Categories
Contents

Borderless, August 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

The Stars were Shining There for You & Me, for Liberty… Click here to read.

Conversation

The Making of Historical Fiction: A Conversation with Aruna Chakravarti unfolds the creation of her latest novel, The Mendicant Prince, based on the prince of Bhawal controversy in the first part of the last century. Click here to read.

Translations

Tagore’s humorous skit, The Treatment of an Ailment, has been translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

Arise, Arise O Patriot! and Helmsman Attention! by Kazi Nazrul Islam have been translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Pus Ki Raat or A Frigid Winter Night by Munshi Premchand has been translated from Hindi by C Christine Fair. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Song of Hope or ‘Hobe Joye‘ has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Rhys Hughes, Ratnottama Sengupta, Mike Smith, Rituparna Mukherjee, Tony Brewer, Ahmed Rayees, Ron Pickett, Ramesh Dohan, Sister Lou Ella Hickman, Sambhu Nath Banerjee, Candice Louisa Daquin, Oindri Sengupta, Gigi Baldovino Gosnell, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Tanvi Jeph, George Freek, Michael R Burch

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Mini-Sagas: A Dozen Examples, Rhys Hughes talks of a new genre with dollops of humour. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Istanbul

G Venkatesh has a stopover in the airport to make a discovery. Click here to read.

The Loyal Dog in Loyalty Island

Meredith Stephens makes friends with a dog in the township of Wé on the Lifou island, an ‘overseas territory’ of France. Click here to read.

The ‘New Kid on the Block’ Celebrates…

Dr Kirpal Singh ruminates over what led to the making of an island state, Singapore. Click here to read.

Remnants of Time Once Spent Together

Sayali Korgaonkar ruminates over loss and grieving. Click here to read.

Moonland

Rupali Gupta Mukherjee journeys through the moonlike landscape housing a monastery with her camera and a narrative. Click here to read.

King Lear & Kathakali?

PG Thomas revisits a performance that mesmerised him in a pre-covid world. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In A Bone in My Platter, Devraj Singh Kalsi shares a taste of running a restaurant. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

Suzanne Kamata writes a light slice from life in The Boy & The Cats: A Love Story. Click here to read.

Stories

Does this Make Me a Psychic?

Erwin Coombs tells a suspenseful, funny, poignant and sad story, based on his real life experiences. Click here to read.

Hard Choices

Santosh Kalwar gives a glimpse of hope for an abandoned girl-child in Nepal. Click here to read.

No Rain on the Parade

Tan Kaiyi goes on a hunt for the National Day Killer. Click here to read.

Until We Meet Again

Shivani Shrivastav transports us to Manali for a misty union. Click here to read.

The Hatchet Man

Paul Mirabile tells a story of murder and horror. Click here to read.

I am Not the End

Aysha Baqir takes on the persona of a computer to unleash a poignant and chilling story. Click here to read.

Essays

How Many Ways To Love a Book

Sindhu Shivprasad describes passion for books. Click here to read.

Hiking in the Himalayas with Nabinji

Ravi Shankar explores more of Himalayas in Nepal. Click here to read.

Freedom is another word for… Zohra Sehgal

Ratnottama Sengupta gives a glimpse of the life of Zohra Sehgal, based on the book Zohra: A Biography in Four Acts by Ritu Menon, and her own personal interactions with the aging Zohra Sehgal. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In Can We Create a Better World by Just Wishing for it, Candice Louisa Daquin dwells on the question to locate answers. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir by B. M. Zuhara translated by Fehmida Zakeer. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Michael R Burch’s poetry book, O, Terrible Angel. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Tagore’s Four Chapters translated and introduced by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Gracy Samjatsabam visits Mamang Dai’s Escaping the Land. Click here to read.

Aditi Yadav reviews Pallavi Aiyar’s Orienting : An Indian in Japan. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal visits Neelum Saran Gour’s Requiem in Raga Janki. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Rakesh Batabyal’s Building a Free India. Click here to read.

