they sing songs of Lalan with greed for fame
and five odd timid stars sing and dance their carnival of sadness out in the five star sky of a dead poet's novel, their sadness melts in cheap cosmetics of sweaty, beautiful women from the streets, along their sweaty necks down their flabby flaneur-fleshes - i call them Shujata and think of them as mercy
April is mostly a cruel month in any case
Even sparrows don't talk much and crickets don't sing much in April cities.
But i'd rather think of the void and be happy
I'd rather look at a photograph of you fighting for the songs and for the baby-songs and think that there is something called balance and that the universe is in perfect balance now
and be happy
you're so beautiful that love seems to be mom-sparrows and baby-sparrows singing songs and baby songs of life
And so on
(Or like Mr. Wren or Mr. Martin had once written in their book of grammar:
This was in the 13th century. 5 centuries had passed since Shankaracharya had plagiarised the Buddhist treatises on Nagarjuna's Madhyamika from his guru Gaudapa and had his forces turn the guns against the sanghas, monasteries and koumos of the Bhikkhus. Vijay Sen had risen from the Barracks of the last Pala kings of Bengal and had set everything on fire. The Brahmins established their rule over the feudal gentry. There was much blood.
The bhikkhus had to save their wisdom. Many took it with them and went to the hills. Tibetan Buddhism had kept the gods of Vajrayana that had, till the 10th century, prevailed in Bengal. A few of them became the Nath Sidhyacharyas, and a few wrote the Charya songs in crypted texts and in a misty language that was to become Bangla and Assamese of today. The ancestors of the adherents, and also many of the 'pa' wizards like Dombipa and Shabaripa were, before the advent of Bodhidharma, from the lower castes and the tribes. Their gods were all there too.
But the Brahmins were making fast inroads. The monasteries had to be converted to Maths. The monastery in the hills had fallen to them and had become the temple of Badri. The one by the Ganges had fallen and had become the temples of Kashi-Vishwanath. The one in Puri belonged to the Shabar (Soro) people. The wooden god of the Shabars was captured by ugly, powerful people who came to the sea with chariots. The thunder-scepter of Heruk was burning and so was the lyre of White Tara. The Hor people of the eastern wilderness, who are the Santhal people lost their king Adisur/Adur to Durga. Today the east has been tamed by 'civilization' almost in entirety
Nalanda stayed up for a while. Scholars like Tilopa, Naropa, Milerapa et al had managed to hold Nalanda for a while, aided by the heritage and legacy of Atish Dipankara, who had moved from the soft plains of Dhaka Bikrampur, had taken the long hard journey across snowy peaks and killer passes to Tibet with the words of Bodhidharma in the 10th century AD, and had stayed over as Chiyo Rimpoche - one of the initiators of Tibetan Buddhism. But, before long, Nalanda wore off. The Brahmins were mighty and scary.
Then came the 13th century. A period of anarchy, one demarcated as the 'Dark Ages' of Bengali Literature by all the Hindu Indian Nationalist Bengali post-partition scholars from West Bengal. Established scholars from East Pakistan like Mohd. Shahidulla had chosen to maintain stoic objectivity.
So, in the 13th century, the Brahmins kept getting stronger and stronger, and then, one day, Bakhtiyar Khalji rode down to Bengal. Suddenly, the people who were being browbeaten back to the caste system by the Kulin Brahmins found some hope in the anarchy. The poem Niranjan-er-Rooshma by Ramai Pundit tells a beautiful tale of resistance against the Brahminical exploitation by the people of Jajpur. He had to tell it in a tad cryptic form. Thank goodness for that, or else it would surely have been burned in course of the eight centuries that have followed!
Here's the poem:
The plaintiff is from Jajpur, Sol Shah’s family has read the Vedas He asks, why this tax? The harlot goes to the South, can’t find a home She curses the earth to ashes More taxes in district Malda, everyone has to pay Nets can’t tie the sides up! They are strong, they gather in handfuls They destroy SadDharma
Vedas spelled out, flames circle up and gather thick Saw and trembled in fear Deep meanings held in mind, all say to keep Dharma Who but you can be the salvation?
Thus the Brahmins wrecked everything And injustice grew strong
Dharma, who stayed in paradise got the sign and all darkness became Maya Dharma turned Muslim, he donned a black cap, He rode the three barreled cannon and arrived – the three worlds began to quake in the name of Khuda Niranjan, formless, became Avesta-avatar And spoke of the Dum, his words had the Dum All the gods became one in mind and got the Izar of Ananda Brahma became Mohammad, Vishnu became Nooh Adam became Shiva Ganesh became Ghazi, Kartik became Quazi All the sadhus became fakirs Narad threw his disguise away and became Sheikh Indra became Haji Malna The other gods like Chandra and Surya became footsoldiers And they all started making music!
Devi Chandika, herself she turned into Haya Bibi Padmavati became Bibi Noor All the gods became one in mind And entered Jajpur!
And thus the war began The temples were smashed, the prosceniums were looted Sounds filled the sky: ‘catch ‘em bastards!’ Ramai Pundit holds the vessel of Dharma and sings: “THERE IS MUCH ANARCHY!”
I don't know where the Jajpur mentioned here is situated. It must have been a site of incredible anarchic resistance against the upper-castes! Jajpur is also the name of a district in Odisha. Kalinganagar, where Tata had unleashed much bloodbath on the night between the 1st and the 2nd of January, 2006, is situated in Jajpur.
From Jajpur to Jajpur, it all seems like a bloody straight ramrod!