A translation of Jibonananda Das’s “OOnishsho Choutrish” (1934) by Rakibul Hasan Khan
Jibonanada Das (1899-1954) was a writer from Bengal, who has now joined the pantheon as one of the greats. During his life he wrote beautiful poetry, novels, essays and more. He believed: “Poetry and life are two different outpouring of the same thing; life as we usually conceive it contains what we normally accept as reality, but the spectacle of this incoherent and disorderly life can satisfy neither the poet’s talent nor the reader’s imagination … poetry does not contain a complete reconstruction of what we call reality; we have entered a new world.”
Motorcar A motorcar Fills the mind with misgivings. A motorcar is always a thing of darkness, Though its name is the first Among the children of light In the bright streets of daylight And glowing gas lamps at night. It's a creature of the dark: In clear dawn light While walking past green corn fields I look at a motorcar in amazement And see a 1934 model -- Glimmering, causing a dust storm, Rushing on a red brick-built road Going underneath two hijal trees; Streets, fields and dew disappear. The morning light suddenly vanishes, Like a shy bride Faced with a contrary view, The field and river, as if, lifeless, Suddenly lose poise. This motorcar is a trailblazer, It's rushing in the direction Where everyone is supposed to be going; The course of a motorcar Fills the mind with misgivings, Just like darkness. In the stands Beside footpaths On the East and West sides of the city's main field Are motorcars; Soundless. Heads covered, Seats decorated and cavernous Steering wheels and headlights polished; Why are they so still? A tree of a Kolkata park is still as well But for other reasons; I too am still but for another reason; The stillness of a motor is for some dark reason It is a dark thing: In night's darkness, thousands of cars Dash past Paris-New York-London-Berlin Vienna-Kolkata On this and that shore of the sea Like myriads of wires, Like meteors of night, Like endless enigmas And with the endless resolve of men and women They also run But where they head to I don't know. The destination of a motorcar – a motorcar itself Has always been a mystery to me, It seems to move towards some darkness. I don't want to go anywhere so fast; I have the leisure to walk to wherever I want, The leisure to wait and lounge for a long time after reaching my destination. Let other people be excited About all kinds of amazing feats – I don't feel the need for them! I am a hopelessly outdated man In this new century Underneath the stars!
Rakibul Hasan Khan is an academic, poet, and translator. He is currently pursuing his PhD in English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. This translation was first published in Daily Star, Bangladesh.
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