Categories
Tagore Translations

The Palmyra Tree or Taal Gaachh by Rabindranath

Taal Gaach or The Palmyra Tree was published as part of Shishu Bholanath (Child Bholanath) brought out in 1922. The poem has an inbuilt cadence and rhythm that flows like the sway of palmyra (commonly referred to as taal ) leaves in the breeze.

Taal Gaach, painting by Sohana Manzoor
THE PALMYRA TREE

The palmyra towers over all trees
Standing on one foot, it peeps
Into the sky.
It yearns to fly,
Piercing through dark clouds nigh 
But where will it find wings?
That is why, it thinks —
Leaves circling its crown
Are wings to float around.
To soar unhindered, free,
Leaving its home, it flees. 
The whole day, the foliage rustles,
Murmurs, susurrates and bustles. 
The tree imagines its flight, 
Drifting past stars in the sky, 
Towards a destination up high.
Then the breeze stalls.
The swish of leaves halts.
When it regards the loam
As its mother, its hearth.
It loves again its home, 
The nook on Earth. 

(This poem has been translated for Borderless Journal  by Mitali Chakravarty with editorial comments from Sohana Manzoor and Anasuya Bhar.)

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Tagore Translations

Tagore: ‘Take Me Back to the Edge of Civilisation’

Tagore empathised with the suffering of humankind. Out of it was born Sriniketan, a project that hoped to initiate a slow merger of differences and reduce human suffering. Ebar Phirao More (Take me back) was a poem he wrote in 1894 on the plight of villagers steeped in poverty, servitude and ignorance. Tagore regarded his ‘life work’ as that of restoring the dignity and the economy of villages, deftly showcased in Professor Uma Das Gupta’s A History of Sriniketan, Rabindranath Tagore’s Pioneering work in Rural Reconstruction. Here, we present to you a transcreation/ translation of the poem.

TAKE ME BACK

While the world moves busily
You play the flute, like a truant boy, 
Leaning under a shady tree on a field with 
The fragrance of the forest floating on 
A tired breeze. O, arise — there is a fire! 
Who plays the conch to awaken 
The world? Whose cries resound in space? 
What dark shackles imprison the orphan 
Asking for support? The burden of insults
heaped on the shoulders of the helpless 
sup of their blood. The self-centred 

Mock unjustly. Oppressed, scared slaves
Hide in disguise. There they stand with
Heads bowed, silent — centuries of pitiful
Exploitation written on their pallid faces.
As their shoulders are plied with growing
burdens, they move slowly till their last breath—
Then, their progeny inherit generations of this load.
They are not invisible, have no memory of criticism.
They do not blame humans, nor do they have pride.
They only look for a few grains of food to survive. 
When their food is snatched away, when they are 
Exploited, they do not know where to go for justice. 
They call out to the God of the poverty stricken, then
Die silently. These silent souls need to be given a 
Voice — their suffering souls have to be roused
With hope — a clarion call has to be given —
As of now, raise your heads, unite. The person
Who you fear is more of a coward than you. 
When you awake to confront them, they will flee. 
When you stand up to him, he will be terrified
To retreat, like a stray dog. In God’s court, 
He will have no support as swollen with 
False pride, he will know only contempt 
In his heart. 

   Poet, come forward — if you have only life,
Then get that with you, and dedicate that today. 
With immense pain, sorrow, the deprived
Suffer hardships, weakness, death and darkness. 
They need food to live, light to find the breeze of freedom. 
They need strength, health, a bright happy future
Courage, guts. Amidst this poverty, O poet, 
Inspire a vision of trust that creates a heaven. 
Imagination, I bid your colours to take me back 
To the edge of civilisation. Do not distract me with
The soft breeze, the waves and alluring illusions.
Do not let me stay steeped in lonely depression 
In the shade of a bower. Day ends. Dusk sets in. 
The direction is lost in darkness. The woods 
Cry In hopeless despair. I step out 
To be under the open skies, on the grey road that
Leads to the common man. Where do you go?
O traveler, I do not know you. Turn and look at me. 
Tell me your name. Do not distrust me. 
I have lived alone in this strange world 
For many days and nights. That is why my 
Garb is amazing. I am different — my eyes
Dream, my heart is hungry. When I returned to this world,
Why did you, o mother, give me this playful flute?
Over long days and long nights, mesmerised by
My own tunes, I have wandered far from the 
Limitations imposed by civilisation. If the tunes that
I have learnt can inspire with exultation the 
Music-less exhausted, if even for a moment, my 
Music can instil life—giving hope in the lives of the 
Hapless, if touched by the manna from heaven
they voice their sadness, the sleeping thirst is 
Roused from deep within — then my song will be 
Blessed, my dissatisfaction appeased to find nirvana. 

What is sung or heard? Happiness are lies.
Sorrows are lies. A self-centred individual 
has not learnt to live in a larger world. 
With Truth as the guiding star, run fearlessly,
Dancing in unison with the waves of cosmic life. 
There is no fear of death. The tears of poverty
Will rain on my head — in the midst of that,
I will go for a tryst with the person to whom 
I dedicate my life forever. Who is that? I do not know —
I only know this— that he is the wayfarer through ages
Trudging in the darkness of the the night, amidst 
Thunder and lightening, carrying a flickering lamp.
I only know he has heard the invocation and fearlessly 
Come to help the needy, rejecting civilisation’s dictates,
He has embraced the cries of the tortured to his heart
Like a favourite tune. Burnt by flames, 
Pierced by spears, pieced by an axe, he has 
Gathered all his belongings and 
Sacrificed all his desires through his life —
He has shredded his heart as an offering
With devotion for the repayment of his birth. 
He has given up his life to serve the masses. 
Influenced by him, the prince wears rags,
Disgusted with his wealth, akin to a beggar. 
The great soul tolerates all tortures and derisions. 
The intellectuals sneer in disbelief. 
Loved ones mock at him. Close acquaintances are
Contemptuous while he silently forgives them all
with his merciful eyes. He is incomparable and

Beautiful. For him, the proud have forsaken 
Their pride, the rich their wealth, the brave 
Their lives. For his ideals, the poet has written 
Poetry and spread it across the globe. I know 
Praise for him is whispered by the breeze, 
The seas. Paeans sung by dear ones soar 
Across the land and the vibrant blue skies
To celebrate his victory, perfection, love 
And kindness. I just know that he will
Sacrifice his own petty needs for the love of 
Humankind. He will transcend all insults.
He will stand with his progressive head held high.
Fearlessness is inscribed across his forehead.
The dust of slavery has not contaminated him. 
Internalise him. Move forward alone 
On the thorny path of life, wipe away precious 
Tears, face sorrows with patience, 
Work relentlessly to please. When weary, 
Worn with exhaustion at the end of the long 
Journey of life, there will be an abode of 
Peace and contentment. The celestial will 
Smile and garland the devotee. At this abode, 
There will be peace, relief from all grief, 
All misfortune. Tears will cleanse all 
Past anguishes. Embroidering hope, 
Plead for mercy for life’s disabilities. 
Maybe, the despondencies will dwindle and
Eternal love will quench life’s thirsts for ever. 

