Categories
Poetry

Korean Poetry in Translation: Five Rupees

Ihlwha Choi translates his own poem set in Kolkata from Korean to English

Five rupees

In front of the house where Mother Teresa was laid to rest,
Several women took up their position at the entrance with
Young six or seven years olds.
Whenever I went near the house,
They gathered around me shouting -- five rupees –-
with palms open, arms outstretched.
I gave each of them one coin several times.
That became the source of the calamity.
Whenever they saw me in the morning or the evening,
They scrambled to get a coin.
Especially one woman with a baby around her waist,
Approached me more vehemently, shouting five rupees.
She followed me not only to the distance of ten or twenty meters,
But also to the other side of the road.
So I gave her several times more.
I forgot the guide's request that I must not give them,
Because someone had victimised them for wealth.
I felt very sorry to shake off the hands of the women.
It hurts to think of the young mothers,
Who seemed not to eat a plate of cereal all day,
And the baby who seemed to have no more tears to shed.

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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Categories
Tagore Translations

A Poem of Hope by Tagore

A translation of Dushomoy (bad times), written originally by the poet as Swarga Patthe (On the path to Heaven) Bengali year Boisakh 1304, roughly April 1897 of the Gregorian Calendar.

A Journey of Hope


Though dusk sets in slowly,
    The songs of the spheres have been silenced.
Though you fly companionless in the endless sky,
     Though exhaustion seeps into your body,
A terrifying dread prays in mute chants, 
    All horizons across the orb are covered by a veil --
Yet bird, o lone bird of mine, 
     Despite the blinding darkness, do not stop beating your wings.

This is not the murmur of woods, 
     This is the python-like ocean swelling.
This is not a bower of flowers, 
      This is the undulating hood swaying to the music of waves.
Where is that shore full of blossoms and foliage,
     Where is the nest, where is the branch to rest?
Yet bird, o lone bird of mine,
     Despite the blinding darkness, do not stop beating your wings.

The long night stretches ahead,
     The sun sleeps stilled after sunset.
The universe is breathless under restraint. 
     In this stunned stance, time meanders.
Swimming across the shades of the limitless night,
     A crescent moon appears in the distant skyline. 
Yet bird, o lone bird of mine,
     Despite the blinding darkness, do not stop beating your wings.

High up in the skies, the stars point their fingers
     Towards your path while gazing at you.
Deep below lies restless death in rising crests
      Of hundreds of waves that beckon. 
In distant shores, some call out with an offering,
    “Come, come,” they entreat, they plead. 
Yet bird, o lone bird of mine,
    Despite the blinding darkness, do not stop beating your wings.
 
There is no fear, no tie of affection, no attraction,
      There is no expectation, expectation is only a mirage.
There is no language, no futile weeping,
      There is no home, no floral bed to rest on.
There are only these wings, there is the celestial quadrangle,
     The dawn is led astray by the drawing of the sequestered night —
Yet bird, o lone bird of mine,
    Despite the blinding darkness, do not stop beating your wings.

(Translated by Mitali Chakravarty, edited by Sohana Manzoor on behalf of Borderless Journal. Thanks to Dr Aruna Chakravarti for the discussion and feedback which helped improve the translation.)

Tagore’s draft of the poem, ‘Swarga Patthe’, with the signature and date. This is the poem that has come down to us as ‘Dushomoy’, now translated as ‘Journey of Hope’.
Click here to listen to Tagore recite the poem about a lone bird in his own voice in Bengali.

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Categories
Poetry

The Equaliser by Kazi Nazrul Islam

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

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

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

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

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Categories
Poetry

The Law of Nature by Akbar Barakzai

Akbar Barakzai was born in Shikarpur, Sindh in 1938. He is ranked amongst the proponents of modern Balochi literature. His poetry reflects the objective realities of life. Love for motherland, peace and prosperity and dignity of a man are the recurrent themes of his poetry. His love for human dignity transcends all geographical and cultural frontiers. Barakzai is not a prolific poet. In a literary career which spans over half a century, Barakzai has brought out just two anthologies of poetry, Who can Kill the Sun and The Lamps of Heads, but his poetry has depth and reaches out to human hearts with its profundity. Last year, Barakzai rejected the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) award, quoting  the oppressive policies meted out to his region by the government as the reason.

