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pandies' corner

Children of Nithari: A Will To Be Human

Based on a real life story by Sachin Sharma, translated from Hindustani by Diksha Lamba

Sachin Sharma joined the pandies’ workshops when they started there in 2006 and has been among the most consistent ‘performers’ there. He calls himself a dreamer who harboured a secret desire to be an actor as a child. He found an English word to describe his shyness when he joined the school run by the NGO, Saksham, in 2003 — “introvert”. The support of the two organisations helped him survive the difficult times following the Nithari pogrom. He resolved to not give up on his passion for the arts while doing what was necessary, financially, to aid his family. His family also encouraged and supported his interest in acting and singing. The onset of the pandemic left him unemployed as the company he worked for shut down under economic losses brought on by the lockdowns. He used that time to finish a Masters’ degree in English Literature. He sings Haryanavi songs along with his elder brother and works for a multi-national company at present. He is also pursuing a course in Event Management as that area would combine his passion for acting and entertainment with the capability to earn for the family. 

A Will To Be Human

In this world brimming with desires, humans have high expectations from life. Some look up to others, some to God and some look within to find the human strength and courage to achieve those. All of us do know that in this world full of hopes and desires no one has it all. 

This is a story of the human will to resolve to find happiness and purpose in life despite many hardships. Here we have a boy who was dealt a bad fate, you could say, because of a disease but it was made worse by a human error, yet he refused to accept defeat.

Ankit was born in a small village called Nithari in Uttar Pradesh to a middle class family. In this village, which sat uncomfortably as a necessary evil in the heart of Noida City, children are born with desires higher than the skyscrapers and malls towering on top of their village and desires deeper than the overflowing drains and sewage pipes under their feet. 

The fragrance of freshly made sweets greeted the guests who had visited the family to welcome Ankit into this hardened world. Ankit’s family could not stop smiling and distributed gifts and clothes to near and dear ones. These smiles would be wiped off their faces soon. Small villages like Nithari are treated as necessary evil by the encircling city.  The children born here have as precarious an existence as the village itself. They may or may not find the right kind of medical care at the right time. 

At the height of festivities and celebrations, Ankit’s body started to burn with high fever. He was immediately rushed to Mandiki hospital where the doctor, unfortunately or just out of sheer habit, was not on duty. A compounder (close to quacks with no medical education) gave Ankit the wrong injection in doctor’s absence. Polio preyed upon Ankit’s small body and he lost the use of both his legs. This resulted in a lifelong dependency on crutches. 

The family felt crushed with helplessness. The government’s polio awareness campaign had not yet crossed the residential complex across the street to this village yet. The cramped lanes and the aroma of overflowing drains make it harder for public awareness campaigns to reach such small places. This smallness was not to define who Ankit would become as he grew up. Such is the strength and power of the human desire to live and to live with dignity. 

When Ankit started school, he made many friends. They were supportive and sympathetic about his situation. The thought that he could not jump around and play like other kids in school kept nagging Ankit. He gradually resigned to what fate had in store for him. Something else – that was more powerful – also grew out of his handicap. He started focusing on the talents he did have. His heart and mind took up the challenges life had strewn in his path. 

Even when he was just a child, Ankit had a sharp mind and a keen interest in sports and education. Unable to play with friends, he spent most of his time studying. He earned a postgraduate degree and simultaneously started to work harder on his interest in music.

He made it a point to spare enough time from his hectic coursework to practice music at home with his younger siblings. With a desire to establish himself an artist, he picked up musical instruments like dholak (drums) and harmonium, and started singing. 

He managed to take long strides ahead with his brothers by his side. He made considerable progress day by day and released his first Haryanavi song on YouTube along with his younger brother in 2018. The song received much love and appreciation online. Ankit has never looked back since that day. He carries on singing. Many of his songs are played during wedding festivities and are famous on YouTube.

Ankit’s will power had the courage to change his weakness into his strength. This story is about all those people who find their inner strength when life gets tough. People who accept defeat should take inspiration from Ankit’s story. If you are willing to work hard, it is possible to make a mark in this world. 

This is my elder brother’s story. You can find this name, Titu Sharma Nithariya, on any social media platform today. The boy fought against hopelessness and followed his passion against many odds to start his own company, TSN Records. I write in the hope that, like me, you will find inspiration to dream big even in moments of crisis. My brother has been my inspiration and both of us have decided to contribute to the world of singing. We hope to inspire others through our art.

Diksha Lamba is among the senior members of pandies’, having over 15 years of experience of performing (acting and workshopping) for the group. Coming from a background of studying and teaching English Literature, Diksha is now pursuing Law and teaching a course module of Theatre and Law at NLSIU, Bangalore.  She has been associated with Saksham, Nithari from the time that pandies’ started working there and has a 15 year association with the place and with Sachin.

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Categories
Poetry

The Way of the Fallen Leaves

Poetry & translation from Korean by Ihlwha Choi

LEAFLESS TREES

The fallen leaves did not become
colourful by themselves.
Green leaves through the summer
do not turn red in one magical day,
without the help of the sun and the wind.
The fresh green buds in spring,
the flowers that blossom to bear fruits
can't be made by the trees alone.
Likewise, the falling leaves do not fly dancing
to fall by themselves.
Wild cats often wet the feet of trees,
birds fly away leaving traces of songs on boughs
that receive sunshine and share water
with the neighbouring trees in the dry seasons.
The fallen leaves have walked for a long time
following the way of the fallen leaves.
The trees have raised the flowers and fruits
by the orbits of the sun and the moon.
But they are letting the flowers and fruits
go their own way.
Now the trees are letting even the leaves
return to their original places.
Finally, the trees will stand as leafless trees.

Ihlwha Choi is a South Korean poet. He has published multiple poetry collections, such as Until the Time, When Our Love will Flourish, The Colour of Time, His Song and The Last Rehearsal.

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Categories
Stories

The Faithful Wife

A Balochi folktale translated by Fazal Baloch

Courtesy: Creative Commons

Once there lived a king who had a son. With the passage of time, the prince grew into a young man.  The king thought that before he shut his eyes forever, the prince should be married off. He expressed his desire to his son who responded with his choice. He wanted to marry a princess of a distant land. The next day, the king summoned his vizier and told him what the prince desired. Moreover, he said that he would pay as much dower as they asked for.

The vizier sent a messenger to the king for the purpose. The king gave his consent. The messenger returned to his country with the good news. The prince was married with great pomp and splendour. A few days after their marriage, the king brought his daughter-in-law to the palace. She was beautiful and well-mannered.

Days passed by. One day the king breathed his last and his son subsequently ascended the throne and became the king. But he loved his wife so much that he did not pay much attention to the affairs of his kingdom. At last, he abdicated his throne to live a happy and peaceful life with his beautiful wife. Soon he ran out of his wealth and become so poor that he had nothing left. A few days later his wife turned to him and said, “By sitting idle at home we will die of hunger. You should do something or engage yourself in a business”. He replied, “First, I can’t live without you. Separation from you will rend my heart. Second I’m not well-versed in any craft. There is however a desire in my heart to conduct some trade but I don’t have any capital for it”.

“Don’t worry I will finance you,” his wife told him.

“How come?” asked the husband.

“Take all my jewels and sell them off and bring me the sum you receive for them.”

The husband did what his wife had told him. The wife then advised him to buy goods with the money and board a ship. Thus he loaded the goods on a ship and returned to his wife and asked her, “What should I do next?”

She gave him a flower and said, “Whenever you feel sorrowful for me, just look at the flower. It will ease off your sorrows”.

He put the flower into his pocket, boarded the ship and set on his journey. After journeying for many days and night he finally landed in a distant country. He anchored the ship in the harbour. Meanwhile, the soldiers arrived and demanded duties. He paid the duty for the ship but surprised the soldiers saying that he had something else on him but neither was he going to pay any duty for it nor show it to them.

“How strange! What is it?” a soldier asked him but he refused to reveal.

When the soldiers continued to insist, he at last told them that it was the flower given by his wife. The soldiers took him to the king’s court and told the king about the flower he was keeping with him. The king turned to him and asked him sarcastically, “Oh, you think your wife is such a good woman that you can live by her token?”

“Yes, I think so” was his reply.

“If we produce your wife here at our court, what would you say?”

“If you think you can convince her to come here, I will give her to you”, he told the king. Then he turned to the court and said, “A man or two could go and try to persuade his wife to come.”

Two young men, one was king’s own son and the other was the vizier’s, presented themselves for the adventure. After making necessary preparations, they set out on their journey.

Meanwhile, the man sought permission to sell his goods. The king granted permission happily.

The king’s and vizier’s son traveled long and finally reached the city where the wife of the king who was now a merchant lived. There they ran into an old lady who invited them to her cottage. They asked the old woman to go to the merchant’s wife and tell her that the son of a king was desperate to see her. Initially she refused but when the prince gave her a sack full of gold coins, the old woman hurried to merchant’s wife and conveyed her prince’s message. At first she made excuses but when the old woman gave her no rest she at last said, “Ask the prince to visit me at night”.

The old woman told the prince what she had been told by the merchant’s wife. In the evening, the prince spruced himself up and took leave of his friend, the vizier’s son and left for his desired destination.

When he reached there, the woman pointed towards the bathroom and said, “Go there and refresh yourself. I do the same. Then we will have a conversation. We’ve a long night ahead”.