(The poem has been translated for Borderless Journal  by Mitali Chakravarty with editorial comments from Anasuya Bhar.)

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
World Poetry Day

Imagine…

And as imagination bodies forth 
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen 
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing 
A local habitation and a name. 

-- Midsummer Night's Dream (premiered 1605)by William Shakespeare

Imagine… if words could weave a world in harmony! Perhaps… then as Shakespeare declared and more recently John Lennon wrote in his song ‘Imagine’ (1971), we might have constructed a new world…

In hope of the same perhaps, Nazrul had published his poem, ‘Bidrohi‘ or the rebel a hundred years ago, a few months before TS Eliot published Wasteland, again a poem raising humane concerns and reinforcing values post the First World War. More recently Akbar Barakzai who has passed on at the start of this month, wrote about a better world in his poem, ‘We are all Human‘. And yet we have a war …

In response to the war, we have modern voices that ring out in harmony, including the voice of a Ukranian refugee. In reaffirmation of a world that can transcend divisions created by human constructs and soar in a virtual world, we also present to you interviews of half-a-dozen poets.

From the Treasury

Rebel or ‘Bidrohi’: Nazrul’s signature poem from 1922, ‘Bidrohi, translated by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

A Special Tribute

We are All Human by Akbar Barkzai, translated by Fazal Baloch, has been published as not only a tribute to the poet who left us forever on 7/3/2022, but also as his paean to humanity to rise about differences which lead to war and horror, to unite us as one humankind. Click here to read.

War, Peace and Poetry

Poetry from across the world in support of peace and voicing concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, we have Ukranian Lesya Bakun give us poetry as a war victim, a refugee. Rhys Hughes, Ron Pickett, Michael R Burch, Kirpal Singh, Malachi Edwin Vethamani, Suzanne Kamata, Mini Babu, Sybil Pretious and Mitali Chakravarty have contributed poetry written for the Ukraine crisis. Click here to read.

Poets across Borders

Half-a-dozen poets from different continents tell us about their poetry. The poets include Ryan Quinn Flanagan, George Freek, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal, Ihlwha Choi, Sutputra Radheye, Anusuya Bhar. Click here to read.

Categories
A Wonderful World

Poets beyond Borders

In Conversation with Ryan Quinn Flanagan, George Freek, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal, Ihlwha Choi , Sutputra Radheye, Anasuya Bhar

We surfed virtually around the globe to gather half-a-dozen poets for the lovely lines they write to ask them what makes them write as such. We start from the top of the cold frozen north to travel down to warmer climes where birds and bees have started singing tunes of a vibrant spring. Meet some of the moderns who contribute towards a world undivided by manmade constructs...  

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online. He is truly prolific and his poetry endears as you read it repeatedly. Click here to read a poem by him.

Why do you write poetry?

Writing, particularly the physical mechanism, has always been something I enjoyed.  It is a solitary act that I derive great enjoyment from.  To be able to sit down and create something seems a wonderful thing to me, regardless of medium.  I love fine art as you know, but cannot paint.  Writing is my music, my form of painting I guess.  It is a great release as well.  To be able to create and express as I wish is the ultimate freedom.

What is your poetic process? 

I may have a few rough notes and ideas/titles, but nothing really fleshed out.  I get up and never shower on a writing day.  I don’t know why, but it seems to get me in the right head space.  Then I listen to the same music and eat the same thing I have for years.  For writing days, that is oatmeal.  Then I head upstairs and sit down to write with some wine.  I tend to put on some classical music so that my voice is the only one, but I can still zone out to the musicality of what is playing.  I tend to do that for about six hours at a time.  That is the same writing process I have followed for years now. 

Do you believe in inspiration and the Muse? Or is it the sweat of your brow alone?

I most definitely believe in inspiration and the Muse.  That is why I repeat the same processes, to put myself in the right inspirational mood or be ready for the Muse or whatever you wish to call it.  I believe that things are created in a certain time and space and once created, belong to that specific time and space.  You can never really return to that exact place, but you can look back on it through the work for sure.  Other things are then created in a whole other head space and the process continues.  Sweat of the brow or hard work is also important though, not only in creation but in submissions, building and assembling, as well as editing books.  There is a lot of work that goes into everything, so hard work must be there to compliment any inspiration that may come.

Do you think what can be said in poetry can be said in prose too?

I think so.  I don’t really differentiate between poetry and prose that much.  It’s all a voice and time and expression to me, so whatever way it chooses to come out is not overly importance to me.  For me, it is much more to get it out instead of caring much about how or why.  And to enjoy the mechanism while doing so.

George Freek is a poet and playwright living in Illinois. His poetry and plays have been widely published. His plays have been performed by the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, the Changing Scene in Denver, and the Organic Theatre in Chicago, among others. He has also received grants from the Illinois Arts Council and The National Endowment for the Arts. His poetry is modelled often after Chinese poets of the Tang and Song dynasty. Click here to read his poem.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because it’s the form that best suits my thoughts and feelings.

What is your poetic process?

The process begins with the need to express an emotion. Then it’s work to find the appropriate “objective correlative” in T.S. Eliot’s words.

Do you believe in inspiration and the Muse? Or is it the sweat of your brow alone?

I don’t necessarily believe in “Inspiration” unless that means simply the initial urge to express the emotion or the thought. After that it’s mostly work to make it sound right and unpretentious and yet avoid banality.

Do you think what can be said in poetry can be said in prose as well?

I think my response to your last question is included in my first statement. If something can be expressed in prose, it’s not poetry, although there is some prose which has the quality of poetry, e.g. Joseph Conrad!

Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal is a Mexican-born author, who resides in California and works in the mental health field in Los Angeles. He is prolific and often his poetry shuttles is enriched by his ability to assimilate varied cultures into one lore. Click here to read his poetry.

Why do I write poetry?

I write poetry because I like to read it. In the many years I have been reading poetry, I continue to find new writers, some no longer in this world. These writers have influenced my work over the years. I write poetry because I enjoy writing it. Sometimes I write personal poetry. It is a sort of catharsis. It is a way describing how I am feeling about myself, about others, and about the world. Sometimes I write nonsense and rubbish, which I try to keep away from readers. 

What is your poetic process?

My poetic process is writing one poem a day. It is really that simple for me. It could be a three liner, a ten liner, or a long poem of more than 20 to 30 lines. If a poem comes out like rubbish or a journal entry, I try my best to come up with something better the next time around. There are times I get lucky, and a keeper comes along. I am not writing to impress anyone. I am writing for myself most of all and I share my words with readers. If some like what I have written, then that makes me feel good. If someone hates what I have written, I could not care less. I will not lose any sleep over it. I will continue to write as long as I have breath or until something else comes along that takes up my interest.