Categories
Nazrul Translations

Manush: Nazrul’s Lines for Humankind

Translated by Professor Fakrul Alam

Born in united Bengal, long before the Partition, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was known as the  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs. ‘Manush‘ or ‘Mankind’ was published in Nazrul’s collection called Sanchita.

MANKIND

Of equality I sing.
There isn’t anything greater or nobler than a human being.
Wipe all distinctions based on country, period and situation. 
Let all religions and countries be one.
In all nations, ages, and homes let God be your companion.

Arising from a dream, a zealous priest opens the temple door and exclaims:
“Devotee, open doors, 
The God of Hunger stands outside; time now to pray to Him.”
Surely, he thinks, God’s Grace will transform him into a King!
Wearing tattered clothes, emaciated, and voice enfeebled by hunger,
A wayfarer pleads: “Open the door, I’ve been hungry the whole week.”
Instantly, the door is shut, the hungry one is turned away.
In the darkness of night his hungry eyes glare all the way.
The beggar mutters, “Lord, the temple seems to be his, and not yours!”

Yesterday the mosque was full of sweets and meat and bread,
This day the sight of the leftovers makes the Mullah glad!
Just then a hungry man comes in, sores on his skin,
He says, “Sir, for the seventh day I’m starving!
Enraged, the Mullah exclaims, “So what, if you are hungry?
Go and lie down where carcasses of cattle are cast away!
By the way, do you pray?” The wayfarer confesses, “No Sir!”
The Mullah swears, “Swine, time then for you to scram!”
Picking up all leftovers, the mullah the mosque gate slams!

The hungry one turns back, muttering, “I can claim,
Eighty years I survived without ever invoking your name
How come, from me, Lord, you never withdrew your bounty?
Should I conclude mosques and temples are not for me?
That Mullahs and Brahmins have shut their doors to the poor?
Where are you, Chengiz, Mahmud of Ghazni, and Kalapahar?
Storm all doors of these so-called houses of prayer!

Who bolts the House of God? Who locks its portals?
All doors force open, smash ’em with hammers and crowbars.
Alas House of Prayer
Aloft on your minarets charlatans flaunt themselves, 
Disdaining mankind!
Who could these people be, loathing man,
But kissing ostentatiously the Vedas, the Bible, and the Quran?
Snatch from their lips all the holy books.
Don’t forget their originators perished in the hands of such crooks!
Hypocrites always prosper thus! Listen all you fools,
Men brought books into being; books didn’t create men!
Adam, David, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed,
Krishna, Buddha, Nanak, and Kabir are our ancestors.
Their blood course through us, we are their successors,
We are their kin; our bodies are like theirs.
It is possible that one day we will achieve their statures!
Don’t laugh, friends. My self stretches to infinity,
None -- not even I -- knows what greatness lies within me.
Perhaps within me is Kalki, in you Mehdi or Jesus,
Who knows where one begins and ends; who can limit us?
Why loathe the man so, brother, why kick him at will?
It could be that even in him God keeps vigil!
Or even if he is nobody, no one exalted or great,
See him as a man besmeared and completely shattered.
And yet no house of worship or sacred book on earth
Can measure up to that small body’s worth!
It could be that in his humble hut one day will be born
Someone who in his unique way the world will adorn!
The message the world awaits, the superman not yet glimpsed,
Perhaps will appear in this very hut someday soon!