The moment the prince entered the bathroom, the woman locked the door from outside. Two days later, when the prince failed to return, the vizier’s son grew anxious about him. He wondered if someone had done him ill or he had gone somewhere. The next night he decided to see the woman and ask her about the prince. But when his eyes fell on her, he forgot the prince and thought that it would be a lucky hit if he managed to trick her.

He told her that he had been desperate to see her and would be much obliged if she would spare some moments to talk to him. The woman told him to do what she had asked the prince the other night. When he entered the bathroom she locked it from the outside. Now the prince and vizier’s son both lay locked in the bathroom. Six or seven days later she sent for a carpenter and asked him to make two giant sixed boxes in which a man could sleep easily. He also asked the carpenter to make two holes on the side of the each box.

The carpenter went off and made the boxes as she had ordered him. She then summoned two men who owned camels. She instructed them thus, “I have locked two men in the bathroom, put them in these two boxes, load them on the camels”.

When they were all done she asked the camel owners to follow her. She fed them water and food through the holes in the boxes. After travelling for many days and night, they finally reached the land of the king who wished to have her in his court. Upon reaching there, she rented a quarter and placed the two boxes there. She locked the house and went out. On her way to the city, she encountered the kotwal or the police chief of the city. He inquired her: “Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan”, she replied.

“Don’t you know courtesans are not allowed to move around freely in this city? I wouldn’t let you wander like this.”

“Is there any way that I could be spared?” She asked the kotwal.

“If you visit my home in the evening, I will let you go,” the kotwal put the condition before her.

“Of course I will come. This is what I do. But being a servant of the king you have always people around you. If any of your sentries or soldiers catches the sight of me, it will bring ruin to your reputation. I have rented a house in the corner of the city. It is better we meet there”.

Thus, the kotwal let her go.

The Imam of the mosque was the next she encountered. He asked her:

“Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan,” she replied.

“I seek refuge from the Holy Lord! Don’t you know such impure women are not allowed to roam freely in this city? I will take you to the king”.

“Please for God’s sake, let me go,” she pleaded.

“If you visit me in the evening I will let you go,” he told her.

“Of course, I will come. This is what I do. But as you are the Imam of the entire city, whether it is death or marriage people will come to you to perform the rituals. If someone saw me with you, it would tarnish your dignity and honor. I have rented a house in the corner of the city. It is better we meet there”.

Hence the Imam let her go.

She then ran into the vizier who inquired: “Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan”, she replied.

“The king has banned the movement of courtesans in the city. I will take you to the king”.

“Is there any way that I may be spared?” she asked the vizier.

“Yes, if you come at my home near king’s palace tonight, then I will leave you,” said the vizier.

“Of course, I will come. This is what I do. But as you are the vizier, if king sends someone for you and he happens to catches the sight me with you it will dent your dignity. I have rented a room in the city. It is better we meet there”.

The vizier agreed and let her go.

At last she bumped into the king himself. He asked her: “Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan,” she replied.

“In my kingdom sinful women like you are not allowed. I will put you in the prison”.

“I am a poor woman. Let me earn a livelihood. Take pity on me,” she pleaded.

“No, I can’t,” the king replied.

“Isn’t there any way that I may be spared?” she asked the king earnestly.

“Yes, there is but one condition. If you accept it I will let you go the very instant”.

“What is it”?

“If you come at my palace in the evening, I will let you go,” said the king.

“Of course I will. This is what I do. But as you are the king of the land, if someone saw me with you; it would stain your honour and esteem. I have rented a house in the corner of the city. It is better we meet there”.

Thus the king was agreed to see her at her house. He noted down the details of the location and told her that he would pay her a visit at her place that night.

The woman returned to her quarter. At dusk she cooked herself a dinner. She was just done with her meal when someone knocked at the door. She got up and opened the door. The kotwal was standing outside. She let him in. He had barely seated himself when someone again knocked at the door. The kotwal pleaded with the woman:

“For God sake hide me somewhere.”

“There is no such place in the house where I could hide you, but I have an idea,” replied the woman.

“What is the idea?” the kotwal instantly asked her.

“I will give you a sack of grain and you grind the content in the quern. Thus, nobody will suspect you”.

The kotwal agreed.

She opened the door and found the mullah standing outside. She welcomed him. The mullah had just started the conversation with the woman, when someone knocked at the door again. The mullah grew worried, and he begged to the woman saying: “Pray hide me somewhere”.

“There is no such place in the house where I could hide you but I have an idea”, replied the woman.

“What is the idea?” the mullah asked her trembling.

“You should bend down on your knees, and I will place the water-pitchers on your back,” said the woman.

The mullah consented and she placed two water-pitchers on his back and strolled out of the room.

She opened the door and let the vizier in. The vizier had barely stepped into the house, when there was a knock on the door again. The vizier turned to the woman and urged her: “Please hide me somewhere”.

“There is no such place in the house where I could hide you but I have an idea,”replied the woman.

“What is the idea?” The vizier asked her in an earnest voice.

“You should snuggle against the wall and I will place the lamp on your head. It will be dark beneath the lamp and nobody will notice your presence,” said the woman.

The vizier did what the woman told him. She placed the lamp on his head and left the room.

She opened the door and to her surprise she found the king himself standing before her. She courteously greeted him and conducted him into the house. Then she went and unlocked the two giant boxes. A moment later she excused herself and said: “Let me take a bath to refresh myself before I join you”.

The king granted her the permission, and she stole out of the door and started her journey back home.

Back in the house, the king kept waiting for her. When after a long time she failed to show up, the king decided to ask the maidservant who was grinding the grain. Hence he walked over there and he was astonished to discover that instead of a maidservant it was the kotwal grinding the grains. When the kotwal saw the king there he smiled and said: “Thank God! I’m not alone. His Majesty too has been tricked by the woman”.

The vizier also felt relieved and so did the mullah. The king said that since they had been tricked by the woman, they would take away the two boxes of the woman. The king went forward and opened one box and but instead of any finery or jewelry he found his own son lying in the box. The king lost his temper saying, “I spit on your face. You damn coward!”

The prince turned to his father and said, “I was made a captive away from home, but I curse you for you all have been tricked in your own kingdom.”

The king asked him about vizier’s son. The prince told him that he was lying in the next box. They all broke the door and sheepishly went to the merchant and sought his forgiveness for they couldn’t bring his wife into the palace. The king presented him a shipload of silver and gold.At last he reached his home. He felt very proud to have a clever woman as his wife who with her shrewdness not only protected her own honour but also did not let any stain spoil her husband’s dignity. Thus, she remained honoured and exalted in the eyes of both her husband and God.

(This folktale was originally featured in Balochi in Geedi Kessah-5, compiled by Mahmood Mari published by Balochi Academy Quetta in 1979. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights of this collection.)

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies.

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Categories
Excerpt

Mahasweta Devi, Our Santiniketan

Title: Mahasweta Devi, Our Santiniketan.

Translator: Radha Chakravarty (From Bengali)

Publisher: Seagull Books, January 2022.

I first visited Santiniketan at the age of four, I’m told.

If we calculate the date, that would be 1930, or December 1929. Whether it was that December, or the January of 1929, I don’t know. Ma said it was an awfully cold winter. Shivering all the way on our journey there, shivering all the way back.

How amazing! I used to remember my very, very young days very, very well.

Yet now I can no longer recall that first visit.

I can’t be expected to remember, either. For now, I’m in my seventy-fifth year.

For a long, long time, I lived with Ma, Baba, my mamas, mashis, kakas, pishis, Dadu, Didima, Thakurda (only I called him ‘Dada’), Thakuma— all of them.

Not just them. Also Ma’s kaka, jyatha, mama, mashi, and their children and grandchildren. In other words, I lived with relatives of a hundred kinds, our lives closely entangled. For as long as they were with us, there was constant talk. In that buzz of conversation, one heard people say things like:

‘You were four years old then!’

‘When you fell off the tree . . . ’

‘The time you boarded an aeroplane . . . ’

That was how one got to know about one’s own childhood. So many years since Ma left us—to whom can I narrate my tales of childhood now! What I want to say here is that, although my first visit to Santiniketan was something that really happened, it’s an event I know of only by hearsay.

What we learn of by hearsay can also be true, after all. Way back in 1936, I went to Jhargram. Those days, Jhargram was a sea of sal forests.

Like an island within that sea was a house where we stayed. When Baba was transferred to Medinipur, I got to see a great deal of the Gopa, Jhargram, Salbani, Belpahari of those times.

‘Khuku! In Medinipur we spent our happiest days,’ Ma used to say.

I say the same.

Look, I’ll tell you about my childhood. But there’s no one alive now who can understand what I’m talking about.

Never mind. I must talk about the first time I saw Santiniketan.

Baba had probably joined Visva-Bharati as a member. What was his reason?

Visva-Bharati was Rabindranath’s creation, after all!

Well, Baba had seen Rabindranath several times, gone to meet him as well. This time, he had decided to take Ma with him, and us two sisters too.

If I was four at the time, my sister Mitul would have been no more than six months old!

Trains those days had First Class, Second Class, Inter Class and Third Class compartments. We boarded a Second Class compartment. A pair of wide, leather-upholstered berths below, another pair above.

In addition, the First Class compartment had a wall-mounted mirror, and hooks to hang clothes, raincoats and umbrellas. Fixed to the wall between the two bathrooms was a table with no legs. As far as I can remember, these items were absent from the Second Class compartment. The cushioning of the First Class berths was heavier, and the other fittings much superior. White sahebs and brown sahebs, did they all travel First Class? I don’t know.

That they didn’t travel in the same compartment, was something I heard of all the time. The British were in power then. They were the ruling class.