Do you believe in inspiration and the Muse? Or is it the sweat of your brow alone?

I do believe in inspiration and the Muse. I am inspired by everything and everyone I come in contact with: nature, night and day, moon and sun, the stars and the rain; the woman I love and the dreams that come along, some haunting and some sublime. I am inspired by the poetry, art, lyrics, and music of others. I am inspired by the news of the world, by the clients I work with in mental health, and those close to me that care for me (my family and friends). I am influenced by the birds in flight, the landscape of Los Angeles, trees, flowers, and animals. The sweat of my brow alone only comes into play when you consider everything else that provides knowledge to one’s mind. Whether clever or strange, imagination is also a great thing to have.

Do you think what can be said in poetry can be said in prose as well?

While poetry is brief and concise as opposed to prose, what can be said in poetry can also be said in prose. Authors writing prose can be poetic in their words and have been throughout the years. If I had more patience, I would give prose a try one day. I am more comfortable in poetry, where I can express something in a few words. Get in, write it, and get it out.

Ihlwha Choi is a South Korean poet. He has published multiple poetry collections and what is most interesting is that he translates his own Korean poetry to English to reach out to the world. Click here to read his poetry.

Why do you write poetry?

I grew up in the countryside. Most of the people at that time were poor agriculturists. I was accustomed to the lifestyle of a farmer. I couldn’t access musical instruments or painting equipment. I naturally expressed my thoughts and feeling with my pencils on the notebook. During my middle school, I fell in love with a popular girl. She was popular because she received a poetry award. I fell in love with her, but my love was unrequited. I was very disappointed, so I began to write something on the paper. Most of them were poems but I have never learned the method of poetry writing. There were no teachers around me who taught me about poetry. I tried hard to write good poetry but always failed. After that period, I was very busy studying for university entrance exam and military service. In our country, all young men must go to the army or navy or air force. I served as a sergeant in the army for three years. Then, I had another problem of earning a living and marriage. My passion for writing poetry revived after I married. I don’t think that I had been born with lot of poetic talent. I don’t want to be famous but try hard to write better poetry for my own satisfaction.

What is your poetic process?

Usually, I do not sit in front of the desk to write a poetry. When I brush my teeth, wash dishes or read, one line of a poem comes to me and I catch it in my memory or on the memo of cell phone. I call it the seed of poetry. Later, when I sit in front of my personal computer, I write a poem based on that line. Sometimes I write a poem very quickly because of the first line and sometimes it is a longer process.

Do you believe in inspiration and the Muse? Or is it the sweat of your brow alone?

I think both sides are necessary. Inspiration gives the poet pleasure and happiness. But if he does not try hard, he will not be able to write poetry.

Do you think what can be said in poetry can be said in prose too?

Yes, what we say in a poetry can be said in prose. The only difference is the form of expression. One poet said that when you want to know if a poem is good or not, it is necessary to rewrite it in prose. Some poems are so difficult to understand that ordinary reader cannot grasp it. When a poetry can be explained meaningfully into prose they are recognised as good poetry. But every prose cannot be changed into poetry. Poetry needs symbol, metaphor, rhythm, simile, compression etc. Though nowadays a poems are sometimes written like a prose without any stanza or poetic line. There should at least be some rhythm to make it into a poem, even  though it is written like a prose.

Sutputra Radheye is a poet from India. He has published two poetry collections — Worshipping Bodies (Notion Press) and Inqalaab on the Walls (Delhi Poetry Slam). His works are reflective of the society he lives in and tries to capture the marginalised side of the story. Click here to read his poetry.

Why do you write poetry? 

I write poetry because it gives me a voice. For me, it is a personal and intimate affair. In poems, I can be naked. I can roam naked on the streets of my mind without pretending. I can be blunt, and raw without filtering myself. I feel safe in my poetry and so I write.

What is your poetic process? 

There is no such process for me. I write when I feel something. I write when I am angry. I write when I am happy (though this only happens sometimes). I write when I am depressed and pessimistic. I write to unleash my demons on paper so that I don’t need to carry them to bed with me. It is more like a release for me. Sometimes, I find it to be metaphysical where you can just leave everything behind once you write it down. But not always. The process keeps changing. I used to listen to music while writing two years back. Now, I don’t. What has remained constant is this burst of raw feelings. 

Do you believe in inspiration and the Muse? Or is it the sweat of your brow alone?

Yes. I believe in inspiration and muse. As human beings with different tastes or choices, we will get intrigued by different things in life and they somehow become a part of our poetry. It is those things that separates our poetry, I believe.

Do you think what can be said in poetry can be said in prose too?

Yes it can be said in prose too. But, the way it will be said will be different. It will lose certain elements that poetry brings but will gain what prose has to offer. 

Anasuya Bhar is an academic teaching English literature in St. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College, Kolkata, India. She would also want to be known as a poet. She writes lovely essays and has written on eminent voices like Tagore and Satyajit Ray. Click here to savour her poetry.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry merely to unburden. In many ways, poetry is also therapeutic for me. The motive impulse for my poetry is mostly a moment of pain and sorrow. I feel that the best way to come to terms with such moments is to weave words around them in comfort, camaraderie and friendship. My poetry usually concentrates on the self and its many experiences, moods and flavours.

What is your poetic process? 

Most commonly, poetry comes to me in a whiff of words, pluri-significant and usually in a gust, like a burst of fresh air, triggered by memory. I also often get excited by particular and occasional colours, shades of light, and even smells, because they bring with them a certain cosiness, which is both intimate and personal.  It is only in moments of calm and silence, when my mind usually processes these sudden words into some kind of meaning, trying to give concrete forms to fleeting bouts of impressions. My poems are usually ready after one, or two revisions, but they do need tending and pruning. 

Do you believe in inspiration and the Muse? Or is it the sweat of your brow alone?

Yes, I do believe in inspiration and the concept of the Muse. My poetry is imbued with a feminine presence – that of warmth, care, nurture, protection and sometimes even passion. Such a presence has sometimes found embodiment but, almost always remains elusive and a figment of my imagination, unseen but, powerfully felt. This has always remained with me; it is only now that it has compelled me to express myself in words and through poetry. My muse is a picture of beauty and charm and sometimes even of spirituality.

Do you think what can be said in poetry can be said in prose too?

Yes, at times, perhaps. But poetry is metaphorical, and one can suppress as well as express oneself in it. Prose might prove to be more probing at times. I feel that there are subtle differences between prose and poetry, even though prose can be poetic and philosophical. 

We are grateful to all the poets for sharing with us their personal journeys.

The poets have been interviewed online by Mitali Chakravarty.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Contents

Borderless, March 2022

Painting by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

Where Have All the Sunflowers Gone?… Click here to read.

Ukranian Refrains

In When will we ever learn? Oh, will we ever learn?, Ratnottama Sengupta, comments on the current situation in Ukraine while dwelling on her memorable meeting with folk legend Pete Seeger, a pacifist, who wrote ‘Where have all the Flowers gone’, based on a folk song from Ukraine. Click here to read.