Is he untouchable? Does he put you off? But he isn’t reprehensible!
He could be Harishchandra or Lord Shiva!
An untouchable today could be Emperor of all Yogis tomorrow.
Tomorrow, you will eulogise him, will praise him to the skies
Who is that you call a rustic, who is it that you despise?
It could be Lord Krishna in a cowherd’s guise!
And what if the one you hated as a peasant so
Was King Janaka or Lord Balaram incognito?
Prophets were once shepherds, once they tilled fields,
But they brought us news of eternity—which will forever be.
Male or female, you kept refusing all beggars every day  
Could it be that Bholanath and Girjaya were thus sent away? 
Lest feeding a beggar makes you feast less,
Your porter punished the beggar at your door,
What if you thus drove a deity away?
What punishment will lie for you then who can say?
What if the goddess thus insulted never forgives you?
If your heart wasn’t so greedy, so obsessed with only what you need,
Friend, you would see that in serving you the gods became impoverished!
Beast that you are, will you abuse the God within your heart
To swallow the nectar distilled from human misery and hurt? 
Will that drink make you happy? Will that satiate your lust?
Only your evil angel knows what food will please you most.
One your evil angel knows how you can self-destruct best!
Through ages, beast, know that what thrusts you to death is lust! 

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

Categories
Nazrul Translations

Rebel or ‘Bidrohi’

A translation of Nazrul’s Bidrohi (written in 1921, published in 1922) or ‘Rebel ‘ by Professor Fakrul Alam

Kazi Nazrul Islam in 1921. Courtesy: Creative Commons`

Born in united Bengal, long before the Partition, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was known as the  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs.

                           The Rebel 

			Proclaim O hero
		Proclaim My head will be held high!
		My head will tower o’er the snow-capped Himalayas
		Proclaim O hero
	Proclaim piercing the infinite spaces of the sky
	Going beyond the sun, moon, planets, and stars
		Plunging through earth and the heavens
			Bursting through God’s very seat
		I’ve come—the wonder of the universe!
	On my forehead blazes God’s fiery mark—the regal sign of victory! 
			Proclaim O hero—
		My head will be held forever high!
	I’m forever indomitable, imperious, and remorseless,
	My dance is cataclysmic, I’m tempestuous, and I’m the destroyer,
	I’m terrifying; the curse of the earth
 				I’m irrepressible
		I smash everything to smithereens.
		I’m undisciplined, I’m wayward,
	I crush all bonds, trample on all bans, rules, and restrictions,
				I obey no laws,
     I sink heavily laden ships, I’m a torpedo, a deadly floating mine.
  I’m the destructive Dhurjati, the disheveled sudden storm of Baishakh.
	I’m the rebel, the rebellious son of the Creator of the Universe.
		
                        Proclaim O hero—
		Forever my head will be held high.  

 		 	I’m a cyclone, a whirlwind,
		I pommel all that lie in my path,
		I am a dance-driven swing,
	I dance to my own beat, I’m a free spirit, high on life.
I’m the musical modes Hambeer and Chayanot, the festive swing of raga Hindol,
		I’m all hustle and bustle, 
		On the road I’m all twist and turn,
		I sway back and forth,
		I’m an ever oscillating, lightning fast swing.
		I do whatever I please
		My enemies I embrace, with Death I grapple.
			I’m insane, I’m a hurricane.
		I’m the plague, the terror of the earth.
		I squash all tyrants, I rage restlessly.
				Proclaim O hero
			My head will be forever held high.
		I’m forever frenzied and intoxicated,
 I’m irrepressible, my soul’s beaker bubbles over with the liquor of life.
I’m the sacrificial fire, am Yamadagni, the keeper of the sacrificial fire   
		I’m the sacrifice, the priest, the flame too!
I’m Creation and Destruction, I’m human habitation, and the cremation ground.
		I’m the Conclusion, the end of night! 
I’m the son of Indra, the king of gods, moon in hand, the sun on my forehead,
On one hand I hold love’s slender flute, on the other the trumpet of war.
I’m Shiva, my throat blue, I drink poison churned by creation’s ocean of pain,
I’m Byomkesh, I hold the freely flowing Ganges in my ethereal locks.
				Proclaim O hero
			Forever will my head be held high.