The Law of Nature

(First Voice)

Come, you the riff-raff evildoer!
Hearken to what I utter

You are my slave 
I am your Master
You are homeless
At my feet are forts and palaces
You are homeless 
I’m the lord of power and puissance 
You are destitute and famished
I am rich and affluent

I am wise and prudent, you are brainless
I am the man of might, you are weak and frail
I'm the owner of large estates and orchards
Irksome is your existence in this world
I’m the master
You are my subject

Of faith and the divine book
Guidance I always seek
You are a wayward heretic
I am pure, you are filth
I am strong, you are meek

Have you ever pondered?
On the law of nature
Always subdued in the world
Are the weak and vulnerable 
A shark preys on little herrings
The lion hunts the ibex
Birds and locusts are the falcon’s prey

History bears witness
Always favours the fittest
Throne and crown,
Glory and pride. Discern! 
In rebellion
You’ll gather only humiliation
I am powerful, you are powerless
I am the master, you are the subject

(Second Voice)

Granted, you are the master
Proud, rich and affluent
I am miserable and poor, 
Pious jurists and clerics
Your companions and cohorts
I am but a sinner and transgressor

True you are the mighty overlord
I'm just a wretched slave
But listen you to me --
I’m also a man, a descendant of Adam
No matter how much you oppress me
I wouldn't accept your law of nature
A pretext of my subjugation
No matter how mighty you are
No matter how weak and frail I am.

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 to Barakzai’s works and is in the process of bringing them out as a book.

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Categories
Tagore Translations

The Last Boat by Tagore

Originally written as a poem by Tagore called ‘Shesh Kheya‘ in 1907 and then set to music in 1922 by Pankaj Mullick, ‘Diner Sheshe Ghoomer Deshe‘( At the Close of the Day in the Land of Sleep) is a solemn song, which seems to cry out with an unfathomable yearning for an unknown fate.

Sohana Manzoor’s pastel that was inspired by Tagore’s Diner Sheshe Ghoomer Deshe
The Last Boat 

At the close of the day, in the land of sleep, a veiled shadow 
Makes me forget, forget my life. 
On the other bank, a golden shore edges the gloaming,
Which like an enchantress disrupts my work.
The wayfarers who head back after completing their task,
Do not look back at the trail they leave behind. 
Like a receding tide, intoxicated, I am drawn away from home.
The dusk sets in as the day leaves. 
Please come, o ferryman, one
Who can row me across on the last
Ferry at the end of the day.
In the dusk, a few ferries ebb with the tide
To the other side. 
How will I recognise the ferryman among the other ones 
Waiting at the arrival to take me to my destination?
Downhill, by the thick vegetation at the bank, 
The shade moves like a shadow.
Where is the ferryman who is willing to halt
When I call out? 
O come, 
The one who will row me 
At the close of the day in the last ferry.
Those who were returning home have gone back. 
Those who headed for the riverside have reached the banks. 
The dusk calls out to one 
Who is neither at home nor at the riverbank, but stuck mid-way.
Flowers do not bloom for those whose crops did not yield harvest —
When I try to shed tears, it turns into sorrowful mirth —
He who has turned off the daylight, did not light up the dusk.
He is the one who sits by the riverbank. 
Please come, 
O ferryman who will row me across
At the close of the day in the last ferry...



(This has been translated by Mitali Chakravarty on behalf of Borderless Journal with editorial help from Sohana Manzoor.)

Diner Shehshe Ghoomer Deshe sung by Pankaj Mullick

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Categories
Poetry

Nazrul’s Poetry: Purify My Life

A translation of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Shuddho Koro Amar Jibon by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu

Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) Known  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”, Nazrul was born on 25th May in united Bengal, long before the Partition. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. He was a Muslim, married a Hindu and wrote songs mingling Hindu and Muslim lores. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs. He was charged with sedition by the British for his fiery writing and jailed repeatedly.

Purify My Life

Purify my life, like dawn let me rise

anew each morn.

Let me be the sunrise,

redefine my life; make me thrive

I’ve been like a depressed widow, a hurtful drop

from Bakul.

Place your hand of blessing on my head

so I grow like a verdant tree when the summer rain

pours on my bosom.

Purify my life like sunrise,

so I become the waking sky.

Turn me into every child’s book of first letters,

and the song of early birds.

Purify my life, so that I

become an island;

Or, childhood, or a new stream of rain;

I’ve drowned in pain and loneliness

And stood like a debdaru.