In Can Peace come Dropping by,Candice Louisa Daquin explores war and peace pausing over the attack on Ukraine. Click here to read.

Three Poems from Ukraine by Leslya Bakun. Click here to read.

Translations

Manush: Nazrul’s Lines for Humankind: Translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Jibananda Das’s Where have all these Birds Gone & On the Pathways for Longtranslated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Munir Momin’s You & I translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Down the stairs by Nabendu Ghosh, a gripping story exploring the greyer areas of ethical dilemmas, has been translated by Sarmishta Mukhopadhyay with editorial input from Ratnottama Sengupta. Click here to read.

Autumn is Long, a poem written in Korean and translated to English by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Anondodhara Bohichche Bhubone (The Universe reverberates with celestial ecstasy)…translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Pandies’ Corner

These narratives are written by youngsters from the Nithari village who transcended childhood trauma and deprivation. A letter to God by Tanveer Hussain  uses the epistolary technique to asks questions that would be relevant for all humankind. It has been translated from Hindustani by Vritika Thareja. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Kirpal Singh, Rhys Hughes, Sutputra Radheye, Jay Nicholls, Uma Gowrishankar, Mike Smith, Anasuya Bhar, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Supatra Sen, George Freek, Pramod Rastogi, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Ananta Kumar Singh, Michael R Burch, Shaza Khan

Nature’s Musings

In Storms & Seas, Penny Wilkes explores birds and the ocean during rough weather. Click here to read.

Poets, Poetry or Rhys Hughes

In Tall or Short Tales, Rhys Hughes explores the absurd. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Eva Zu Beck & Marco Polo

San Lin Tun writes of how, in Yangon, he spends the lockdown watching a travel blog by Eva Zu Beck. Click here to read.

Messages through Space and Time

Meredith Stephens explores how the art of letter writing creates links across borders of time and place. Click here to read.

It’s Amazing the Things We can Do

Erwin Coombs takes us through his life in Egypt and has a relook at Nazi occupied Europe with a dollop of humour to come to an amazing conclusion. Click here to read.

An Existential Dilemma

G Venkatesh uses the laws of thermodynamics to try to interpret the laws that define life. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

Devraj Singh Kalsi ponders on his Visit to a Book Fair. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In Imagining a Possible Future: Filmmaker Felicity Tillack, Suzanne Kamata introduces us to an Australian film maker who is making films in Japan now and some are in Japanese. Click here to read.

Mission Earth

Kenny Peavy starts his column with Mama Calling, a cry to go back to living with nature. Click here to read.

Interviews

From the Himalayas to the Banks of Thames: In Conversation with Sangita Swechcha, a writer shuttles between England and Nepal and writes of her homeland. Click here to read.

At Home Across Continents : In Conversation with Neeman Sobhan, a Bangladeshi-born writer who writes of her experiences as an expat in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Italy and America. Click here to read.

Stories

The Man Who got Eaten

 Kieran Martin tells a tall tale or is it short? Click here to read.

Death Will Come

Munaj Gul Muhammed captures the wafting sadness of grieving in this short poetic narrative. Click here to read.

SofieMol

Sharika Nair paints a vignette of the past merging with the present in her narrative. Click here to read.

Faith & Fortune

Devraj Singh Kalsi shows how the twists of faith are aligned to wealth and fame. Click here to read.

Henrik’s Journey

Farah Ghuznavi follows a conglomerate of people on board a flight to address issues ranging from Rohingyas to race bias. Click here to read.

Essays

The Kaleidoscopic World of Satyajit Ray

Anasuya Bhar takes us into the literary world of Satyajit Ray, the world famous film director. Click here to read.

Are Some of Us More Human than Others ?

Meenakshi Malhotra ponders at the exclusivity that reinforces divisions, margins and borders that continue to plague humankind, against the backdrop of the Women’s Month, March. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In The Paradox of Modern Communication, Candice Louisa Daquin takes us through the absurdities that haunt modern verbal communication. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Friends in Wild Places: Birds, Beasts and Other Companions by Ruskin Bond. Click here to read.

An excerpt of a short story by Yang Ming from Asian Anthology, edited by Ivy Ngeow. Click here to read an excerpt.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Mahasweta Devi, Our Santiniketan translated by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Indrashish Banerjee reviews The Tombstone in My Garden: Stories From Nagaland by Temsula  Ao. Click here to read.

Keith Lyons reviews Asian Anthology: New Writing Vol. 1: Stories by Writers from Around the World, edited by Ivy Ngeow. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Why They Killed Gandhi; Unmasking the Ideology and the Conspiracy by Ashok Kumar Pandey. Click here to read.

Special Issues

Imagine… Click here to read our World Poetry Day Special.

Categories
Editorial

Where Have All the Sunflowers Gone?

Only when the cries of the wretched of the earth will stop renting the skies,
Only when the oppressor’s bloody sword will cease smearing battlefields,
			A rebel, weary of war,
			Only then I won’t stir.
…
I’m the ever-rebellious hero--
	Soaring over the world, all alone, head forever held high!

--  Rebel or 'Bidrohi' (1922) by Nazrul, translated by Fakrul Alam
Borderless: Digital Art by Ayaan Ghoshal
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
…
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.         
 Shantih shantih shantih

-- Wasteland (1922) by TS Eliot

These lines reiterate values we would do well to live by in a war-torn, dissension-worn world where the need for a rebel to recreate a humane society that lives with values such as peace, generosity, acceptance, tolerance, compassion and restraint — is a felt need. The two great poems made history by remaining as popular a hundred years after they were written — ‘The Rebel’ by Nazrul and TS Eliot’s ‘Wasteland’. Nazrul defined a rebel as an iconoclast who breaks norms to find peace, justice and love for all, to move towards the creation of an ideal world. TS Eliot quoted from the Upanishads and ended with redemption coming with giving (giver perhaps denoted generosity), compassion and restraint. Despite the wisdom of these great poets and seers, war still continues a reality. The values remain neglected not just in as we see in conflicts, like the one in Ukraine that destroys lives, property and nature with intolerance towards differences, but also in our personal lives. Tagore also reiterated the same need for stepping out of personal, social, economic and political insularity. We carry a translation of a song that echoed this need while inviting participation in his ecstasy. He wrote:

Why do you sit in isolation,
Dwelling on self-centred issues? 