Gandhiji always travelled Third Class, in compartments meant for common people. Incredible, as it seems today, once I saw Gandhiji too; but let that be.

Anyway, it was high winter then. On the train, Ma and I took the lower berth. A gentleman on the berth above us, another on the lower berth opposite. Baba on the upper berth, with Mitul. Ma and Baba had a massive war of words, I’m told.

‘You take the upper berth with Khuku. Mitul is so tiny, let her remain with me.’

‘Aha! You can recline comfortably.’

‘Mitul is so small, she’ll fall off!’

‘How can she, when I’m with her?’

And so, the verbal battle went on and on. The gentleman on the lower berth interrupted from time to time, saying things like:

‘Aha! Please stop this! The children are asleep after all, so why must you . . . ?’ and so on.

Ultimately, at some point, everyone fell asleep. Look, among all the trains of those days—BNR, INR, this Mail, that Mail, some other Mail—which one we were travelling in, I can’t say. I’m told that the moment we arrived at Bhedia station, it was either our co-passengers who declared: ‘This is Bolpur’, or my Baba who decided, ‘This is Bolpur’. How exactly it happened, there’s no way of figuring out now, after a gap of seventy years. From what I knew of my Baba, I suspect he tumbled out of the train, announcing:

‘This is Bolpur!’

Ma recounted how, as soon as he alighted at the station, Baba cried, ‘We’ve got off at Bolpur, so why is this station named Bhedia?’

‘Bhedia’ was the name displayed at the station, on a square glass chimney atop a heavy wooden stand.

Anyway. The station master emerged. He understood the situation and organized a bullock cart for us. It was lined with  a thick layer of straw, covered by a shataranchi. You wouldn’t know this, but if you sleep on a thick layer of straw with that chequered rug spread over it, it really keeps the cold at bay. Dumka in 1944, Ghatsila in 1945, I remember them very well. In December, we had travelled to those places from Santiniketan.

In that bitter cold, my parents had climbed on to the bullock cart and eventually arrived at Santiniketan. The house behind the Mandir, which I thought of as the Guest House since 1936, is where I think they had stayed.

In the morning, they set out for an audience with the poet. Seated beside Rabindranath was Ramananda Chattopadhyay. I was terribly precocious, and even more artless. Apparently, I asked Ramananda Chattopadhyay:

‘Are you Robi Thakur?’

Tell me, how was I to blame! Dadu-Didima, my grandparents back home, used the name ‘Robi Thakur’. Thakurda, my paternal grandfather, would say ‘Robi-babu’. I mean, he referred to the Poet as ‘Robi-babu’. Baba, Boromama, Ma, my mashis and pishis — they used the name ‘Rabindranath’. No wonder I had blurted out such a foolish question.

Even that anecdote is a matter of hearsay, after all.

What happened after this episode, I can’t recall.

So those were my first glimpses of Rabindranath, and of Santiniketan.

The Santiniketan I saw six years later, when I went there at the age of ten — that is what remains etched in my memory as ‘our Santiniketan’. Like a dazzling feather that has fluttered down from some unknown place. In my mind it remains, enclosed within a box made of glass. I can turn it this way and that, look at it from any angle, whenever I desire.

I can. It’s something I can do, even now. Still, I have travelled a long distance away from my childhood, so the glass box now seems far, far away. I gaze at it and realize that the colours are fading. I realize that, one day, all the colours will vanish.

Of course, they will vanish. Someday, someone will ask me to write about it, and with my dimming vision I will sit down to write. Sixty-four years now. How long will the feather keep its colours, waiting?

The ‘feather’ stands for memories of childhood.

Memories don’t wait either. Memories grow tired. They want to go to sleep.

About the Book: In Our Santinikentan, the late Mahasweta Devi, one of India’s most celebrated writers, vividly narrates her days as a schoolgirl in the 1930s. As the aging author struggles to recapture vignettes of her childhood, these reminiscences bring to the written page not only her individual sensibility but an entire ethos.

Santiniketan is home to the school and university founded by the foremost literary and cultural icon of India, Rabindranath Tagore. In these pages, a forgotten Santiniketan, seen through the innocent eyes of a young girl, comes to life — the place, its people, flora and fauna, along with its educational environment, culture of free creative expression, vision of harmonious coexistence between natural and human worlds, and the towering presence of Tagore himself. Alongside, we get a glimpse of the private Mahasweta — her inner life, family and associates, and the early experiences that shaped her personality.

A nostalgic journey to a bygone era, harking back to its simple yet profound values — so distant today and so urgent yet again — Our Santiniketan is an invaluable addition to Devi’s rich oeuvre available in English translation.


Mahasweta Devi (1926–2016) was one of India’s foremost literary figures from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries—a writer and social activist in equal right. Author of numerous novels, plays, essays and short stories, she received the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary honour, in 1996. She was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1997 for her ‘compassionate crusade through art and activism to claim for tribal peoples a just and honourable place in India’s national life’.

Radha Chakravarty is a writer, critic, and translator. In 2004, she was nominated for the Crossword Translation Award for In the Name of the Mother by Mahasweta Devi.

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Categories
Poetry

A Superpower in the Pandemic

Poem written in Korean and translated to English by Ihlwha Choi

A SUPERPOWER IN THE PANDEMIC

Looking at the colourful petals,
I walked along the road of sweet briers.

One man passing by on bike
stopped suddenly beside me and called my name.
Surprisingly, he was one of my friends from boyhood.

He  could recognise me 
despite my mask and cap!
He had an amazing ability of penetration.

I walked along the seaside near Sore fish market.
A few children were throwing cookies to seagulls.
There were full loads of fishing boats returning.

One young man passed by, came back to me
saying ,"Excuse me are you not a teacher?"
Removing masks, we confirmed each other.
He was one of my students from a decade ago.

Marvellous power of discernment!
In this severe pandemic era, people developed
Superpowers to use in real life.

Ihlwha Choi is a South Korean poet. He has published multiple poetry collections, such as Until the Time, When Our Love will Flourish, The Colour of Time, His Song and The Last Rehearsal.

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Categories
Stories

Eyes of the Python


Written in Tamil by S.Ramakrishnan, translated by Dr.B.Chandramouli

Raghav dreamed of a python again. He had never dreamed of a snake till he was thirty. But ever since he married seven months ago, the python had recurred several times in his dreams. Mirudhula was to blame.

She was fond of pythons. When she admired one, her eyes would widen as if she were swishing her tongue at a delicious gulab jamun. In confusion, he used to wonder: “What kind of woman is she?”

In the city zoo, there was a cage with an artificial tree containing a twelve-foot python. They did not know where they got it; it was the first thing they went to see as newlyweds.

“Ragav, look at its eyes. They flash with a secret. Its texture, the style of its coils, the small movements, all of it are amazing. I like it; I want to hold it in my lap,” said Mirudhula.

Ragav hid his fear and asked, “Should we go?”

“We just arrived. Why are you rushing?” she said, standing near the barrier, watching it with interest.

He could not understand what interested her.

“You know it is non-poisonous. Even at school, I got a prize for drawing a python,” said Mirudhula.

“It is still a snake,” said Ragav. She was snapping pictures with her mobile. A boy who came there hid behind his mother with closed eyes. His mother was pulling him forward, urging him to look.

Ragav left her alone and went to see the white tiger. When he returned, she was still admiring the python. He felt irritated to see her slowly licking an ice cream cone and watching the motionless python.

Young newlyweds go to the movies only. Mirudhula was not interested in the movies; in all of her 26 years, she had seen only less than ten.

“I fall asleep at the cinema,” she said. He could never fall asleep in a movie theater.

In his college days, he would watch all three new releases for Diwali and Pongal non-stop. The three movie theatres in his town changed movies twice a week. In a week he saw six movies, mostly second shows. If it was too late to go home, he would sleep on friend’s open terrace and in the morning, go to the college from straight from there.

Why did he marry a girl who disliked movies – he wondered.

 Mirudhula was a salesperson for a multinational company. She was the single daughter of a dentist. She graduated from Manipal University after attending an Ooty convent. Having worked in Italy for two years, she was fluent in four or five languages. She made 1.5 lakhs per month.

They connected on a matrimonial site. When they first met in Amethyst’s coffee shop, her perfume intoxicated him. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her black and yellow salwar-kameez.

She spoke fluently and naturally with a fake smile on her face, as if speaking to a customer. She ordered an orange ice-tea, which Ragav had never tasted.

Twice, she repeated the same question: “Are you the only offspring?”

“Yes. My father is a college professor and my mom a schoolteacher,” he replied.

“Thank God you aren’t a teacher too,” she said. He didn’t get what was funny about it but laughed politely. Her charming beauty seduced him, as one might desire decorated pineapple pieces in a five-star hotel.

She seemed to be purposefully using a seductive voice.

“May I know how much you weigh?” she asked.

No girl has ever asked him that. Feeling shy, he said, “Sixty-eight”.

“You must lose 5kg, ” she said, smiling.

While opposite her, he felt as if it was drizzling on his face.

She winked, “Do you have any other questions?”

“You are very beautiful,” said Ragav. 

“I am aware of it.”

“I am lucky,” he laughed lightly.

“I’m still deciding – have to think more. I rush nothing.” Mirudhula said, “I am different and difficult to understand.”

“Different how?”

“I don’t want to scare you off yet, but I am like that only.”

She licked her small lips as she spoke. Her lips were sexy; the upper one was slightly smaller.

‘I think I am an inch taller than you,” she said.

“Is that so?” he exclaimed. “It is not a problem.” 