		I’m a solitary Bedouin, I’m the capricious Chenghiz
		I defer only to myself and bow to none.	
		I’m a thunderclap, the OM resounding from Ishan’s horn
			I’m the blast of Israfil’s trumpet,
  I’m Shiva’s bow-shaped drum, the trident, and gong of the god of death.
	I’m Chakra’s ring, a strident conch, I am the primal scream!
	I’m a whirling dervish, a devotee of the sage Vishyamitra,
		I’m a raging fire, I’ll consume earth in my flames!

I’m carefree and full of glee-- the enemy of creation, the principle of destruction.
	I’m the demon eclipsing the sun and ushering in the day of doom.
  I’m sometimes placid--sometimes torrid, sometimes unbelievably wanton,
	I’m a hot-blooded youth, I’ll even humble God’s pride!
 I’m the exuberance of a gust of wind, I’m the mighty roar of the ocean.
		I’m resplendent, I am radiant,
I’m a rippling-bubbling brook—the splash of the wave—the sway of the swing! 

I’m the unbraided flowing hair of a maiden, her glowing ravishing eyes.
I’m the sixteen-year old’s love-stricken heart, wayward with passion, I’m bliss! 
	 I’m distracted, indifferent to the world,
I’m the grief-choked heart of the widow, I’m the despair of the depressed.
I’m the piled up pain of the wanderer, the forlornness of the homeless,
`	I’m the agony of the insulted, the tormented heart of the jilted!
I am the anguish of the heart-stricken, I feel the pain of unrequited passion,
I’m the tingling sensation of the maiden’s first caress, the thrill of a stolen kiss!
I’m the startled look of the secret lover, the glance forever stolen,
I’m the fluttering heart of the restless girl, the jingling of her bangles.
		I’m forever the child, forever the adolescent,
	I’m the cloth covering the budding youth of the village belle.
I’m the north wind, the breeze from Malabar, the wanton southern stream of air. 
I’m a minstrel’s soulful tunes, the songs played on his flute and lyre.
	I’m the parched throat of mid-day, the flaming, glowing sun.
I’m a softly flowing desert stream, I’m a shaded green sylvan scene!
	I rush forth in a frenzy, I’m frantic, I’m insane! 
I’ve discovered myself all of a sudden, I’ve burst through all bonds.

I’m the rise and the fall, I’m consciousness issuing out of the unconscious,
I’m the banner of victory at the rampart of the world, the flag of man’s triumph.
		I’m a storm reverberating through heaven and earth.
Lively like the horse Borwak, swift like Indra’s winged steed Uchaisrava,
			Spirited and neighing my way through!
I’m a volcano flaming in earth’s bosom, the mythical sea-horse spouting fire.
I’m a fire coursing through the netherworld, uproarious, tumultuous.
	I’m lightning, speeding past, skipping and leaping forth in joy.
	I’m an earthquake striking suddenly spreading panic everywhere.        
			Grabbing the hood of Vasuki, the snake-god,
	Grappling with the fiery wings of Gabriel, messenger of heaven,
			I’m the God-child, vivacious,
	I’m impudent, I bite into the borders of my earth-mother’s dress.

			I’m Orpheus’s flute,  
			Lulling the restless ocean to sleep,
With the caress of soothing sleep I bring calm to a fevered world,	
				My flute’s melodies enthral
				I’m the flute in Lord Krishna’s hands.
	When angry, I rouse myself and dart across the boundless sky.
Cowering, the fires of the seven hells flicker with fear and fade from my sight.
	I carry the message of rebellion all across earth and the sky.

			I’m the monsoon deluge of Shravan,
Sometimes making earth fertile, sometimes causing massive destruction--
	I snatch from God Vishnu’s bosom his two paramours.
	I’m injustice, an evil star, malevolent Saturn 
	I’m the blistering comet, the venom-filled fangs of a king cobra!
I’m the blood-thirsty goddess Kali, I’m the marauding warlord Ranada,
I sit in the midst of hellfire and smile with the innocence of a flower!

