Poetry of Jibananda Das, translated by Fakrul Alam
ALL AFTERNOON LONG All afternoon long I saw Bashir inside the paddy field. All through the afternoon the skeleton of that three-storied red brick building Besides the paddy field was being set up. (Everything is turning urban!) Who owns that building? Why is it being built? In the minds of the birds perched on this shore in fading evening light, Or unlike the birds, or the boatmen in the boats plying here or the other shore With their usual outcries, The blue sky looked on impassively, its mind vacant. In my dream at night, I saw Kolkata’s tram company getting ready to be here as well. Bashir’s bullocks twain out in this day’s sun look for a break As domesticated quadrupeds of the world will. Which country’s what animals’ and which tribes’ sketches will they resemble In becoming museum tales for the high-born and in being immortalised? The truths about them will be lost steadily! And yet in this land of museums, in the soundless but open room of one of them, Could it be they would go up in flames without making civilisation any poorer Despite its stupendous piston? Here the only story everyone still knows is of the jackdaw and the fairy tale princess, Shankhamala! There are innumerable bird, nests and eggs on treetops here but still they haven’t been able to build this day a scientific poultry shop!
(These translations are from Jibanananda Das: Selected Poems with an Introduction, Chronology and Glossary, translated by Fakrul Alam, published by The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1999. Republished with permission from the original publisher.)
Jibonanada Das (1899-1954) was a Bengali writer, who now is named 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.”
Fakrul Alam is an academic, translator and writer from Bangladesh. He has translated works of Jibanananda Das and Rabindranath Tagore into English and is the recipient of Bangla Academy Literary Award (2012) for translation and SAARC Literary Award (2012).
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