Purify my life like a fresh blooming flower

so I wake up like a morning’s sleepy eye.

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*Bakul and Debdaru are both trees that grow in Bengal. Bakul bears flowers that are fragrant and white.

Shahriyer Hossain Shetu is a student in the Department of English & Humanities, ULAB. First Published in Daily Star, Bangladesh.

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Categories
Poetry

Malayalam Poetry in Translation

Aditya Shankar translates a poem by Shylan

Shylan
Silencer

The silencer disengages
From the motorbike on the ascent.

Onward, 
The routes resonate multi-fold.

After stripping off 
The celebrated name 
That stuck by chance, 
May be my resonance too
Would turn glorious. 

Shylan (b.1975) is a poet and film critic. His poetry collections include Vettaikkaran, Nishkasithante Easter, Ottakappakshi, Thamraparni, and Deja Vu.

Aditya Shankar is an Indian poet, flash fiction author, and translator. His work has appeared in international journals and anthologies of repute and translated into Malayalam and Arabic. Books: After Seeing (2006), Party Poopers (2014), and XXL (Dhauli Books, 2018). He lives in Bangalore, India.

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Categories
Poetry

The Word by Akbar Barakzai

Translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

Akbar Barakzai

Akbar Barakzai was born in Shikarpur, Sindh in 1938. He is ranked amongst the proponents of modern Balochi literature. His poetry reflects the objective realities of life. Love for motherland, peace and prosperity and dignity of a man are the recurrent themes of his poetry. His love for human dignity transcends all geographical and cultural frontiers. Barakzai is not a prolific poet. In a literary career which spans over half a century, Barakzai has managed to bring out just two anthologies of his poems, but his poetry has depth and reaches out to human hearts with its profundity. Last year, Barakzai rejected the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) award, quoting  the oppressive policies meted out to his region by the government as the reason.

The Word 

We begin with the word 
With the word we end 
Blessings and Salutations 
To the Apostle of the word! 

The word is God 
The very existence 
And the guiding ocean of time
The word brings forth 
Freedom and providence 
Prosperity and ruin 
Mountains trembles with the fear of the word 
Who could put out the ever-leaping flames of the word? 
Don’t ever bury the word 
In the chasm of your chest 
Rather express the word 
Yes speak it out! 
The word is freedom 
End of oppression 
Light and radiance 
Beauty and bliss
The word is Socrates’ free-spirited paramour 
The ember glowing in Mansour’s fervent heart 
The harbinger of a new dawn 
Don’t ever bury the word 
In the depth of your chest 
Rather express the word 
Yes, speak it out. 
The Word brings forth 
Freedom and providence.

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 to Barakzai’s works and is in the process of bringing them out as a book.

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Categories
Poetry

Poetry in Translation

Aditya Shankar translates poetry by Krispin Joseph

Sleep

A hundred men
Unlikely to ever rise
Stands guard at the river bank
Though those buoyant feet
Would never let them float away.
The feet of the guard outlives
The primitive tribes of the river
And retreats, unsure if it is
The breast or the belly
That grazes their fingers.
To those who return from
The river, I need to enquire
About the taste of the girl
Who died yesterday.

(Urakkam, translated from Malayalam by Aditya Shankar)

Bio: Krispin is a poet, media person, editor and organizer. He has two poetry anthologies to his credit: La(R)va and Sharapova. He was the editor of an anthology of love poems for DC Books, Kerala. He has been part of the editorial team (both as team leader and sub editor) for the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) and the International Documentary and short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK).

Aditya Shankar is an Indian poet, flash fiction author, and translator. His work has appeared in international journals and anthologies of repute and translated into Malayalam and Arabic. Books: After Seeing (2006), Party Poopers (2014), and XXL (Dhauli Books, 2018). He lives in Bangalore, India.

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Categories
Stories

Kumar Bhimsingha

Kumar Bhimsingha by Swarnakumari Devi, the sister of Rabindranath Tagore, was published in Bharati & Balok, a magazine run by the Tagore family, in Boisakh 1293 of the Bengali calendar, April 1887 according to the Gregorian one. It has been translated by Chaitali Sengupta.

Swarnakumari Devi. Courtesy: Wiki

The king of Mewar, Rana Raj Singha, was resting alone in his sleeping chamber. Dusk had set in. As per the orders of the king, the servants had kept only one fire-lit lamp. The rest had all been extinguished. The soft light had created an ambience that gave a pleasant hue to the king’s thoughts. The day of the coronation was almost upon them, the day when prince Jayasingha would be anointed his heir, the next king of Mewar.