	I’m made of clay, I’m formed of the Supreme Being,
	I’m ageless, immortal, and imperishable, I’m indomitable!
	I’m what humans, demons, and even gods dread,
	I’m invincible in this world,
I’m Lord of the gods of the Universe, the Ultimate Truth of Being!
	I dance, frisk and gambol through heaven, hell and earth!
		I’m insane, I’m insane!!
I’ve discovered myself all of a sudden, this day I’ve burst through all bonds!



		I’m Parashuram’s hard-striking axe,
I’ll rid the world of warmongers and bring peace and harmony to the universe.
		I’m the plough on Balaram’s shoulders,
I’ll uproot earth to its foundations, delight in the joy of reconstruction. 
			A mighty rebel, weary of war,
                                   I’ll stop creating a stir, 
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 rebel sage Bhrigu, on God’s very bosom, I’ll stamp my footmarks,
I’ll slay the Creator, I’ll tear apart his indifferent whimsical callous chest.
I’m the determined rebel, on God’s very bosom I’ll stamp my footmarks,
			I’ll tear apart the Creator’s whimsical chest.

			I’m the ever-rebellious hero--
	Soaring over the world, all alone, head forever held high! 

Recitation of Bidrohi by Nazrul’s son, Kazi Sabyasaachi.

Fakrul Alam is an academic, translator and writer from Bangladesh. He has translated works of  Jibananda 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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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Nazrul Translations

The Equaliser

A Translation of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poem “Samyabadi” by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu

Samyabadi recited in Bengali by Kazi Sabyasachi, Nazrul’s son
I sing the song of equality --
Where all obstacles have become one,
To unite Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians.
I sing the song of equality!
Who are you? -  A Parsee? A Jain? A Jew? A Santhal, a Bhil, a Garo?
Confucius? Charbakh Chela? State, state again and again.
My friend, regardless of what you want to be,
Whichever scriptures or books you carry on your stomach, back, shoulders, brain --
Read as much of Quran-Purana-Veda-Vedanta-Bible-
Tripitaka-Zendabesta-Granthasaheb as you can.
But why would you carry these burdens that only hurt?
Why bargain at stores when fresh flowers bloom in your path?
You have all the books, the knowledge of all ages,
You will find all the holy texts if only, my friend, you open your life!
All religions and eons reside inside you,
Your heart is the abode of all the Gods.
Why search for the divine in dead scriptures and skeletons?
He smiles within the immortal nectar that lies concealed in  your heart.

My friend, I am not lying,
This is the place where all royal crowns bow down.
This is the heart where can be found Nilachal, Kashi, Mathura, Vrindavan,
Buddha-Gaya, Jerusalem, Madina, Kaaba-Bhaban,
Here are the mosques, the temples, the churches,
Here Jesus and Joshua were introduced to the truth.
On this battlefield, the youth who played the flute chanted the great Geeta,
Shepherds and prophets met God on this field as friends.
Here is the heart that made the Sakyamuni meditate,
Discarding his kingdom for the cry of suffering humanity.
In the mountainous cave, the beloved son of Arabs heard his calling
To recite the verses of equality in the Quran.
I haven’t heard a lie, my friend,
No temple or Kabah is bigger than this heart.

Shahriyer Hossain Shetu is a student in the Department of English & Humanities, ULAB.

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

Categories
Editorial

And This Too Shall Pass…

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land…”
-- TS Eliot, Wasteland

April and May have been strange months — celebrations withered to anxieties. As the pandemic took on demonic proportions in its second wave, devastating millions with death and darkness, paralysing with the fear of losing friends and relatives or ones’ own life, festivities gave way to mourning. April this time truly seemed like the cruellest month as expressed by TS Eliot in the start of the Wasteland, turning our joyous thoughts on healing to a devastating reality of swirling smoke of pyres and graves that continue to throng certain parts of the world. However, mankind needs hope like the Earth needs rain, hope to survive. Great literature and writing inspire to give just that.

