Saturday, March 25, 2017


Some people walk in the rain
Some people fear to turn crazy
We live in dark, crucial times
We live through criminal inheritance 
And then, in an empty, naked station
Feelings never felt make love
to dreams never dreamt

We don’t know what happens next
Maybe, the station does,
Maybe, the shivering trees do 
But we must know this, that,
One day, so much love will fill the world
That all the prisons will break

And people won’t be afraid anymore,
People won’t hate anymore.

The Tree by Ritwik Ghatak – (translated from Bangla short story 'Gatʃʰ'ʈi' by Ritwik Ghatak as was published in Abhidhara magazine, Year 1, Issue 2, 15th September 1947 (31st Bhadra, Bangla Year 1354))

Once, a banyan tree had leaned over a tiny river flowing through some distance away from a village. As a tree, there was nothing special about it.

The tree was very old. Insects had eaten its trunk, and all its branches had rotted up. In some forgotten, faraway past, it was all fresh, green and verdant. But now, it wasn’t. It was absolutely of no use.  Only the people, walking towards the village, knew of it – they knew that, beyond the next bend of the river lay ironsmith Haru Kamar’s bellow and chimney-laden workshop, and, beyond the workshop, the village would begin for good.

However, once a year, the tree would gloriously be honoured. This would be during the Chaɽak festival. Some people would polish a few of its roots with oil and smear them in vermillion. People would come from villages afar. The carnival would happen at the village field. Suddenly, the tree would become an object of envisioned attention. After that, once again, it would lie vapid for the rest of the year.  Cows would graze in the wastelands around. At times, some weary traveler from places far away would sit by its cold shade, eat dry puffed and pressed rice from their bags of cloth, drink water from the river and set out about their ways yet again.  On full moon nights, all alone by the vast field, the tree would create splendid lights and shadows on its own backyard, lie hovering down to conjure strange, unknown mystery, in dreams, through the ceaselessly flowing river waters.

The six seasons would pass by the head of the tree all the same. Little faces would peep out of awnings of the boats that would flow by along the river and stare at it in infinite curiosity.

Little boys would come and hang out by the bent-tree, play along its branches, dive into the river from the branches; they would bunk school and go there to squat around.

Thus, the villagemen would be going to the tree from their childhoods. Some would go during afternoons to sit at a spot where the roots, having arranged themselves in a complex pattern, had made a beautiful seat. They would sit there to hear the softly splashing river.

The fisherfolks there knew that there would be many small and big fishes stuck around its roots in the muddy waters. Their boys would go there to bathe and catch fishes with their gamchhas. Many fishes could be caught with nets also.

Even the old men knew of the tree. They would lean on its trunk, look at the playing boys, at the fishermen and, mentally, they would nod their heads. Perhaps they would be thinking of the evenings and nights of their lives.

But they themselves knew not how big a space this old fig tree had in their minds. They would think of it as the Banyan of Old Shiva (Bu’ɽo ʃi’bɛr Bɔʈ), and just that. It was forever there and so shall it forever be. There used to be a saying – ‘The banyan of old Shiva lies beyond Uncle Haru’s crossing’.

And, in all probability, it would have been there for quite a few more generations, and would have given shelter to many future travelers. But one day, all of a sudden and without any prior news, a new project was declared by the government. According to the new Plan of the present irrigation system, our river would have to be widened and would have to be made to carry more water than what it used to.

Suddenly, one day, after making much protest through many sharp and hard sounds, Bu’ɽo ʃi’bɛr Bɔʈ fell on earth. Both the shores of the ancient river got leveled and it was turned into a modern-style canal.

That night, the village awoke all at once. They had come to realise the value of the tree. Their minds were in much tumult. They made their dismay felt.

But their dismay did not go beyond mumbled whispers. The tree fell. Since then, the villagers began to slowly forget the banyan tree. New faces and new houses had come to be.  Only when the old people passed by the place, it would feel very empty to their eyes. Animated, they would tell tales of the tree to the new people – these were their tales on new development.

But this did not last for long. Memories of the fig tree that once had given shelter to many people have, over time, been erased away.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

মঞ্চে কুটিল হাসে

মঞ্চে কুটিল হাসে শোষক ইতিহাস
আলেয়ায় হাত আর পা তার বাঁধা
অনমনে গান গায় চামার রবিদাস
যমুনায় ভেসে গেল একাকিনী রাধা

মঞ্চে হাপুস কাঁদে ভুখমার ক্রম 
 কেউ কেউ খাবে বলে অনেকের খিদে 
পুঁজির ফাটলে জমে হৃতকায় শ্রম 
নিষাদ-শায়ক তার বুকে গেছে বিঁধে

মঞ্চে তুমুল নাচে হিংসার ধারা 
সূর্য্য অস্তে চলে নদী হয় লাল 
মঞ্চ ভাঙবে বলে আগুয়ান যারা 
জ্বলুক তাদেরই হাতে বাঁচার মশাল

Friday, March 3, 2017

'Shakuntala' by Saroj Dutta (Agrani Magazine, January 1940)

Tale of an angry sadhu’s curse,
of wisdom,  of the ring,
Splendid scenes of love –
All these falsities and rude deceptions
hide the tale of one
among countless women
at the altar of kings’ lust
And then, some court poet, putting his oblations unto
the fatal conspiracies about divinity – out he slandered in verse!

The girl’s man might have stayed in faraway places
Her hut might have borne ill the tides of life and the world
The king saw her, and gave up on his game
He didn’t need the deer’s meat anymore
He needed the woman’s meat.

He was bored of the monotony of endless sex with the courtesans
He wanted the girl from the wilderness
So, he seduced her

The theater is silent today
Oblations to the manes
Suddenly, the man, the master of this ceremony
He who must bow before the ghosts of dead ancestors
stunned by purple terror, he turns speechless!

cloud of verses torn apart! up rises the sun of truth!

The audience shudders at the moral of the story –
“Horny Hero Impregnates Heroine!”

The poet, who had lived by another king’s grace,
Wove the natya through art and craft.

The stage is dark. Shankuntala weeps on earth.