“It would be a problem for me. You should wear platform shoes,” she said.

“Sure. I can do that.”

“Do you drive?” she asked.

“No, I only ride a bike.”

“I got a car as soon as I got the job and drive to work daily. I love driving.”

“That is really cool. We don’t have to use ola then,” he said.

She disliked that comment. Slowly combing her distressed hair, she munched on the orange wedge.

“Aren’t you curious about my car?”

“Sorry. I know nothing about cars.”

She teased him, “Do you walk on the road with your eyes closed?”

“I wear a helmet. I hardly notice anything else.”

While she ate a sugar cube, she regarded him quietly. Her eyes seemed to seek something in him. What was she looking for? He could not stand her scrutiny.  

She smiled. “We will meet again.”

 Her perfume lingered long after she left. Ragav picked up and tasted a sugar cube just like her.

It was the first of their three dates. After that, their families got together and arranged the wedding. Unlike traditional marriage hall weddings, theirs was a lavish affair at a beach resort. Mirudhula’s father spared no expense. They honeymooned in Hawaii. She enjoyed varied foods, including fish. Raghav craved rice.

Even when she was kissing him in bed, Mirudhula was slow and deliberate. Her kiss was emphatic. Her embrace was slow and long. Their lovemaking was urgent and refreshing, like eating ice cream in the summer.

They temporarily stayed at Mirudhula’s apartment upon returning to Chennai. Mirudhula was serious about renting a new home. She rented a flat on the top floor of a newly built apartment building with 34 floors.

Ragav said, “A first-floor flat would have been nice.”

“One must live in the highest location possible. It is nice to see the city beneath my feet,” she said.

He felt uncomfortable living so far up.  What if the lift failed? What if the balcony glass barrier cracked? Why was there so much glare in the morning? His mind bubbled with doubts, questions, and fears. But her morning routine was to stand on the balcony with the morning brew in the hand and admire the sprawling city below. The fast wind blew her hair in waves. He disliked standing on the balcony.

Mirudhula was a great cook, but she only cooked when she liked it. The other times, they catered from the hotel only. She was never late for work. Even at home, she never seemed to rest and kept moving. Ragav, however, liked to relax on the sofa after work. On Sundays, he slept until noon. Not her.  She exercised every morning. She took great care of her figure and health.

Leaving together by car, she dropped him off at the metro station and proceeded to her workplace. She never drove him to work. She often got home by 9 p.m., whereas he was back by 6 p.m.

While waiting for her, he watched television. Occasionally, he cooked for himself. All his dreams of married life were dashed in a few weeks. He felt that his life was like a book read and finished in a hurry.

One day Mirudhula fought, saying he lacked toilet etiquette. He yelled at her another day for storing Chinese food in the fridge that smelled foul. Despite the petty fights, she often surprised him with gifts. He too took her shopping every week without fail. To appease her, he ate in some restaurants that he disliked. Her poise was evident in her every action.

She had the habit of buying strange things online. She bought wall mounted blue lights for the bedroom. The rotating blue light made the room look like a pool. When she moved around in the room, it was as if in a dream.

Another time, he was busy at work when she sent him a video and texted him to watch it right away. It was a revolting scene that showed a python swallowing a baby monkey.

Angrily, he called her and demanded to know why she sent him that video.

“Did you see? The python swallows the monkey and turns, looking eerily silent…something strange…”

“Isn’t the baby monkey unfortunate?”

“Snakes eat when they’re hungry–anything wrong in that?”

“Don’t send such videos anymore. Why would I look at them?”

“I liked the video so much I watched it 30 times today. You are my better half, so I shared it with you.”

 He cut the call with “Stupid”

It was two days before they spoke again. He became more enraged when she ignored his anger.

That Sunday, she made many of his favorite dishes. She deliberately wore a silk sari. Showered him with kisses; his anger melted away.

A few days later, she told him while leaving for work, “I’ll get a package; accept it but don’t open it. I’ll open it.”

“What package?” he asked.

“Surprise” she laughed.

A guy delivered a big box, just as she said. It came from Taiwan.

Despite being curious, he did not open it, not wanting to anger her.

Unusually, she called before coming home that day: “Did the package arrive?””

“They delivered it in the afternoon itself,” he said.

“Can I get you something from McDonalds?” she asked.

Knowing she wasn’t planning to cook, he replied, “Pick it up yourself.”

She asked, “What sweet would you like?”.

“I’ve given up sweets,” he said flatly.

She cut the line by saying, “Well, we’re eating today.”

Mirudhula came home carrying two bags. One package contained food and the other sweets. Was it her birthday today? He wondered. Then he remembered her birthday was on May 8th. He could not figure out what was special about that day.

 The package she carefully unwrapped contained a rubber python folded six times. She caressed it lovingly.

“Touch it and see how soft it is”

“What is this for, Mirudhula?” he asked.

“They have included a hand pump to inflate it; please help me,” she said

He took the hand pump and inflated the rubber python through a port. He watched it slowly expand. The snake unraveled to over ten feet of smooth coils. She wore it on her shoulders and smiled.

“Come close… let us wear it together,” she said.

As he grudgingly consented, she wrapped the inflated python around his shoulder as well.

“How is it? Can you feel the silky touch?” she asked.

“It feels strangely slimy, “he said as he tried shaking it off.

“I searched online and ordered it from Taiwan for 300 dollars,” she said.

“It’s not worth it. What made you buy it? I don’t like it,” said Ragav.

“I will spend my money as I wish. You like nothing.” She said, reclining on the sofa, hugging the python. He was a bit scared to look at her. As she stroked the python’s head, she stroked it with her cheek; only its tail was dangling outside the sofa.

“Ragav, I am thrilled today. Let us celebrate.”

“What is there to celebrate?”

“You won’t understand. Even before we were married, I said I was different. You even nodded your head.”

“That doesn’t mean you should have a Python at home… who would do that?”

“This is not a true snake, just a toy.”

“Why do you need a toy?”

“Then why do you have a fish tank? You like watching fish, right? Did I question it?”

“It is not the same.”

“It is all the same. Look Ragav. Whether you like it or not — us living together means compromising on some things I like.”

“There is no such rule.”

“No problem.  I don’t need your permission, anyway.” She laughed and sat down on the couch to watch an Italian channel. When she was angry, she would speak in a foreign language and watch foreign language channels.

Ragav locked himself in his room. His anger took a long time to subside. She might even bring the rubber python to the bedroom, he thought. Luckily, she left it on the sofa. She ate alone and came to bed as if nothing had happened.

She took the python to the bathroom the next day. She rubbed soap suds on it as she played with it in the shower. The wet python dried on the balcony.

He suppressed his rage and left for the office.

In the car, Mirudhula said, “You are overreacting, it’s just a toy.” This is like you playing video games; try to understand.”

He did not reply. That day, she drove him to his office on purpose. He came home to find the dried python in the hall, left there by the maid. He was furious.

When he touched its body, it felt like a snake but with motionless eyes. The plastic tongue twitched when he pressed its head. In the mirror, his visage looked strange as he wore the snake, like she did. It was such an expensive costume. What would someone from his hometown think? What is so special about this python?

 He deflated the python. Folding the rubber shell, he cast it in the kitchen corner. It was the first thing she looked for when Mirudhula got home at 9.30 pm. Not finding it, she shouted, “What did you do with the python?”

“It is in the kitchen”

“You would have deflated it, I know.” She said, walking to the kitchen.

“Yes. It is disgusting to look at.”

“The problem is yours. What you did is inevitable; you’re a pervert.”

“I’m not perverted. Does anyone else keep a python at home?”

“I don’t care if others keep it or not. I’m not like others.”

“You are adamant.”

“Yes. I am like that only.” She said, deliberately inflating the python with the hand pump. It grew much larger than its usual size. She walked to the bedroom, lovingly hugging the python. Loud music blared. Maybe she was dancing with the python.

Ragav slept on the sofa that night. The python accompanied her to work in the morning. In the lift, an old man asked her, “Is that a rubber toy? Where do they sell it?”

“Taiwan” she said, laughing.

“I’ve seen a python in the Assamese forests,” said the old man.

She put the python in the back seat. She did not drive him to work that day. He rode to work on his bike. He could not concentrate at work. When he spoke to his mother, he told her what had transpired.  His mother asked incredulously, “A rubber snake? Why did she buy it?”

“Who knows? She is a strange type.”

His mother was shocked. “Thank goodness she did not buy a live snake”

“She might even do that. I don’t know what to do.”

He heard his mother cursing in anger. Perhaps she spoke to Mirudhula’s father. Mirudhula’s mom called her the next day.

“Why did you talk to others about our problems?” Mirudhula demanded.

“I told my mother only.”

“Are you a schoolboy to run to your mother? What do you have in your mind? Am I crazy?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t live up to your expectations, Ragav.”

“I understood it very well long ago.”

“Then you better close your eyes and ears.  If you complain again like this to my folks, I do not know what I will do.”

“Why do you torture me? You can leave if you don’t like to live with me.”

“Why should I leave? I will stay here.”

“Well, I will leave then.”

Walking to the balcony with the python, she said, “It’s your choice.”. Leaning on the barrier, she held the snake up, and it wave in the air. To express his anger, he left for work early in the morning.

He arrived home late that night. The home was empty. He didn’t bother to look for her. She did not return the next day as well. He rang her father, but his father did not pick up the phone. After three days, Mirudhula called him one afternoon. “I have decided Ragav. I am leaving”              

“It is your choice.”