This month is also the birth month of three greats who were able to generate that kind of hope with their work: Rabindranath Tagore, Edward Lear and Kazi Nazrul Islam. We launched our new Tagore section on May 7th with Aruna Chakravarti’s translations of the maestro, Songs of Tagore. Do visit us at Tagore & Us to read them and more. We plan to keep adding to this section on a regular basis. This time we have Bengal Academy Award winner Fakrul Alam’s translations of six seasonal songs of Tagore, a translation from Borderless of a poem by the maestro that is not quite accepted as Rabindra Sangeet as the tune was given by the eminent musician Pankaj Mullick. An essay by Dr Anasuya Bhar highlights different lives given to Tagore’s writing by his own rewrites, translations, and films – an interesting perspective. We also carry tributes to Tagore in verse from Ilwha Choi of Korea, Mike Smith of UK, Himadri Lahiri and Sunil Sharma from the poet’s own homeland.

We celebrated Edward Lear’s birthday with some limericks and Rhys Hughes essay placing the two century old writer’s poetry in the present context and a hilarious conclusion to the sequel of Lear’s famous ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. Upcoming is the birth anniversary of the rebel poet from Bengal, Nazrul. Sohana Manzoor translated a powerful essay and Shahriyer Hossain Shetu, a poem by this legendary writer who believed in syncretic lore and married a Hindu woman. Now the national poet of Bangladesh, Nazrul even wrote of Hindu Gods in many of his songs and essays – a lore that yearns for revival in the current day where politicians have fragmented the world by building more walls, using the names of religion, race, economics, caste and culture.

We have a poem from Pakistan by eminent poet Akbar Barakzai translated by Fazal Baloch using the lore of Samuel Becket’s Godot and yet another translation from Malayalam by Aditya Shankar of Sujith Kumar’s poem. Our poetry section is exciting with an exquisite poem from Jared Carter on a yeti, resting on the ephemerality of its presence; a funny one from Rhys Hughes and a diversity of poets from many countries, including Bangladesh. We also started a new column called Nature’s Musings which will combine poetry or prose with photographs by award-winning photographer Michael Wilkes and Penny Wilkes, who joins us now as a writer-in-residence.

In stories, we carry a COVID narrative by a real doctor, Shobha Nandavar, based in Bangalore and interestingly another about a doctor, the first women to adopt the medical profession in Bengal. Sunil Sharma in his narrative has highlighted a crisis in humanism. There are many more stories which would make for an interesting read. In musings, other than Devraj Singh Kalsi’s witty take on countries without Nobel Laureates, we have a Canadian writer’s perception of death rituals in Japan. Sybil Pretious has shared with us her strange adventures within China this time. Don’t miss the backpacking granny!

The May issue has a wide range of essays and musings ranging from Candice Louisa Daquin’s write up on the need to trust instincts to Keith Lyon’s residency in the Antarctica with interesting photographs. He writes that you could wear shorts in summers! Bhaskar’s Corner pays a tribute to the Padmashree Odia writer who passed away last month of old age, Manoj Das.

Our book excerpt is from an unusual book by Nabanita Sengupta, A Bengali Lady in England (1885): Annotated Translation with Critical Introduction to Krishnabhabini Das’ Englandey Bangamahila. We also carry reviews by Rakhi Dalal of Feisal Alkazi’s memoir, Enter Stage Right: The Alkazi Padamsee Family Memoir and by Bhaskar Parichha of Raising a Humanist by Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia. Shakti Ghosal’s The Chronicler of the Hooghly and Other Stories has been reviewed by Gracy Samjetsabam.

Our interviews this time are more on practical issues than literary – with the two authors of Raising a Humanist and with someone who supported our Tagore section by inviting us to talk on it in an online festival called Anantha, Sonya Nair. A friend and an academic with decidedly avant garde outlook, she is part of the twenty-year-old peer-reviewed Samyukta Journal that homes many academics. Pause by and have a read to see how they serve.