Rana Raj Singha’s mind was full only with the thoughts of how elated his royal queen would be on that special day and the happiness of the crown prince. He was not bothered about his subjects’ reactions at all. The gates of his royal chamber opened slowly, and his second queen Kamal Kumari entered inside. Startled, the king sat up on his bed, surprised to find her there. He indicated she sit on a seat near him. Once she was seated, the king asked, “You, at this late hour?”

The queen replied, “There’s no option left for me. You never show up, when I ask for you.”

A bit embarrassed, the king remembered that throughout the day, a couple of messages did come from the queen, requesting him to visit her in the inner chambers of the palace. Slowly, he said, “My dear queen, I forgot.”

Her mind hissed, yes indeed, such is my fate, that you’ve regularly forgotten me, there’s nothing new in it. Keeping her face expressionless, she only asked, “I just came to confirm; are the rumours that are brewing true, my King?”

Something forced the king not to come out with a direct reply. He simply asked, “Which rumours do you mean?”

The Queen responded: “Rumours, that says that your throne is going to be taken over by Jayasingha, during your kingship. Looks like our land is following the Muslim rulers in this regard.”

This sneering remark, aimed at Jayasingha was not lost upon the king. He said, “Rumours are gossip. Not the truth. My throne is not being usurped by Jayasingha; on the contrary, I’m bestowing it upon him.”

The queen laughed harshly. “Ah, so you’re passing the throne to him. Why such a haste to abdicate and retire, may I ask?”

Holding his surging anger in check, the king replied, “My dear queen, there’s no reason to laugh like that. A king must think a hundred times and act with deep consideration. Just think, the well-being and suffering of his subjects are so much dependent on his decisions. If I, the reigning monarch, do not take a decision now, then there is a chance is that in my absence, the question of succession would lead to a fight among the brothers, and ruin the kingdom.”

The Queen said: “But my observation is, that in trying to find a solution, you’re in fact, instigating one brother to fight the other. In the name of protecting your kingdom, you’re leading it towards destruction. If you wish to decide on your successor, in your presence, then, pray, why do you not declare your eldest son as the next king? Why are you usurping his rightful eligibility to the throne unlawfully and relinquishing it to the younger one?”

The words rang true, but they did not please the king. Sometimes, it was difficult to bear the truth. With supreme irritation, the king said, “Bhimsingha and Jayasingha were both born almost at the same time. The difference is their time of birth is so minute, that on the basis of that, Bhimsingha cannot claim to be the successor to the throne, just by virtue of being elder by a few seconds. They’re born on the same day, at the same time. Under the circumstance, the one who is more capable has a right to inherit the throne. I believe Jayasingha to be more capable of the two.”

Laughing, the queen said, “It seems like you want to turn the wheel of time; or, else, why would you accept the younger one, to be equal to the eldest one? I’m happy that just your mere words did not change the dictates of time. Even if a person is marginally older by birth, he deserves to be considered as the eldest. Lav and Kush were twins; but then why, did Lav succeed his father to the throne? Besides, let me ask you, on what grounds do you think Jayasingha is more deserving than Bhimsingha? Is Bhimsingha any less than Jayasingha in terms of bravery, honesty, intelligence, prowess? Who is admired by the army? Whose honesty enchants the nobles in your court? Whom do the subjects want as their future king? You’ll get your answer, if only you ask others. However, if you believe Jayasingha to be more deserving since he’s born of your favourite consort, and is, hence, your dear prince, of course, that is a different story.”

Her words, like sharp quills, invaded his heart. Angered, he said, “So be it.”

The queen, too, could hardly restrain her anger. “Then say that clearly. Why be pretentious and hide behind false words? Being a king, are you afraid to voice the truth?”

The king answered, “Nobody ever wanted to know the truth from me. None can claim that I’ve been untruthful.”

The queen replied, “Do you remember the day they’re born?”