“The house cost me over two lakhs. You must return it. I have informed the owner that I will vacate the home, since I have paid for the advance. You better find a new place. Our marriage was a bad dream. That is all I can say.” She hung up.

Ragav thought she’d return after her anger subsided. He couldn’t stand her stubborn behavior. He wanted to call her back and give a piece of his mind. When he called again, she did not pick up the phone.

Upon returning home that night, he discovered she had emptied the house of her clothes and belongings. But she had left behind the rubber python, which lay alone in the middle of the hall.

Why did she leave it behind? It was the root of all their problems. What was she seeking? Her wants were so weird.

He kicked the rubber snake with his foot, but even then, his rage did not fade.

To vent his anger, he trampled the snake with his feet. After deflating it, he took it to the balcony and cast it into the wind.

 Flying in the air, the snake looked beautiful indeed. 

Glossary

Gulab jamun: Indian sweets

Diwali, Pongal: Festivals

S. Ramakrishnan is an eminent Tamil writer who has won the Sahitya Akademi Award in the Tamil Language category in 2018. He has published 10 novels, 20 collections of short stories, 75 collections of essays, 15 books for children, 3 books of translation and 9 plays. He also has a collection of interviews to his credit. His short stories are noted for their modern story-telling style in Tamil and have been translated and published in English, Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Kannada and French.  

Dr.Chandramouli is a retired physician.. He is fluent in English and Tamil. He has done several English to Tamil, and Tami to English. He has published some of them.

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

Categories
Essay

‘What remains is darkness and facing me – Banalata Sen!’

 

Rakibul Hasan Khan explores death and darkness in Fakrul Alam’s translation of Jibanananda Das’s poetry

I

Literary translation is a creative work, and the literariness of a translated work reflects the creativity of the translator. From a reader’s perspective who does not know the language of the “original”, the more the translated work reads “natural”, the better is the translation. But it is very intriguing from the viewpoint of someone who has access to both the original and the language of the translation. Reading the translation for such a reader is sometimes like reading the same poem in two languages at the same time, which is often a very enriching and exhilarating experience. But it is not always the case, for such readers may show a critical attitude to the translation for having a “bias” towards the original, especially if the latter is written in their first language. Then their reading turns out to be more an evaluation of the translation than enjoying the work in translation. It is a difficult task for such readers to overcome this predicament. 

I also face this predicament while reading Fakrul Alam’s translations of Jibanananda Das’(1899-1954) poetry in Jibanananda Das: Selected Poems with an Introduction, Chronology, and Glossary (Dhaka: UPL, 2nd Ed, 2003). To keep aside my evaluative concerns, therefore, a middle course was necessary, while still comparing the translations with the originals. To this end, I read some of the most “popular” poems by Das in Alam’s translations with a particular focus on the latter’s recreation of the images of death, dread, and darkness.

There is a personal preference for my choosing of the dark images, for I always find Das’ grotesque or dreadful images as appealing as the beautiful ones, but more important reason for my choosing of the dreadful than the beautiful is to underscore the experience of a poet who lived under the dark shadow of colonial rule. Initially, I thought it would be very intriguing to read Das’ poetry postcolonially in Alam’s translations because of the latter’s reputation as an academic in the field of postcolonial studies. But while reading the translations, particularly the erudite introduction that he has included at the beginning of the volume to introduce the salient features of Das’ poetry as well as to offer a very insightful and resourceful discussion on others’ and his translations of the poet, I felt that Alam almost altogether suspended his postcolonial self and fully activated his own creativity to capture the sights and sounds of the works of a poet who is extraordinarily famous for the aesthetic and artistic qualities of his poetry. Alam seems to have embraced this challenge enthusiastically and has succeeded with flying colours, but his emphasis on the art may have cost him thematically on certain occasions, although it has not diminished the overall quality of the translations. His translations also continue to bear the mark of his academic background as a scholar in English studies.      

In spite of discovering that Fakrul Alam does not highlight the postcolonial elements in Jibanananda Das’s poetry, I did not abandon my initial plan of reading his translations through postcolonial lenses. Therefore, I resort to Edward Said, whom Alam considers his “guru”, to adopt the former’s concept of “contrapuntal reading” and apply it on the latter’s translations.

Said theorised contrapuntal reading as a technique of reading the texts of English literature, particularly the novel, to unravel the unrecognised and unarticulated elements of colonisation which are ostensibly absent in those texts. I adopted this technique for reading Alam’s translations to examine the images of death, dread, and darkness in Das’ poetry as the expressions of the poet’s experience as a colonised person. To view translation as an act of interpreting a text, I invoked Frederic Jameson’s formulation that interpretations of literary texts could bring to surface the repressed political unconscious in the narrative. Although Jameson’s theory is essentially a Marxist reading strategy, for my postcolonial materialist reading of Fakrul Alam’s translations, a reworking was necessary. Alam’s translations brought to light the repressed political unconscious in Das’ poetry, giving clue to the poet’s rendition of the grotesques as a result of the material realities of his time under the British Empire.

II

The first poem of Jibanananda Das that I read in Fakrul Alam’s translations is “An Overwhelming Sensation” (“Bodh”) – a deeply engaging poem that highlights the extraordinary sensibilities of a poet that separate them from the multitude. There are two “dreadful” images in this poem, and the first one is as follows:

In my head!
Walking along beaches – crossing shores
I try to shake it off;
I want to grab it as I would a dead man’s skull
And dash it on the ground; yet, like a live man’s head,
It wheels all around my heart! 
(26-31, p. 30)

The image of death and dread in the above quotation reminds me of Shakespeare’s the “grave diggers scene” in Hamlet as well as “Lady Macbeth’s persuasion scene” in Macbeth, although the original poem does not allude to Shakespeare so noticeably. Similarly, the second dreadful image of the poem resonates a Shakespearean diseased imagery in Alam’s translation:

Eyes whose nerves have dried up,
Ears which cannot hear,
And like that hump – a goitre erupting on flesh
Rotten cucumber – putrid pumpkin – 
All that have grown rank in the heart – 
All that. 
(101-106, p. 32)    

Is it a mere coincidence that Alam’s translations of the above images of death and dread remind me of Shakespeare? Do they have any connection with his academic background of English studies that must have included Shakespeare? It is also not a coincidence that Das himself was a student of English literature, who also pursued a teaching career in English. The colonial connection of English studies in the Indian subcontinent is a historical fact, which occasioned for the poet, the translator, and me to study the Bard, but more important is to note on how the presence of Shakespeare becomes more obvious in Alam’s translation than it is in the original. To me, the dreadful images recreated by Alam reflects the tormented mental state of the colonised poet. If we keep in mind that the original poem was written around the death throes of the colonial rule in India, we cannot overlook the link between these images and colonisation.

“Camping” (“Campe”) is another poem that contains some extremely poignant and dreadful images. In Fakrul Alam’s translation, this poem’s connection with colonisation becomes more recognisable than it is in the original. The poem describes a hunting night in a forest where the speaker of the poem is camping: “Somewhere deer are being hunted this day; / Hunters have moved into the heart of the forest today” (6-7, p. 32). The night for the speaker is both enchanting and mysterious – “a night full of wonders” (60, p. 34), but it turns into a horrible one due to the presence of the hunters. In Alam’s translation, the anxiety of the speaker reflects an acutely sensitive mind of a person who is restless by what is happening around him:

I can sleep no more;
Lying down
I hear gunshots;
And then more guns firing. 
In the moonlight the doe in heat call again.
Lying down here all by myself
I feel a heaviness in my heart
Hearing gunshots
Hearing the doe calling. 
(42-50, p. 33-34) 

Alam’s use of the words, “gunshots” and “guns firing”, perfectly captures the dreadfulness of the night and clarifies the heaviness of the speaker’s heart. He makes the anxiety of the speaker palpable. As he informs the reader with a footnote at the beginning of the poem, Jibanananda Das wrote this poem as an expression of “the helplessness of life” (p. 32), the above lines represent that helplessness of the speaker.   

Interestingly, this is a love poem – seemingly. The speaker compares himself with the fallen lovers of the doe who tempts the stags to come out of their hideouts by calling them passionately but deceivingly to be shot by hunters. According to the speaker, the doe has learnt this art of deception and cruelty from humans: “Lessons she has learnt from humans!” (51-54, p. 34). In Alam’s translation, the cruelty of hunting and the agony of the speaker become obvious:

I hear a double-barreled gun thunder,
The doe in heat keeps calling,
My heart can’t get to sleep
As I lie down all by myself; 
(79-82, p. 35)

Here the doe is a symbol of deceptive love. The speaker himself is also a victim of such love. His heart bleeds at the sound of gunfire. The innocent death of the stags reminds him of his own wretched state, but he is aware that he needs to learn how to negotiate with this wretchedness: “Still I must learn to forget sound of guns going off” (83, p. 35). This realisation gives the speaker the composure to reflect on the identity of the hunters:

They who own the double-barreled guns that destroyed the stags this day,
They who brought the relish of deer flesh and bones to their dinner
Are like you – 
Lying in camp beds they are drying up their souls
Reflecting on their feast – reminiscing – remembering. 
(84-88, p. 35)

The hunters are those who “own the double-barreled guns”. Does it ring a bell? Although the first Mughal Emperor Babur introduced guns in India in the sixteenth century, it is the British who made use of guns the most in the Indian subcontinent. Thus, there is a strong association between the British colonisers and the hunters in this poem.