I would want to give heartfelt thanks to Nidhi Mishra and Archana Mohan for hosting Ms Sara’s Selections from Bookosmia this time as they help many battle the pandemic with hope, especially young children growing up in a world inhibited with masks and social distancing. I would also like to thank all the writers and my whole team for rising above the darkness by helping us get together this issue for our readers who I hope do find solace in our pages. And thank you readers for being with us through our journey.

There is a lot more in our pages than I have written. Do take a peek at this month’s issue and enjoy.

Best wishes,

Mitali Chakravarty

Categories
Nazrul Translations

Temples and Mosques

Kazi Nazrul Islam first published Mondir O Mosjid (Temples and Mosques) in Gonovani (People’s Voice) in August 1926, and then as part of his essay collection, Rudromongol(1927) This essay has been translated by Sohana Manzoor.

“Kill those foreigners!” “Bash the non-believers!”—the riot between the Hindus and Muslims had begun anew. At first, it was mere bickering, then it grew into hitting one another, and in the end, it turned into breaking each other’s skulls. In defending the prestige of their respective deities, the Hindus and the Muslims screamed and yelled in a drunken stupor, but as they fell on to the ground after being wounded, I noticed that neither called upon Kali nor Allah; they cried for their mothers. They were lying side by side and were crying like two orphaned children bereft of their mothers.

I also noticed that their screams failed to deter the mosques; the effigies in the temples did not care about their sufferings. Only the blood of the fools continued to stain the stones of the holy buildings. Who would dare to erase the stain of stigma from the temples and mosques, my hero? The future awaits the hero’s arrival.

The Great Spirit approaches, the infinite being who will destroy the meeting place of these drunken religious fanatics. He will demolish the temples and the mosques and bring together all human beings under a single dome of the sky.

I am aware that the self-proclaimed “private secretaries” of the creator will chase me away by throwing their hats and caps, and blowing their shikhas, and yet they are the ones that will fall. They are the fanatics. They have not drunk the light of truth, but the alcohol of the shastra.

Those who hit Muhammad and barricaded his path, those that killed Jesus, have risen again and are in the act of hitting humanity—hurting people like Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Where are all those prophets who died while saving human beings? They came to save humanity, and today it is their perverted disciples who are causing so much offence to humanity.

The God of humanity is imprisoned today in the secured unit of the temple, in the reformatory of the mosque, in the jail of the church. The mullah, the purut, and the priest are guarding him. On the throne of the Creator sits the devil.

At one place, I saw a total of fifty-nine Hindus beating up a lean, emaciated Muslim. At another, the same number of Muslims thrashed a weak specimen of Hindu. Their way of killing a fellow human being could easily be compared to barbarians killing wild boars. I scrutinised the faces of these murderers and realised that their faces were more ferocious than the devil’s, uglier than the boar. They were filled with jealousy and hatred and hence reeked of hell.

The leaders of both parties are the same and his name is Satan. At times, he joins the Muslims wearing a beard and a cap, and on other occasions, he sports a shikha and works with the Hindus. This same fellow also leads the British soldiers shooting both Hindus and Muslims. His long tail dips into the sea and his face is red like that of the wild monkey beyond the ocean.

I noted that Allah did not arrive to save his mosque and Kali did not appear to save her temple. The top of the temple was destroyed as was the minaret of the mosque. Neither of the two deities cared enough to strike the Muslims with thunderbolt, or to hit the Hindus with stones of Ababil.

Amidst all this turmoil, a few boys appeared and took the clean shaved corpse of Khairu Miah and carried him to the burning ghat uttering “Hari bol at the top of their voices. A few other boys took the body of the bearded Sadananda Babu chanting “La ilaha illallah”, to the Muslim graveyard. The mistaken identities were assumed on the basis of these men having or not having beards.

Were the temple and the mosque growing cracks? Were they laughing at each other?