She paused, her words were caught in the web of time, as she travelled back almost twenty years, remembering that day. The difference between the simple, trusting, young bride of yesteryears and today’s middle-aged woman, neglected, exploited, devoid of husband’s attention, was too great. The young Kamal Kumari of those days, who after giving birth to her first born, had waited with love and patience, for her husband to come, and to take her son in his arms, exulting in happiness. In the expectancy of his arrival, she completely forgot the pains of childbirth and in her heart, there flowed a stream of bliss. But when the moments changed to minutes, and then to hours, and still the King did not come, she felt neglected and hurt. Dejected and sad, she heard one of the maidservants saying, “Queen Chanchal Kumari, too, has given birth to a prince around the same time. The king is with her and he has tied the amulet of immortality, on the feet of the newborn. Later, he will come here.”

It had been a tradition of the Royal house of Mewar that at the birth of the firstborn, the king tied the amulet of immortality on the tiny feet. It was a symbol, whereby the king declared his firstborn, to be his successor. On hearing, that the king had unfairly put the precious amulet on the feet of his younger prince, instead of his elder one, a raging fire swelled fiercely in her heart. The tears from a mother’s eyes anointed the newborn on that day.

The queen clearly understood that her husband didn’t love her anymore. In the past too, such thoughts had assailed her, like frail doubts, but they never lasted long. She had reprimanded herself for doubting her husband. But, that day, the doubts that had only temporarily intruded, took root as the truth in her mind. Shell-shocked, the queen felt like dying.

When her husband came finally, to visit the newborn, she did not utter a word. Within a few days, she heard rumours within the palace walls, that claimed that because of the mistake on the part of the servants, who miscalculated the time of birth of Chanchal Kumari’s firstborn, the king had tied the amulet on her boy, thinking him to be the eldest.

Kamal Kumari did not have the heart to judge the veracity of this rumour. She had no trust on the king’s love for her, and his proximity only became another cause of pain and agony for her. How on earth would one engage in such talks with him? Many a times, she’d attempted to broach this subject, to question him, and each time, her misery had been so immense, that she came back before she could get her answers.

But after so many years, when she had almost no reason to disbelieve his very reason for tying the amulet on Jayasingha’s feet, she stomped with wifely hurt. She only remembered that she was Bhimsingha’s mother. She felt that it was only because he was born of her ill-fated womb, his luck forsook him, meting out grievous injustice by depriving him of his natural right. Deadly anger replaced the feeling of hurt then, and she stood against the king, to fight for justice, to fight for her son’s rights.

When the incidents around his birth flashed before her eyes, once again, it made her weaker; the fire of anger that lighted her eyes, at once turned tearfully misty, with the remembered hurt. But, not for long. Soon enough, the queen spoke angry words: “If you aren’t afraid to speak the truth, then why could you not come up with the real reason for tying the amulet on the feet of your younger son, when all the while, it was your eldest son, who deserved it?”

Angered, the king replied, “It’s not my duty to explain my decisions or the reasons behind them to the subjects. And if people misinterpret my actions, I can hardly be blamed. Right? If I’d hidden the truth on that day, fearing the public backlash, then I’d have hesitated to give him the throne, even today. If people had any wrong assumptions, let it be dismissed by this action of mine. This is my kingdom, and I reserve the right of bestowing it to whomsoever I please. I’m neither afraid of the public and nor should they have any right to comment on this.”

Unable to tolerate further, the queen stood up from her seat, and in an agitated voice, said, “No, don’t you dare think like that, O King. It might be your kingdom, but you’ve no right to bestow it upon anyone you deem fit. You may be the judge, but that doesn’t give you the right to be unjust. Your kingship doesn’t give you the right to break laws. And if a king does that, then he’s not a king – he is a despot, an unrighteous ruler. Such a king’s bounty will surely not be accepted by my son. The day he claims this kingdom as his rightful domain, it’ll be his. Even if you wish to bestow the kingdom upon him now, he will not accept it from you. Remember when your unfair decision results in bloodshed. It will take the lives of millions of innocent people, bringing huge destruction to this land. When bloodshed between brothers will bring the legacy of Mewar to ignominy, don’t blame them or others. Do remember then, O king, that this is the consequence of your sin. You’re a descendant of the famous Raghu clan, whose patriarch King Dashrath didn’t hesitate to banish his favorite son Rama to forest just to uphold justice. Despite being born into such an illustrious family, today, you defamed your family name. But, as long as this world exists, and the planets revolve, you will not be able to suppress justice with injustice. Truth shall triumph, O king, you would not be able to stop its march.”