Alam’s translation brings to surface the repressed political unconscious of the poem. If the poem is an expression of “the helplessness of life”, he heightens that helplessness, demystifying some of the obscurities of the original poem in the process of translating it. He succeeds in recreating the atmosphere of horror that does not let the speaker sleep. The anxiety of the speaker over the helplessness of his fellow people and of the animal world as a whole make us think about the time and place of writing this poem.

The dreadful images of death and dread recreated by Alam using words and phrases like “gunshots”, “guns firing”, and “double-barreled gun thunder” present before us a troubled world where the serenity of the natural world is shattered by the sound of gunshots. Yet, the speaker realises that he needs to negotiate. The colonised also had to negotiate with the colonisers. Therefore, if we situate the poem against the backdrop of its writing during the colonial period from a colonised location, can we overlook its colonial connection? Does Das portray the tormented state of the colonised through this allegorical love poem? This allegory of the hunted existence of the colonised becomes more perceptible than the original through Alam’s interpretative translation – translating as interpreting. Alam’s translated version of the poem reveals the material realities of the poet’s time which are largely concealed by symbols and imageries in the original poem.

III

To write on the theme of darkness, the poem “Banalata Sen” first comes to my mind, for I consider it as one of the darkest poems by Das. The poem’s darkness is very subtly camouflaged by a tapestry of extraordinary images. Its astonishing popularity as a love poem also often hides the darkness. Alam’s translation largely unveils the camouflage, and brings to light the overwhelming darkness of the poem. In the Bangla version, Das deploys the word “darkness” by somewhat screening it with other associated images and allusions. Alam also does so without using any synonym for “darkness” in his English translation, understandably for not affecting the poetic quality of the poem. As a result, the word “darkness” appears as many as five times in his translation, which is the same number as in the original. Here, the recurrent word has been put on bold typeface.

From Sinhala’s Sea to Malaya’s in night’s darkness, 
…
Was I present; Farther off, in distant Vidarba city’s darkness, 
… 
Her hair was full of the darkness of a distant Vidisha night, 
…
Did I see her in darkness; said she, “Where had you been?”
…
What remains is darkness and facing me – Banalata Sen!
(2, 4, 7, 11, 18, p. 61)

Fakrul Alam does justice to the original while translating this “difficult” poem, and exposes the dominance of darkness in it. Probably any other translator would also keep the word “darkness” the same number of times, but Alam’s success lies in his maintaining a similar artistic sublimity that we find in the original poem. It is evident in his coining or use of the phrases like “the ways of the world”, “ash-grey world”, “foaming ocean”, “the soft sound of dew”, “fireflies light up the world anew”, and “life’s mart close again”. His successful recreation of the images of darkness opens up the opportunity to explore the political potentialities of the poem.

“Darkness” (“Andhakar”) is another poem of overwhelming darkness. Fakrul Alam’s translated version of this poem also testifies my claim of his interpretive translation. He also explains in the introduction of the volume the process of his using self-explanatory words for retaining Bengali names to honour Jibanananda Das’s preference for this: “[t]he sensible option, it appeared to me, was to use Bengali names when an exact English equivalent was not available, and then to use a Bengali word in such a way that the meaning could be conveyed where possible within the line” (p. 21). Alam’s explanatory use of two Hindu mythological rivers’ names in the following lines of “Darkness” may also clarify my point:

I looked up and saw the pale moon withdrawing half of its shadow from that river of death, Vaitarani, 
As if gesturing towards the river of mutability, the Kirtanasha. (2-3, p. 72)

Alam supplements the meanings of the rivers by using the phrases “that river of death” and “the river of mutability” before Vaitarani and Kirtanasha respectively, while in the original poem, there is no such explanatory “notes” preceding the rivers’ names, assumingly because the Bengali readers of the poem are supposed to know the names of these mythological rivers, although I think many Bengali readers are also not fully informed of the significance of these rivers. Therefore, Alam’s innovative use of these rivers’ names becomes self-explanatory, without undermining the poetic quality of the lines. Similarly, the following line of the same poem is another example of his explanatory translation: “O Moon whose brightness has faded to a faint blue” (6, p. 72). In this line, the part following “O Moon” is clearly an attempt by the translator to explain the faded colour of the moon. However, Alam’s translation of this poem, like “Banalata Sen”, enhances the deep darkness manifested in the original.    

If we go back to the time of publication of the volume Banalata Sen (1942) where the two poems “Banalata Sen” and “Darkness” were included, we can get an explanation to the poet’s obsession with darkness. It was indeed the darkest time for the people of the Indian subcontinent under British colonisers. The colonial rule affected the Bengal province (where Jibanananda Das is from) so severely that it resulted in the worst famine in the subcontinental history in 1943. The Bengal famine of 1943 has been called a “man-made holocaust” by Gideon Polya, for which the then Prime Minister of England Winston Churchill’s policy of hoarding food supplies for the British soldiers fighting in the Second World War by depriving the colonised. Apart from the effects of the famine and the World War, communal conflicts also ravaged the peacefulness and harmony of life in this region. The optimism of anti-colonial movement was soon to be marred by the proposal of partitioning India on the basis of “two-nation theory”. All these must have affected Das while writing “Banalata Sen” or “Darkness”, and Alam’s translations give us a clear view of the unfathomable darkness that engulfed the poet’s world.

IV

In this section, Fakrul Alam’s translations of the poems of Beautiful Bengal [Ruposhi Bangla], one of Jibanananda Das’ most loved poetry collections, will be discussed. The poems of this collection reflect the poet’s deep attachment with his land as well as his meditations on death and reincarnation through picturesque and sensuous portrayals of the flora and fauna and the landscapes of rural Bengal. The first poem of this volume that appears in Alam’s translations reveals the poet’s musings on death. The very title of the poem, “Knowing How These Fields Will Not Be Hushed That Day” (“Shei Din Ei Math”), alludes to the day after the poet’s death. In Alam’s translation, the poet’s sense of grief imagining the day when he will be no more becomes as poignant as it is in the original:

Because I will disappear one day
Won’t dewdrops ever cease to wet chalta flowers 
In surges of soft scent?
(4-6, p. 43) 

These lines demonstrate the poet’s wistful imaginings of the time after his own death, but at the final stanza of the poem, he perceives death from an objective viewpoint. Alam perfectly captures this transition from subjective to objective, and presents it as authentically as possible:

Quiet lights – moist smells – murmurings everywhere; 
Ferryboats moor very close to sandbanks;
These tales of earth live on forever,
Though Assyria in dust – Babylon in ashes – lie.
(9-12, p. 43)

In Alam’s translation, the poet’s contemplation of the inevitability of death and the impermanence of everything, including great civilizations, appear in a perfect state of semblance and equipoise as in the original poem.  

“Go Wherever You Want To” (“Tomra Jekhane Shadh”), one of the most famous poems of Beautiful Bengal, bears evidence of the poet’s deep desire to stay eternally in the lap of Bengal amidst its unique beauties, refusing the prospects of moving to elsewhere, especially to any foreign land. The poet asks those fascinated by the attractions of foreign lands to go wherever they want to, but he himself wants to remain in Bengal eternally, justifying his decision by describing its bewitching beauty. Fakrul Alam is at his best as a translator in recreating the sights and sounds of the poet’s beautiful Bengal, where the sestet of the sonnet implies the poet’s eternal connection with this land:

Ready to take her grey-coloured duck to some storyland – 
As if the smell of Paran’s tale is sticking to her soft flesh, 
As if she has risen from her underwater kalmi reed abode – 
Silently leaving herself in water once – then disappearing 
Into the fog far, far away – but I know I’ll never lose sight of her
Even in the press of the world – for she is in my Bengal evermore. 
(9-14, p. 44)

Apparently, this poem is free from the heaviness of death imageries, but a close examination may bring to surface the poet’s embedded desires for death and rebirth. His yearning for remaining in Bengal eternally is only possible through his reincarnation in this land after his death.

The poem “I Have Seen Bengal’s Face” (“Banglar Mukh Ami Dekhiyachhi”), another sonnet of Beautiful Bengal, further justifies the poet’s decision to stay in Bengal for good and to go nowhere else. In his translation of the poem, Alam shows outstanding artistic skills to emulate the aesthetic and poetic beauty of the original. The octave quoted below may clarify my point:

I have seen Bengal’s face, and seek no more,
The world has not anything more beautiful to show me.
Waking up in darkness, gazing at the fig-tree, I behold
Dawn’s swallows roosting under huge umbrella-like leaves.
I look all around me and discover a leafy dome, 
Jam kanthal bat hijol aswatha trees all in a hush,
Shadowing clumps of cactus and zeodary bushes.
When long, long ago, Chand came in his honeycombed boat
To a blue Hijal Bat Tamal shade near the Champa, he too sighted 

Bengal’s incomparable beauty. 
(1-9, p. 49) 

Alam’s innovative use of native tress and legends appear as spontaneously and effectively as possible to make the piece apprehensible to non-native readers. The poem gestures to the poet’s desire to glorify his land and culture, and Alam’s translation further accomplishes that glorification.      