The battle continued. I saw a thin, wasted beggar-woman begging in the streets with a new-born child at her breast. It was wailing in a thin voice as if protesting against its birth in the world. The woman said, “I can’t even give him milk and he has just arrived. I have no milk in my breast.” I heard the voice of the world’s mother in hers. A man at my side sneered, “And you had to have a male child at this hour too? You don’t have a pound of flesh on your own body even!”

The woman just looked at him without batting her lashes once. Her eyes were burning like stars as if she was saying, “We have to sell our bodies because of hunger. And we sell it to people like you.”

Yes, this man could very well be the father of this child. If it’s not him, it could very well be his friend or brother. Aren’t the stars from the sky hurling the same question to you?

Three days later, I saw the same beggar woman on the street. She had no child with her, and her eyes were vacant. The other day, when she had the child with her, I saw the love of the universe in her eyes and her voice was earnest. But today, the mother in her had died and she was begging for the sake of begging.

She recognised me. I had given her the six paisas I had for tram fare. Her dry eyes suddenly welled up. I asked, “Where’s your son?”

She pointed to the sky and said, “Will you come with me, Sir?”

I followed her to a dustbin by the Krishnachura trees. I shuddered when she dug out a small bundle of rags from beneath the rubbish. She hugged and kissed it saying, “My darling, my sweet.”

This was her child—her darling and her sweet. She sat there quietly for some time and then threw the body in the dustbin. She said, “I bought a tin of outdated barley with the money you gave me the other day. I fed that barley diluted in cold water to my son. I took some myself with the hope of growing some milk in my breast. But no, it did not happen. My darling could not have a drop of milk in these three days. Then the barley was finished too, and he left me just today. It’s good that he left. I hope in his next life he is born to some well-to-do people. At least, he’ll have some milk.”

The beggar woman went off to beg and I took her child and walked toward the graveyard.

On my way, I saw the Hindus and the Muslims fighting with stones and bricks. I stood and watched them with the child’s corpse in my arms. But these zealously religious people had no time to look at a dead child; they were too busy hurling bricks and stones against each other and causing havoc. They had no time to look at the mother of the universe passing them by with ten lakhs of her emaciated children. They were the worshippers of bricks and boulders.

Weren’t those houses of worshipping created for the welfare of humanity? Since when have human beings become sacrificial animals for those houses? If that’s the reason behind the existence of those buildings, demolish them. Let all humanity gather together under the starlit night sky. Human beings built the temple and the mosque with their own hands. Now just because two bricks have fallen from the structure, should innocent victims be punished?

I wonder, when the row of emaciated, hungry men and women walk by the temple and mosque, why aren’t those structures affected?  Why isn’t there an earthquake and why doesn’t the Eternal Power tear down these buildings? Why doesn’t He pursue those caps and shikhas and wipe them out from the face of the earth?

Oh, where are you, the youth of our times? You are the only ones that can overcome such adversities. O my fearless brothers playing with fire, the ten lakh hapless people stand at your door. They seek your help.

You are not part of the team of vultures; you are the roaring fire, and you belong to no race, no creed. You belong with light, with songs, with integrity. Come out and chase those vultures away.

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Glossary

Shikhas – Crest of hair

Shastras— Hindu scriptures

Mullah – Muslim priest

Purut – Hindu priest

Ababil – Mythical birds from Islamic lore that attacked by pelting stones. Just as Thunderbolt was the weapon of the Hindu deity Indra, these birds attacked invading African armies and protected the Kaaba or the holy Islamic rock in Mecca.

Hari bol, La ilaha illallah – Chants used by Hindusand Muslims while doing death rituals invoking Krishna with Hari Bol and Allah with La ilaha illallah

Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was born on 25th May. He was a Muslim, married a Hindu and wrote songs mingling Hindu and Muslim lores. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs. He was charged with sedition by the British for his fiery writing and jailed repeatedly.

Sohana Manzoor is Associate Professor at the Department of English & Humanities at ULAB. She is also the Editor of The Daily Star Literature and Reviews Pages.

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