Tagore had not only written of the negative impact of isolation from the world but he led by example, building institutions that could lead the world towards pacifism with acceptance of diversity and inclusiveness. Sriniketan and Santiniketan were created to move towards these ideals. Many of the people he influenced or who studied in Santiniketan made history, like Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Satyajit Ray; many added to the sense of inclusiveness, like Mahasweta Devi, who other than her enormous work to integrate different cultures, also wrote a memoir about Santiniketan in Bengali. Radha Chakravarty, nominated for the Crossword Translation Award (2004) for In the Name of the Mother by Mahasweta Devi, has translated this memoir, a narrative which brings us close to Tagore’s ideals of the whole world being a family. How wonderful it would be if the world were open to such ideals and would behave like a global family and not go to war!  Mahasweta Devi, Our Santiniketan, which has been reviewed by Meenakshi Malhotra, reiterates Tagore’s vision of a planet living in harmony with the flora and fauna.

Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed another non-fiction by Ashok Kumar Pandey, Why They Killed Gandhi; Unmasking the Ideology and the Conspiracy. Parichha writes: “The finest point about this book is its storytelling…” The book review brings to mind in the midst of a war and violence that Gandhi had tried to erase this mindless destruction of lives, nature and cities with Ahimsa or non-violence. Will we ever rise up to it? Perhaps… We see strains of recognising the negative impact of insular outlook in writings like that of Temsula Ao, a Sahitya Akademi Award winner, according to Indrashish Banerjee who has reviewed her new book, The Tombstone in My Garden: Stories from Nagaland. Keith Lyons has reviewed Asian Anthology: New Writing Vol. 1: Stories by Writers from Around the World, edited by Ivy Ngeow, an exotic medley of Asian stories, one of which has been excerpted as well.

We are privileged to carry another excerpt from Ruskin Bond’s Friends in Wild Places: Birds, Beasts and Other Companions, a hilarious story about a pet tiger adopted by the legendary writer’s grandfather. What is amazing about Ruskin Bond’s writing is the love and compassions for all creatures great and small that colours the tongue-in-cheek humour he rolls out to his readers. If only we could think like Bond, there would be no wars. His writing, I feel, transcends political borders or ‘isms’, and laces with love and compassion tales of menageries of monkeys, snakes, mongoose, humans of different denominations. This excerpt is a treat we are giving Borderless Journal as the journal completes two years of its existence. We are truly grateful to Speaking Tiger for sharing this excerpt with us. But our celebrations this time are sombre as the war rages with incoherence accompanied by heart-breaking ravages.

The refrain from Ukraine has been taken up by Ratnottama Sengupta as she takes us through the past and present experiences of the devastated country, bringing in the views of the legendary folk singer and pacifist, Pete Seeger (1919-2014), who she had interviewed over a span of four days. The writer of ‘Where have all the Flowers Gone?’, a song based on an Ukrainian folk song, Seeger said, “The point is not to ask for yourself alone — one has to ask for everybody: Either we all are going to make it over the rainbow or nobody is going to make it.” Candice Louisa Daquin has also pondered on the justification of war, contextualising it with the current one along with her essay on the paradox of modern linguistic communication.

We have an exhaustive essay on the legendary Satyajit Ray’s creations by Anasuya Bhar. Malhotra has pondered at exclusivity reinforcing divisions, margins and borders to plague humankind, against the backdrop of the Women’s Month, March. Highlighting women in writing, we have interviewed two female writers, one from Nepal and another from Bangladesh. Sangita Swechcha lives in UK but her writing, till now largely in Nepali, often pines for her home embedded in the Himalayas whereas, an expat, Neeman Sobhan, shuttles between Bangladesh and Italy with the affluence and assurance of a privileged background.

Finding a way to override lack of privileges, deprivation and violence, are the youngsters of Nithari on the outskirts of Delhi where less than two decades ago other than poverty, savage criminality devastated the local populace. These youngsters transcended the suffering over time with help from volunteering NGOs to create narratives that amaze with their inventiveness and confidence. Tanveer Hussain from Nithari, self-motivated and self-made from a young age, asks questions that would be relevant for all humankind in a letter to God. It has been translated from Hindustani by Vritika Thareja of pandies’. This edition’s translations include Professor Fakrul Alam’s mellifluous rendition of Jibanananda Das’s poetry from Bengali to English, Ihlwha Choi’s Korean poetry and a Balochi poem by Munir Momin rendered in English by Fazal Baloch. Baloch had earlier translated poems by Akbar Barakzai, a great poet who departed on 7th March, depriving the world of yet another powerful writer who imbibed hope of a better future in his poetry. We are privileged to have hosted the translations of some of his poems and his last interview.

Another well-known poetic voice from Singapore, Kirpal Singh, has given us poignant poetry that can be applied to the situation that is leading to the wreck of Ukraine. Anasuya Bhar has  poetry, one of which despite being in the ilk of Nazrul’s great poem, ‘Rebel or Bidrohi’, questions gently mainly social constructs that obstruct the flow of harmony. Ryan Quinn Flanagan has pondered on the acceptance of a changed world. We have humour from Rhys Hughes in poetry and wonderful poems by Michael R Burch on spring. Jay Nicholls shares the last of her dozen Pirate poems as Blacktarn sails the lemon seas to fight pollution. Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, George Freek, Sutputra Radheye, Mike Smith, Shaza Khan and many more have contributed a wealth of beautiful lines. Penny Wilkes has captured storms and seas with photographs and text and Rhys has surprised us with some strange, bizarre tales in his column.

We have musings from around the world. San Lin Tun, Meredith Stephens, Erwin Coombs, G Venkatesh have all brought in flavours of multiple cultures. Devraj Singh Kalsi has spoken of a book fair he visited in a semi-sardonic tone. He has also given us a short story as has Farah Ghuznavi – a truly borderless story which takes place in an aeroplane, in the sky where all borders collapse. We have more stories from Balochistan, US and India.

Suzanne Kamata continues writing on Japan as she  introduces us to an Australian film maker who is making films in Japan and in Japanese, called Felicity Tillack. Cultures are perhaps truly crossing borders as we can see Kenny Peavy, an environmentalist who moved from US to Indonesia start a new column with us called ‘Mission Earth’. We hope, like Tagore or Rousseau, he will help to revive our felt need to live with nature, acknowledge the nurture that we get from the planet to live in harmony with it and on it.

At the end of twenty-four months of existence – that sounds better than a mere two years— we are happy to host a melange of writers from across the borders and be the meeting grounds of writers and readers from across continents. I am truly thankful to all of you for helping concretise an ideal. Huge thanks to all the writers, artists, photographers and the readers for the contribution of their time, effort and love. And thanks to our fabulous team who continue to support the journal unwaveringly. I would also like to thank Sohana for the lovely visuals she generously shares with us. A special thanks also to young Ayaan Ghoshal for his digital art where hands reach out to support a truly borderless world.

As usual, all the content has not been covered here, I invite you all to enjoy our March edition of Borderless Journal.

At the start of the third year of our existence, let us march onwards towards renewed hope – maybe the Ukraine experience will take us closer to a war-free world with an awakening of a felt need for peace and compassion in a planet without borders.

In quest of a peaceful, humane world, I invite you all to continue being part of this journey.  