The poet’s desire for rebirth in Bengal is emphatically expressed in the poem “Beautiful Bengal” (“Abar Ashibo Phire”). Since the poems of the Beautiful Bengal are untitled, the first line of each poem is mostly accepted as the titles of the poems in Bangla original. Fakrul Alam also mostly follows this tradition, but often makes use of his freedom as a translator to change the title. The title of this poem “Beautiful Bengal” in Alam’s translation is another example of his applying that freedom. Perhaps he translates the title so differently from the “original” title, which could be something like “I Will Come Again”, to emphasise the extraordinary popularity of the poem that could easily be rendered as the titular poem of the volume. While I agree with this position, I feel it is deviating from the sense of reincarnation that the “original” title evokes. However, Alam does not deviate from the idea of return used as a refrain in the whole poem, and maintains the same stature as a translator that I find him in most other poems. I quote first few lines of the poem to support my view:

I’ll come again to the banks of the Dhanshiri – to this land
Perhaps not as a human – maybe as a white-breasted 
shankachil or a yellow-beaked shalik;
Or as a morning crow I’ll return to this late autumnal rice-harvest laden land, 
Wafting on the fog’s bosom I’ll float one day into the jackfruit tree shade; 
(1-4, p. 51)

This poem can be read as a companion piece to the two other poems I have discussed above: “Go Wherever You Want To”, and “I Have Seen Bengal’s Face”. The idea of reincarnation and the feeling of an inseparable connection with the homeland reverberate in these poems with exquisite descriptions of the beauty of Bengal.

The poems of Beautiful Bengal are perhaps most passionate “postcolonial poems” by Jibanananda Das, where he glorifies his native land and culture as an attempt to recuperate the damages done to those by colonials. Fakrul Alam’s translations bring to surface the repressed postcoloniality of these poems by making the poet’s postcolonial sensibility more prominent than they are in the originals. Das’s deep rootedness in his land and culture expressed in the poems of Beautiful Bengal exemplifies his unequivocal stand on the question of belonging. During a time when the colonial effects occasioned for many of his contemporaries to leave their homelands and embrace diaspora identities, Das’s unwavering utterance like “Go Wherever You Want To” reflects his resistance to colonization. It remains as a source of inspiration for many in the days to come, particularly at the wake globalization when the lure of a transnational identity complicates the questions of home and belonging.

V

In the final section of the essay one of Jibanananda Das’ most overtly time conscious poem entitled “1946-47” will be discussed. As the title suggests, this poem reflects Das’ deep observations on the contemporary sociopolitical issues of his time during and preceding the year of partition of India. Fakrul Alam adds a brief note to the poem to brief his readers the poem’s background. I find that note as a very helpful starting point for those who are not informed of the history of the Indian subcontinent. I quote it entirely to demonstrate how meticulous Alam is to make his translations comprehensive as well as comprehensible, particularly for non-native readers:

“1946-47” is the longest poem by Jibanananda Das that I have translated and is one of his most impressive meditations on contemporary history. In it, he broods on the communal strife, chaos, and diasporas that accompanied the partition of India in general and Bengal in particular. Das himself had been uprooted by historical events, and had moved from the Muslim majority district of Barisal to Calcutta, where Hindus were in a majority. But Calcutta too was in tumult and riven by religious riots; the names and places mentioned in the poem represent Hindus and Muslims and localities associated with these communities.“(p. 115)    

With this note, the translated version of the poem becomes self-explanatory and more transmissible than the original, but it may surprise one that neither Das nor Alam directly mention the culpability of the colonization for the tumultuous historical events that the poem foregrounds. Perhaps both of them skip this deliberately, for the role of the British colonisers is too obvious to mention.

The long history of colonial rule culminated in the partition of India, which was preceded and followed by communal riots and dispersion of people from their homelands, resulting in deaths, dreads, and destructions. Therefore, the poem is replete with images of dead, dread, and darkness that best describe the time it represents. In Alam’s translation, the horror of human atrocities becomes as poignant as in the original:  

Somewhere someone’s house will be auctioned off now,
Possibly for a song!
And so you must cheat everyone else
And be the first to reach heaven!.
…
Thousands of Bengali villages, drowned in disillusionment and 
benighted, have become silenced.
…
The children now are close to death, trampled
By ignorant exhausted rulers of an era of misgovernment;
Their ancestors had once laughed and loved and played, 
And had gone to rest in dark after raising permanently 
The swing landlords had them make from tall trees for charak festivals. 
They were not that well off then; yet compared to present-day villagers, 
Blinded and tattered by famines, riots, darkness and ignorance,
They lived in a distinct and clear world. 

Is everything indistinct today? It is difficult to speak or think well now;
The rule is to keep everyone in the dark, full of half-truths;
The practice is to infer the other half of truth  
All by yourself in the dark; all are suspicious of each other. 
(3-6, 31, 49-60, p. 115-17)

The implications of the lines I have quoted above from Fakrul Alam’s translation of the poem “1946-47” are so obvious that they do not require further explanation. Das’ political consciousness is relatively more apparent here than his most other poems. In Alam’s translation, that political consciousness resonates very loudly. Like a typical postcolonial poet, Das highlights the miseries caused by colonial rule, comparing the present with a “better” past. While making this comparison, he refers to the exploitative system called “Permanent Settlement of Bengal” introduced by Earl Cornwallis on behalf of the East India Company in 1793 to settle a deal between the Company and the landlords, causing enormous oppression and deprivation for the peasants and those at the margins. Fakrul Alam aptly explains this reference with a footnote that “[t]here is an allusion here to the system introduced by Lord Cornwallis in colonial Bengal in 1793 which created a class of landlords and let to the impoverishments of peasants” (p. 116). Notes like this and the glossary he has added to the volume makes the poems very much accessible not only to the non-native readers but also the native readers of the translations.

In fine, I repeat that translating is a process of explaining a text, and often it is on the discretion of the translator how explanatory the translation would be. In the case of Fakrul Alam’s translations of Jibanananda Das’ poetry, sometimes his attempts to explain the texts are explicit. He even points out where the intertextuality of a particular poem is quite obvious by quoting some lines from the “original” poem that inspired Das to write that poem. In my discussion, I have so far deliberately avoided this point of intertextuality because I find those poems so authentic in expression that the “originals” seem to replicate those, but it is an important point that I cannot avoid altogether. The Western “influence” on Das’ poetry indicates the Western education and culture in which he was exposed to through colonization. As a poet, he and his contemporaries of Bangla poetry were “benefited” from that exposure, which makes it clear that to oppose European colonisation or Western imperialism does not necessarily mean to reject their artistic, cultural, literary, or scientific achievements. But it is also not to be forgotten that the artistic, cultural, or literary matters were often used by the colonizers to maintain their hegemonic dominance by relegating the same originating from the native societies to an inferior status. In Orientalism (1978), Edward Said categorically explains the basis of cultural supremacy of the European that prompted them to colonize. Therefore, a critical awareness is necessary to approach those even at this age of the so-called postcolonial period. In the case of Jibanananda Das, whereas he mostly succeeded in maintaining his originality while writing poetry being inspired by Western poets, many of his contemporaries merely imitated them as blind devotees, which makes him truly “a poet apart”. However, Fakrul Alam’s all-encompassing translations help his readers to access the poems with much ease than it is in the case of the originals, foregrounding the repressed political unconscious of the poems. And in spite of this “explanatory translating”, he succeeds exceedingly in maintaining the poetic qualities of his translations, and that makes the volume so special.  

References:

Jameson, Frederic. “The Ideology of The Text.” Salmagundi, no. 31/32, Skidmore College, 1975, pp. 204–46, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40546905.

Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. London: Vintage, 1994.

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Rakibul Hasan Khan is a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He can be reached at rakib.hasan82@gmail.com.

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Categories
Poetry

Mahnu by Atta Shad

Balochi Poem by Atta Shad, translated by Fazal Baloch

Atta Shad: Photo provided by Fazal Baloch

Atta Shad (1939-1997) is the most revered and cherished modern Balochi poet. He instilled a new spirit in the moribund body of modern Balochi poetry in the early 1950s when the latter was drastically paralysed by the influence of Persian and Urdu poetry. Atta Shad gave a new orientation to modern Balochi poetry by giving a formidable ground to the free verse, which also brought in its wake a chain of new themes and mode of expression hitherto untouched by Balochi poets. Apart from the popular motifs of love and romance, subjugation and suffering, freedom and liberty, life and its absurdities are a few recurrent themes which appear in Shad’s poetry. What sets Shad apart from the rest of Balochi poets is his subtle, metaphoric and symbolic approach while versifying socio-political themes. He seemed more concerned about the aesthetic sense of art than anything else.

Shad’s poetry anthologies include Roch Ger and Shap Sahaar Andem, which were later collected in a single anthology under the title Gulzameen, posthumously published by the Balochi Academy Quetta in 2015. The translated poem is from Gulzameen.

Mahnu, you envy of the moon,
I am a wretched of the earth.
My existence is like a dry and barren field.
Lightning scorched it to ashes.
Facing the wrath of the frigid winters,
Forever thirst-stricken,
Eyes seek the sea of fragrant clouds
At the far and unbeknownst threshold of hope.
May the rain of sublime hailstones set the dry field afire.
May there remain no cluster of marrying clouds 
at the far end of the horizons. Nor any desire 
in the hearts of waiting maidens.

Mahnu, envy of the moon,
You're oppressed by the night.
I'm a wretched of the earth.
Like you,
I too am lost in the fathomless expanse of loneliness.
Milky-way illuminates your path,
And mine is dark without a star.
Moonlight is the ecstasy of your beauty's wine,
I'm nothing but a sigh.
Like melody everywhere echo the words of your command,
I've shrunk like a suppressed call.
A world yearns for you.
A fake hope is all my life hinges upon.
You soar high like a lover's imagination.
I'm humble like wisdom.

Mahnu, envy of the moon,
Granted you are light, 
I'm ash and dust.
Yet, if I survive not these fathomless days and nights
Woes and torments of life,
Then, think awhile,
Who in the world 
Will write the songs extolling you?

