We salute Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) for his inspirational writing and ideology. Here, we have attempted to translate/transcreate his songs while retaining the essence of the spirit and flavour of his lyrics.
The first song invokes for us the joy of losing oneself in an imaginary world that the poet revels in… the result of the creative stillness he experiences in his mind…
Losing myself... (A translation/transcreation of Kothao Amar Hariye Jawa Nei Mana, 1939) There is no bar to losing myself in an imaginary world. I can soar high on the wings of a song in my mind. Weaving fantasies into vast tracts of lands and unexplored oceans, I lose my path in the distant shore of quietude — I get acquainted with the champak blooms in the parul woods. When the sun sets, I gather flowers in the sky amidst the clouds. Mingling with the foam of the seven seas, I reach the shores of faraway lands — I knock at the closed doors of fairyland in my mind.
The creative stillness, or quietude, experienced by him takes the poet further into a perception of the world where he empathises with nature and feels the tides rush through his veins.
The Star-Studded Sky (A translation/transcreation of Akash Bhora, Shurjo Tara, 1924) The sky replete with sun and stars, the Earth brimming with life, In the midst of this universe, I have found my abode. Spellbound by the plenitude, songs awaken in my being. The infinite, eternal waves that create planetary tides Resonate through the blood coursing in my veins. As I walk to the woods, I step on the grass. Heady perfumes of flowers startle me into a rhapsody. Benefactions of joy anoint the universe. I have listened, I have watched, I have poured my life into the Earth. Through knowing, I have sought the unknown. Spellbound by the plenitude, songs awaken in my being.
The poet as a visionary perceives the world in a different way, breaking class and caste barriers — he embraces humanity of all strata with affection. Here is a song about a young girl called Krishnokoli, who worked in fields and lived among cows, unable to follow the traditions of oborodh or purdah like genteel women because she had to work.
Krishnokoli (A translation/transcreation of Krishnokoli, 1900) I call her Krishnokoli* though villagers call her dark. On an overcast day, I saw in a field, a dark girl with dark deer eyes. Her head was bare, her braid swung down her back. Dark? However dark she is, I have seen her dark deer eyes. The clouds closed in as two ebony cows lowed, The dusky girl came out of the hut with hurried, uneasy steps. She looked up with arched brows at the sky, heard the clouds rumble. Suddenly, a gust from the East gambolled a wave through the rice crops. Alone, I stood between the fields, there was no one else in the expanse. Did our glances meet? That remains a secret between her and me. Dark? However dark she is, I have seen her dark deer eyes. They remind me of the kohl-clouds that collect in the North-east each summer, Of the soft dark shadows that descend on the tamal grove when the rains start, Of the happiness that unexpectedly fills my being on a monsoon night. I call her Krishnokoli even if others call her by a different name. I had seen her in Moynapara meadows, a dark girl with dark deer eyes. She left her head uncovered as she had no leisure to be shy. Dark? However dark she is, I have seen her dark deer eyes. *Krishnokoli: An indigenous name of a flower in Bengal, also can be seen as associated with Krishna, the dark God. Koli in Bengali means bud.
Tagore wrote intense and non-intense songs, though his raphsodic connection with nature even tinge the lighter songs with a unique lyrical beauty. Here is a song that is often used to depict joie de vivre and plays beautifully on a piano as the tune borrows from the Scottish tune of ‘Ye Banks And Braes’. It is a part of a what is popularly known as a dance-drama, called Kal Mrigaya by the maestro himself. The story was based on an event from the Indian epic, Ramayana.
The Swaying Flowers ( from Phoole Phoole Dhole Dhole,1882) The flowers sway in the soft breeze. The river waves and gurgles as it flows. The birds in bowers trill a tune I cannot fathom the yearning that fills my being.
We wind up this section with the transcreation of a song written originally in Brajabuli, a dialect based on Maithali that was popularised for poetry by the medieval poet Vidyapati. Composed in 1877. it became a part of Bhanusingher Padabali in 1884. This song draws from the lore of Radha and Krishna.
Against the Monsoon Skies… (from Shaongaganeghorghanaghata, 1884) Against the monsoon skies, heavy clouds wrack the deep of night. How will a helpless girl go through the thick groves, O friend? Crazed winds sweep by the Yamuna as clouds thunder loud. Lightning strikes: the trees have fallen, the body trembles In the heavy rain, the clouds shower a downpour. Under the shaal, piyale, taal, tamal trees, the grove is lonely and quiet at night. Where, friend, is he hiding in this treacherous grove And enticing us with his wonderful flute calling out to Radha? Put on a garland of pearls, a shithi* in my parting, My odni* is flying as is my hair; tie a champak garland. Don’t go in the deep of the night to the youth, O young girl. You are scared of the loud clapping thunder, says Bhanu your humble server. *shithi: Ornament worn in the parting of the hair. *odni: A long stole or scarf
Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1941) was a brilliant poet, writer, musician, artist, educator – a polymath. He was the first Nobel Laureate from Asia. His writing spanned across genres, across global issues and across the world. His works remains relevant to this day.
(The first four songs have been translated/transcreated solely on behalf of Borderless Journal by Mitali Chakravarty with feedback from Sohana Manzoor, Meenakshi Malhotra and Vatsala Radhakeesoon. Krishnokoli was improved further with advise from Aruna Chakravarti. Only ‘Against the Monsoon Skies…’ was first translated by Mitali Chakravarty and published in SETU).
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