Mitali Chakravarty

Borderless Journal

Categories
Tagore Translations

Ecstasy & Tagore

Written in 1894, the year his son Samindranath was born, Tagore’s Anondodhhara bohichche bhubone (The Universe reverberates with celestial ecstasy), can be found in the largest collection of his songs, Gitabitan.

Painting by Sohana Manzoor
The Universe reverberates with celestial ecstasy 

The Universe reverberates with celestial ecstasy. 
Days and nights overflow with ambrosia in the limitless sky. 
The moon revels sipping nectar from her cupped palms—
The eternal light that never fades shimmers forever—
Illuminating our daily lives with its aura.

Why do you sit in isolation,
Dwelling on self-centred issues? 
Look around you and expand your heart. 
Petty sorrows are insignificant.
Fill your vacant life with love for humanity. 
The Universe reverberates with celestial ecstasy. 

These lyrics seem to capture not just the distance between Tagore’s own ecstatic experience of the natural universe and the self-centred pettiness that afflict those who continue to remain disconnected from the poet’s euphoria but also his attempts to help humanity discover the same joyful reverberations. Such emotions seem to find an echo in his letters later as found in Uma Dasgupta’s A History of Sriniketan. In 1915, Tagore wrote to an estate worker who was part of his work at Sriniketan (a project to upgrade villages): “I have something else to urge upon you. A note of joy has to be sounded in all your work. Village life has become very dull. The dryness of the heart has to be banished. All welfare work ought to be turned as far as possible into an occasion of festive joy.” Is he doing just that in this song?

Here we present the song beautifully rendered by the legendary singer who was groomed in Tagore’s school at Santiniketan, Kanika Bandopadhyay during his times. Kanika Bandopadhyay was a contemporary of Mahasweta Devi who wrote of her as Mohor in her memoir on Santiniketan (translated by Radha Chakravarty) where she explained the ambience that existed, “But during my time in Santiniketan, how forceful was the torrent of energy that flowed from the source the river of creativity descending from the snowcapped mountain peak!”

(The song has been translated for Borderless Journal  by Mitali Chakravarty, edited by Anasuya Bhar. Tagore’s words used here have been translated by Uma Dasgupta in A History of Sriniketan (2022) and Mahasweta Devi’s by Radha Chakravarty in Mahasweta Devi, Our Santiniketan (2022) )

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Poetry

Poetry by Anasuya Bhar

DUSK
The line of dusk makes itself visible
Not in orangish yellow, but in sullen grey, 
And confused white – 
I yearn towards my tea,
Sip in its golden warmth,
Feel it surging down my parched throat
Along the cold tissues. 
It wizens me -- 
Making me quietly aware 
Of all the days gone by
And how slowly my own sun 
Has passed its noon
And is veering towards its dusky route,
Mostly in grey abandon – 

CODES
There are codes
Unsaid arrangements
Making you act, talk and move
In a pattern specific
Rendering facile, redundant, peripheral
The presence of the other,
Called the outsider,
Who seems to intrude 
Into your closed circles
Of intimacy or conspiracy.  
It is the codes
That determine loyalty and staying – 
Beyond which, there is hardly any saying

DISCOVERY
Again and again
Into the cesspool 
Of confusion, desire and hurt,
Of misgivings and disbeliefs too, 
Sinks the sad heart – 
Until one discovers how
The deliverer is the destroyer. 
Again and again 
One realises
The slips so made and,
In the clarity
One perceives
The dynamics of play. 

Dr. Anasuya Bhar is an academic teaching English literature in St. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College, Kolkata, India. She would also want to be known as a poet.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Essay

The Kaleidoscopic World of Satyajit Ray

By Anasuya Bhar

Satyajit Ray in New York. Courtesy: Creative Commons

The last year and a half has seen exhaustive commemoration of the works Satyajit Ray (1921 – 92) as it marked his birth centenary. To us in India and to the world in general, Satyajit is now revered as a filmmaker, primarily. He has become a myth and a legend in the art of filmmaking, so much so that Akira Kurosawa has pleaded that the ignorance of the former’s art is comparable to not having seen the sun or the moon. Nevertheless, it would be highly unjust to his artistic persona if we study him merely as a film maker. He was a polymath intellectual who was versatile in several arts, where literature, visual art and music were only among a few of his talents apart from cinema. Satyajit had re-invented himself severally, in various times of his life and career.

The Beginnings

Born to the illustrious and talented family of the Rays of Gorpar in north Kolkata, Satyajit was grandson to Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury (1863 – 1915) and the only son of Sukumar Ray (1887 – 1923), whom unfortunately Satyajit lost, when he was merely two and a half years old. The vein of versatility ran high in the family. Upendrakishore distinguished himself as a pioneer in the art of photography and later also in printing technology. In fact, to him we owe the science of half-tone printing and photography. His research papers were published in the prestigious Penrose journals of England. Upendrakishore also distinguished himself as a writer of children’s literature and published not only in Bengali journals like Mukul, Sakha and Sathi (in the nineteenth century), but also founded his own magazine for children in 1913, by the name Sandesh – a name indicative, not only, for a Bengali sweet meat, but also for information and news. Sukumar Ray was primarily a student of science, with a double B.A in Chemistry and Physics honours from Presidency College Kolkata. He, however, went to England to study Printing Technology with the long term goal that he would assist his father in their own press, U. Ray and Sons. Sukumar too, got his research papers published in prestigious scientific journals. He was in England at a time when Rabindranath Tagore, too, had made his visit in 1912 and was a witness to some of the poet’s reading of his poems from Gitanjali (1912) in the company of many influential people in that country. Sukumar returned to Kolkata and was compelled to take up the editorship of Sandesh from 1915, after the death of his father. Sukumar had already started the ‘Nonsense Club’ and his hand written journal Share Batrish Bhaja (Thirty-two and a half Fried Savories) even before he went to England. The vein of the ‘nonsense’ tradition only perfected itself after his return; his own poetry and prose began to see the light of day from the time he began to edit Sandesh. However, and rather unfortunately, his life and career too, came to an abrupt end in 1923. It was only a few years after this that the magazine Sandesh closed down.

Satyajit Ray was largely brought up in his maternal uncle’s home in Ballygunge, from where he completed his schooling at Ballygunge Government School and attained his B.A in Economics (Honours) from Presidency College Kolkata. His mother Suprabha Devi, preferred that Satyajit follow up his education under the guidance of ‘gurudev’ Tagore and hence cajoled him to join Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan in the year 1940. The reluctant Satyajit actually wanted to study ‘commercial art’, but was denied that opportunity in Santiniketan. Nevertheless, he was struck with the brilliance of Nandalal Bose and Binodebehari Mukhopadhyay, whom he got as his mentors in Kala Bhavana. Satyajit was steeped in the nuances of western art, music, films and books; ever since his childhood he was an avid listener of western classical music and a keen viewer of foreign films as they appeared in erstwhile Calcutta.