Mahnu, you envy of the moon,
I am a wretched of the earth.

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights of Atta Shad from the publisher.

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Categories
Stories

Rakhamaninov’s Sonata

A short story by Sherzod Artikov, translated from Uzbeki by Nigora Muhammad

Nilufar was overjoyed. Finally, sitting in front of the piano she was able to play the sonata of her favourite composer without a score and without making a mistake anywhere. She was excited as she had not been able to master it for weeks, and no matter how hard she tried, her efforts were in vain. In the end, her relentless and hard work paid off, lo and behold.

Now she could easily perform Rakhmaninov’s famous “re-minor” sonata in a long-waited first concert program without a score. She felt very happy. Sometimes she would go to her red piano, sometimes she would stare at the picture of composers hanging on the walls of the room and she would walk back and forth. She even wanted to dance on tiptoe like a ballerina. But she was ashamed and changed her mind. If her twins had been there, no doubt she would have embraced them, kissed their faces, and shared her joy with them. Unfortunately, they were in a boarding school. They would come during the weekend.

She wanted to share her joy with someone while she was preparing dinner. She could not contain it. That’s probably why she often glanced at the black telephone set on the shelf in the hallway. After a while she went to the phone. She picked it up and dialed the required numbers. Then the connection was restored, and a familiar voice was heard from the receiver.

“I’m in a meeting.”

“Are you coming home early today?” she said, not caring that her husband was at the meeting.

“What’s up?” her husband asked in surprise.

“Everything is good,” she continued. “If you come, I will tell you. I have a wonderful surprise.”

“Okay, I will come.”

Her husband’s voice stopped. She assumed the connection was lost. Although she was a little upset that the connection was lost, she dwelt on her success again and was in a good mood. She smiled contentedly as she looked in the hanging mirror in the hallway.

Nothing and no one could hurt her at the moment. Because she felt she had achieved a huge success for herself. To that day, she could only perform Beethoven’s sonata dedicated to Eliza, Brahms’ waltzes, and two or three of Chopin’s small nocturnes without score. But they were short musical compositions that any amateur pianist could perform. They did not require extra training or talent. Rakhmaninov’s sonata, on the other hand, was longer and more complex structurally. If these two elements was neglected, it would confuse the performer and force her to make a mistake, even when performed with a score.

“What’s the matter?” her husband said.

He had fulfilled his promise and returned early from work. Nilufar saw him and applauded with joy.

She was imagining that on the day of the concert she would be beautifully dressed and with a bouquet in her hands. This dream would soon come true too, she thought. She gently took her husband’s hand and walked towards the room where the piano was waiting. She entered the room and pushed the brown chair close to the piano. She asked her husband to sit on it. Her husband, who didn’t understand anything, sat helplessly in the chair. She stopped in front of the piano.

“I will play Rakhmaninov’s “re-minor” sonata without a score,” she said, sitting in a chair. “Listen carefully!”

 She pointed her index finger at her husband like a child, her cheeks flushed with excitement. Then she put her finger in front of her nose and jokingly said “tss” to her husband. Then she began to play the sonata without a score. The mystery of music, which for centuries had shaken the human heart, comforted her and made her happy, embodied her pure love and painful hatred. The notes spread quietly through the room. This time the melody embodied the memories of the past in the human heart. The sonata always reminded her of her childhood. When she was a student at the conservatory, she was included in her personal program in various competitions. She remembered her all those performances during her childhood. It was the same a while ago and yesterday. It is the same now.

She would move her long and slender fingers over the black and white keys and play it flat. And sweet memories of a distant carefree and happy childhood wafted into her mind. Wrapping a white handkerchief around her mother’s forehead and baking hot bread in the oven, her heart sank for a moment as a prelude to memories. As a child, her mother always baked bread in the oven on Sundays. She was carrying a basket that was bigger than she was, and she couldn’t move anywhere near it. After the loaves were toasted and swollen, her mother would cut them up and throw them in the basket. And she would spread them out to make the bread cool faster. In the meantime, Nilufar would put cake bits in the pocket of her jacket. After that, she would enjoy eating these leaning on the apricot tree.

When the sonata reached halfway, the memories became more vivid. Lo and behold, she was tapping on the rotten wire in the street. She was small, like a squirrel. Her hair was blonde. Even then, everyone called her “blonde”. She was counting numbers non-stop, and her friends were hiding. After a while, she was looking for them everywhere. “Berkinmachoq,”* she sighed, her hands, which were constantly moving on the keys, suddenly weakened.

On summer days, she would not come from the street, ignoring the cherries hung by her father on her ears, and waving her hair, which was braided like willow twigs by her mother. She was much more playful.

If it snowed in the winter, it would be a holiday for her. She would make a Father Christmas with the kids in the middle of the street or play snowballs with endless fun. She would be on the sledge her father had brought her until the evening.

Not long after, she went to her uncle’s shop. He sold nisholda*. As a child, during the months of Ramadan, that uncle would always fill her bowl with nisholda . By the time she got home, she was licking the top of the nisholda with her finger. She would have a dirty doll in her arms and shoes with water on her feet.

“It would have been so sweet the nisholda,” she said casually. Then she recalled the days when she would go into every house with the children on the streets on the evenings of the holy month and sing the song of Ramadan.

We have come to your home saying Ramadan,
May God give you a son in your cradle...

They would sing that song. The song was long. Unfortunately, she only remembered the beginning. That’s how it would start. They would say it together with the children. Boys and girls sang Ramadan songs in unison, holding a long tablecloth from the corners, spreading it to collect money, sometimes sweets, fruits given by neighbours. The tablecloth was soon filled with what they had given. Then, sitting on a rock at the corner of the street, the children would evenly share the gifts. She often got apple and chocolate chip cookies. The coins were taken by boys.

Tears welled up in her eyes as the sonata was ending. The tears were for her childhood had that been left behind the parents who had died. Her bereavement was recent.

The sonata made her nostalgic and that is why she felt the need to master it. She had been performing this sonata a lot lately and with passion because she missed her childhood. This was also the reason why she decided to give a concert as a freelance artist. Probably, Sergei Rakhmaninov also missed his childhood in the United States during his years in exile. This is why he performed this sonata many times on tours in American cities and received applause. He deserved recognition. She looked at her husband questioningly after playing the sonata. There was a question in her eyes. The question was not “Did I perform well?”  But, “Did you remember your childhood, too?” She also wanted to tell him about her forthcoming concert at the city’s House of Culture. Her husband was ignoring her. There was no interest in his eyes. Maybe, he was anxious or thinking of his own past.

“I play the sonata without a score,” she said with an open face because her husband didn’t speak. “I wanted to tell you that. I also wanted to say that next week will be my first concert in the House of Culture.”

Hearing her words, her husband stood up like a man in despair. He came to her, scratching his forehead and loosening his tie.

“I hate that habit,” he said, pressing the piano keys once or twice as if for amusement. “You always bother me for trivial things. For instance, I will not be able to attend the presentation of our new product tonight. I’m missing such an important event just to satisfy your whim!”

Nilufar sighed and bit her lips hard. She whispered as “I wish they were bleeding”, she didn’t want to let go of her lips between her teeth. Then she laughed sarcastically in her head and closed the piano indifferently. Her hands and red lips trembled. Her husband shook his head when he saw that she was silent and walked towards the door.

“By the way,” he said as he walked out of the door. “I have to go in the morning tomorrow. There will be a wedding at our general manager’s house. So, iron my gray suit. It has been on the shelf for a long time without being worn. It may be wrinkled.”

Involuntarily, Nilufar looked at her husband sadly. There was no trace of the joy that had filled her heart. She did not want to get up, she could not move at all, She felt as if a stone were tied to her legs.

“I’ll iron it until you’re done eating,” she said in a broken voice.

She tried not to hear the sounds ringing in her ears. But it was useless. The happy, spotless, and carefree voices of herself and the children, which had remained under her ear as a child, did not go away.

We have come to your home saying Ramadan,
May God give you a son in your cradle...

Glossary:

*Berkinmachoq: the game of hide & seek

*Nisholda:  a sweet made in the month of Ramadan

Sherzod Artikov is from Marghilan of Uzbekistan. He was one of the winners of the national literary contest in 2019. In 2020, he published The Autumn’s Symphony in Uzbekistan. His book was translated to Spanish and English and republished in Cuba. His writing has been translated and published in anthologies from Bangladesh, Egypt, India and Canada.

Nigora Muhammad is from Namangan city of Uzbekistan. She studies at Namangan State University.

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Categories
Poetry

Rebranding

Written in Korean & translated by Ihlwha Choi

The Good Shepherd, Brussels: Courtesy: Creative Commons
Rebranding

 
Once in a certain village there lived a young man.

He was so poor that he stole a sheep.

The villagers branded ST -- sheep thief – on his forehead.

 

The nickname of sheep thief followed the young man.

He was despised and treated coldly.

But he did his best and did his own work in silence.

He also threw himself into hard work in the village.

He was always honest and faithful, regretful of his past faults.

 

The villagers' attitudes began to change gradually.

 

With the passage of time, his black hair changed to white.

The villagers began to give him their sincere respect.

The ST on his forehead was no more the initials of a sheep thief.

 

Every villager regarded the letters as the initials of a Saint.

The young man condemned as a sheep thief

became a grand old man revered as a saint by the villagers.

Ihlwha Choi is a South Korean poet. He has published multiple poetry collections, such as Until the Time, When Our Love will Flourish, The Color of Time, His Song and The Last Rehearsal.

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