Santiniketan, for the first time, afforded a glimpse of the beauty of rural Bengal, a gift that he would utilise later when he would make films. While here, Satyajit still felt restless and left after completing only over two years of the course. He returned to Kolkata and joined the advertising firm of D. J Keymar in 1942 as Junior Visualizer, where D.K. Gupta was then Assistant Manager. Among his colleagues were the talented artist Annada Munshi and the younger O.C. Ganguli and Makhan Dutta Gupta. It may be mentioned here that Satyajit, at that point, was rather keen on getting a job and procuring an independent residence for himself and his mother. The scourge of having to labour without a father was quite evident. In 1943, the Signet Press was founded by D. K. Gupta and Satyajit was assigned several books to design. Thus began a career in book designing, which marks an interesting chapter in his artistic career.

The Composite Artist

Satyajit Ray has designed as many as over 300 book covers. The repertoire of Ray book covers is extensive and varied; he continued to remain a composite and wholistic artist throughout the span of his career when he evolved as a writer, mainly for children, even while continuing to make films. He designed books for a host of writers beginning with Sukumar Ray to Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay, to Premendra Mitra, Jibanananda Das, to Lila Majumdar, while he worked for Signet, and later even for other publishers. Each of these covers were aesthetic statements linking themselves to the themes and the content within. The frontispiece as well as the illustrations inside, ranged from the linocut / woodcut designs to fine lines and geometric solid shapes. Each one of these designs proved beyond doubt his versatility, talent and uniqueness of vision. Some of Ray’s book covers found pride of place in internationally reputed journals like the Graphis (in 1950).

Book cover by Satyajit Ray from personal collection

Ray’s artistry found new space in the covers of Ekshan, a Bengali bi-monthly periodical edited by Nirmalya Acharya and actor Soumitra Chattopadhyay between 1961 and 1995. The periodical died an untimely death after the demise of Nirmalya Acharya. Satyajit designed several of its covers and each one of them is a masterpiece of visual jugglery. There are three letters in the title and Ray seems to act as a visual conjuror of these three letters using various planes, letterings, geometry and even characteristics of various art forms.

Ekshan journal, Photograph from Frontline Ray Commemorative Issue, November 2021

The 1950s saw Ray totally emerged in films and his own maiden attempt at a directorial venture took shape in 1955, with Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) Ray also designed his film posters, title cards and even fliers, apart from writing the screenplay himself. Later, he also graduated to composing his own music and writing his own stories; seldom do we see such a versatile artist.

It may be pointed out here that while we keenly study the various facets of Satyajit Ray, he was not alone in diversifying the art of design and illustration in books. One may mention here the works of Purnendu Patri, Pranabesh Maity and several others whose works are significantly remarkable in the history of book making. As mentioned earlier, Satyajit has constantly re-invented and adapted himself to the changing face of time. This has allowed him to survive several cultural and historical changes.

The Writer

Satyajit began writing consistently from his fortieth year, somewhat out of necessity. Before that he wrote sporadically. That year, 1961, saw the revival of the children’s magazine Sandesh under the entrepreneurship of Ray and his poet-friend Subhas Mukhopadhyay. The magazine, inactive since the thirties, saw a new lease of life when Ray and Mukhopadhyay decided to revive it in 1961. They were also the editors of the new Sandesh. Ray designed most of its covers and like the various letterings of Ekshan, he juggled with the masthead of Sandesh as well.

The magazine continues to be among the leading children’s magazines till date and is currently being edited by Sandip Ray, Satyajit’s son. In the first issue of the new Sandesh, published in May 1961, Satyajit decided to translate some of Edward Lear’s The Jumblies into Bengali, simply as a gesture of participation. The second issue of the magazine carried his first short story in Bengali along with his own illustration. That marked the beginning of a series intriguing literature primarily published in the pages of Sandesh in a Bengali that is modern, contemporary, smart, and attractive to the young and inquiring minds of children. Some of his works were also published in Anandamela, another children’s magazine in Bengali and Target, a children’s magazine in English, which was quite popular in the 1980s. The latter mostly published Ray in English translation, mostly made by himself. Some of his English translations were anthologised in Stories, published by Secker and Warburg in 1987. There are many more translations of Satyajit now available in English; those of the adventures of Feluda and Professor Shonku, and Fotikchand and many others are also published by Penguin.    

Satyajit Ray’s books were a staple to the children of the eighties in the last century. Most of us then, welcomed our teenage with the scientific adventures of Professor Shonku and those of the private investigator Prodosh Mitter alias Feluda. These books were the repository of a variety of knowledge – one emerged cleverer and better enriched after regaling oneself with the exhilarating laboratory experiments of Shonku, while on the other hand, one cajoled one’s brains with the cerebral magic of Feluda. For children like us, Ray’s identity as a filmmaker came second to his writing, as we understood less of that art in that age. In fact, his stories were a rage among our contemporaries then, and we marvelled at his plots, along with his accurate illustrations and cover designs, all of which made him a supreme artist-figure in our childhood. There were also occasions when we connected his films on children with respect to his books. Hence, the adventure tales around the ‘golden castle’ (Sonar Kella, 1974) or those around in Benaras (Joy Baba Felunath, 1978), were only a derivative of what we perused in the books of the same names.

The Ray Generation

It would, perhaps, not be wrong to say that Ray’s writing created a brand in the genre of children’s literature. As contemporary and the immediate consumers of his books, some of us identify a part of our childhood with the Ray literature. He was a master in the handling of the bizarre and the fantastic, the investigative crime thrillers and also the evolution of the science fiction. Again, Ray may not be said to be a pioneer in any of these genres, but he made them highly palatable and attractive to the young minds. One would be guilty of falsification if one does not mention Sukumar Ray himself, or Hemendrakumar Ray and Premendra Mitra, who made, perhaps, the earliest forages into the art of the bizarre, the supernatural or the sci-fi in their own times and generations.

Satyajit Ray’s repertoire as a writer for children is extensive. He is credited to have composed thirty-eight adventures of Professor Trilokeshwar Shonku. In him, Ray creates a familiar Bengali with extraordinary scholarliness who was once a teacher in Scottish Church College Kolkata, but now resides in Giridi. Although his only companions are now his valet Prahlad and pet cat Newton, he has an elaborate family history which the author creates as a back drop for his readers. Professor Shonku’s various travel destinations offer extensive scope for young minds to travel within the safety of their homes. In creating the several marvels of science Satyajit must have surely drawn extensively from the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells as well as The Chariot of the Gods (1968) by Erich von Dӓniken – works with which he must have been familiar ever since his childhood. Scholars also propound similarities between Professor Challenger of Arthur Conan Doyle (The Lost World) and Professor Shonku. However, there is also reason to believe that Professor Shonku has a distant antecedent in the character of Professor Hushiyar (Heshoram Hushiyerer Diary) created by Sukumar Ray. With time, of course, Shonku evolves as a more serious and responsible, internationally acclaimed scientist. Ray had also wanted to make a film on aliens, with a sound background on science fiction, but this dream remained unexecuted. The first ever film on Professor Shonku was made by his son in 2019.

The Private Investigator Mr. Prodosh C Mitter first made his appearance in the arena of Bengali detective fiction in the year 1965. The Bengali readership was already accustomed to private detectives created by Niharranjan Ray (Kiriti Ray) and Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay (Byomkesh Bakshi) before Ray launched the career of Feluda, who emerged as a highly identifiable neighbourhood man with his nephew and assistant Topshe and their elderly writer-friend Jatayu. One may again mark the presence of other detectives in contemporary literature like Kakababu (Sunil Gangopadhyay), Gogol (Samaresh Basu) and the boy group of Pandava Goyenda (created by Sasthipada Chattopadhyay), which were also available to the young readers along with the adventures of Feluda. All of them were simultaneously popular among contemporary children, although Ray scored higher because of his razor sharp intelligence and complete artistic and aesthetic package that his books offered. Some, made into films, made him the most popular among children and adults alike. Apart from his series characters like Shonku or Feluda, Ray has created a host of other characters in numerous short stories and novellas, over a period of thirty years or more. There is, quite interestingly, very little adult fiction written by Satyajit, with the exceptions of Nayak (The Hero, 1966), Kanchenjunga (1962) and Pikoo’s Diary (1980), all of which have been made into films.

Ray as Translator and maker of Children’s Films

Ray distinguished himself as a translator as well. The first major translation done by Satyajit Ray was, perhaps, those of a selection of Sukumar Ray’s Aabol Taabol (‘Nonsense Verse’, 1923). About ten such poems were translated / trans-created in the pages of a radical weekly called Now, edited by Samar Sen during 1967-69. These poems were then noticed by P. Lal of Writers Workshop, a pioneering publishing enterprise which patronised (and still does), Indian writing in English, since 1958. They were brought forth as an independent collection by this house in much admiration for Satyajit’s skill in rhyme and meter, in 1970. The edition has remained a popular one and has recently suffered alterations in the fourth corrected and expanded edition in 2019. The text is also prescribed for study in a course on Popular Literature in the undergraduate syllabus of the University of Calcutta, since 2018.

Satyajit also translated some works of Upendrakishore along with other works of Sukumar into English in various times of his career. These are now available with the translations of his own works, in a compendious edition titled 3 Rays (Penguin Books, 2021) and edited by Sandip Ray.According to Sandip Ray, these were mostly done with a view to popularise the works outside Bengal and to a larger audience, mostly as recreational activities, which Satyajit undertook between the shooting of his films.

In 1969, Satyajit Ray directed Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, a novella originally written by Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury about two rustic simpletons Goopy and Bagha and their careers in music. The occasion was the birth centenary of Upendrakishore and was a result of requests from his teenaged son Sandip, to create something for children. The film was an improvement on the literary text, and continues to be a marvel in the study of the fantastic, given the limited means with which it was produced. Satyajit introduced in the film a dance – the sequence of the ghosts’ dancing – which remains a marvel of cinematography and an example of ingenuous thinking, intelligent editing and deft execution within a limited budget. As always, Satyajit creates a family pattern for Goopy and Bagha, too. They re-appear after a hiatus of ten years in Hirok Rajar Deshe (1980). By this time, the duo has earned fame as extraordinary performers, with magical powers to transfix their listeners and with uncanny powers to unravel the mysteries of state politics. On the domestic front, they are also married to princesses as well as proud fathers.  Hirok Rajar Deshe or ‘The Land of the Diamond King’ is a study on an ugly regime of totalitarianism, where almost all are being brainwashed to worship a power hungry king. The film may be identified as a political satire under the garb of entertainment for children, where good eventually overcomes evil. Satyajit makes extensive use of fantasy and magic as well as creates a world where science is being used to destroy the good sense of people. It is the musical duo of Goopy and Bagha who re-affirm good sense and sanity in an anarchic and dystopian state. The duo returns in Goopy Bagha Phire Elo (Return of Goopy Bagha, 1991) and the setting now is influenced more by a sense of science fiction and fantasy. The last film of the trilogy was directed by Sandip Ray, who re-affirms his presence in a cyclical and metaphorical ‘coming of age’ marking himself as a filmmaker.

The cover page of the Commemorative Calendar celebrating 50 years of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne

The enormity of the Satyajit Ray papers, letters, manuscripts, posters, notebooks, sketches, as well as his film prints are now being collectively maintained and conserved by the Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives. The Society also organises regular lectures and exhibitions and looks to the publication of books on the maestro. It is significant that Penguin India has decided to dedicate a whole collection of books on Ray as ‘The Penguin Ray Library’. One must not fail to acknowledge the scholarship and hard work of his son Sandip Ray and Satyajit-scholars like Debashis Mukhopadhyay and Pinaki De, who mesmerise with their encyclopaedic knowledge on the master. The past year and half have seen innumerable lectures and scholarly interactions on Ray where the two have shone independently. The present author stands in awe of their scholarship.

( Note: All the photographs used in this article are taken by the author, except the one licensed under creative commons.)

References

  1. Frontline – ‘The World of Ray: A Commemorative Issue’, November 5, 2021
  2. Ray, Sandip (ed.). 3 Rays: Stories from Satyajit Ray. New Delhi: The Penguin Ray Library, 2021.
  3. Ray, Sandip (ed.). Sandesh. Festival Numbers 2020 and 2021. Commemorative issues on Satyajit Ray entitled ‘Satyajit 100’. Kolkata.
  4. Ray, Satyajit (trans.). Nonsense Rhymes – Sukumar Ray. Kolkata: Writers Worshop, 2019.
  5. Ray, Satyajit. Shera Satyajit. Kolkata: Ananda Publisher’s Private Limited, 1991.
  6. Robinson, Andrew. Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye – The Biography of a Master Film-Maker. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 1989.

Dr. Anasuya Bhar teaches English at St. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College Kolkata.

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Categories
Tagore Translations

At the Confluence of Night & Day

Written in 1910 (15 Ashwin 1317) in Santiniketan, Raatri Eshe Jethay Meshe or where the night comes to mingle was a part of his collection called Gitimalya ( A garland of Songs) first published in 1914.

Gitimalya
WHERE THE NIGHT COMES TO MINGLE

You and I met at the confluence when
The night came to mingle with the ocean of the day. 
There the shades of black and white formed dark and light —
There, the waves rushed from bank to bank. 
A baritone rang amidst the silence of the skies,
The gold line rose out of the deepest of darkness. 
My dreams mingled with tears as I awoke
Searching for contentment in vain.

Here is a rendition of the song in Bengali by Dwijen Mukherjee (1927-2018) a renowned singer from the past. His voice seems to capture the cadence of the song and colours it with the freshness of dawn.

(Trans-created for Borderless Journal  by Mitali Chakravarty with editorial support from Sohana Manzoor and Anasuya Bhar.)

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