Her words were clearly laced with deep hatred. Having spoken them out, the proud woman went out of the king’s bedchamber, in slow, graceful steps. She didn’t meet Bhimsingha that night and decided to have a talk with him the next morning.

2.

The queen departed. She left behind a cacophony of censure and her words continued reverberating in the Rana’s head, pounding like thunderbolts. His mind echoed back the words of his queen: “You are the descendant of the famous Raghu clan, whose patriarch King Dashrath didn’t hesitate to banish his favorite son Rama to forest…”  He felt dizzy. His majesty, the great Rana Raj Singha became as restless as a small child. “Oh, what have I done? I’ve compromised truth at the feet of fraternal love, despite being born in a family that upheld truth at all costs. Oh God, was this the purpose of my unlucky birth, only to tarnish the unsullied name of my family?”

It was, as if his closed eyes, were suddenly opened. Never before, had he thought about the matter in this manner. In his mind, since Bhimsingha and Jayasingha, both were born on the same day, neither of them had precedence on the throne. It was his kingdom, and he thought to bestow it upon whom he deemed fit. Blinded by one-sided love, he had, so far, failed to ponder upon the other aspect of the issue. But, today, he was cured off such an illusion, such an oversight, in a harsh way.

The night passed sleeplessly in a restless state. At the crack of dawn, he asked the guard, “Ask Prince Bhimsingha to come here at once.”

“Prince Bhimsingha?” The guard expressed surprise, for they all knew Jayasingha to be the crown prince. Checking his surprise, he went out to inform Bhimsingha.

The fact that he has been called to meet his father surprised Bhimsingha no less. It was a novel occasion, for he could hardly remember ever to be called by the king, his father. He thought, “Is this some new trick? Is he calling me to attend upon Jayasingha, to be his servant? But does he not understand that, as long as Bhimsingha has faith in his own prowess and bravery, the throne can never belong to Jayasingha.”

Remembering his father’s partiality angered him afresh. He was in a dilemma. He pondered on how he could turn down the invitation to meet him. However, he decided not to disobey the royal command. “On the other hand, today, in his presence, I’m going to speak out my heart,” he thought.

His heart seething with anger, Bhimsingha went to his father. But his anger melted as he glanced at the king looking for an escape route. Depression was written large on the king’s face and his eyes, although troubled, were deep with love as he looked at Bhimsingha. Anger and revengeful feelings vanished in a moment. In its place, there was a strange emotion of unexpressed pain.

The king, too, was surprised to see Bhimsingha’s calm, forbearing, respectful demeanor, just the very opposite of the image he’d conceived in his mind, in which Bhimsingha seethed with deep seated anger, frowning to demand fairness from him. Bhimsingha behaved like a loving son. Seeing his son’s respectful demeanour towards his father, embarrassed the king. His son’s respect, forbearance and calmness filled the king’s heart with deep contrition, a feeling which no amount of anger on Bhimsingha’s part would have aroused in the Rana’s troubled heart. In deep shame and repentance, the king could hardly glance at him.

Slowly, he said, “Son Bhimsingha!”

His affectionate tone surprised Bhimsingha. Never before, had the king expressed such tenderness towards him. Slight and neglect had been his lot from his father. The memory of a day when both the brothers were playing in the garden invaded his consciousness. The Rana had caressed Jayasingha fondly, but for him he had not spared a word of endearment. Hurt with his behavior, the boy had left the place, found his mother’s lap to shed his tears, without telling her the reason of his sorrow. Growing up, at every step, he’d observed the unfairness of his father. And by bestowing his throne to Jayasingha, he’d, finally, shown the height of unfairness. It had led him to believe that the king did not love him.

And so, after long years, when the king called him with such tenderness in his voice, it roused strong emotions in his heart, overwhelming him. In a trembling voice, he replied, “Father.”

All these years, Bhimsingha had addressed him as Maharaja, the king. Looking at him, the king confessed, “Son, I’ve wronged you grossly, please forgive me.”

Tears coursed down Bhimsingha’s eyes, tears of hurt and pride. The fact, that his father realised and acknowledged his unfair behaviour towards him, washed away his hurt. In his heart, he said, “I’ve lost your affection, for I stayed away, aloof from you, doubting your affection for me. For this reason, I seek your forgiveness, forgive me, father.”

He stood speechless in front of the king; the Rana, observing his silence, continued, “I know it is difficult for you to forgive me, but I’ll atone for the crime I committed, and thereby ask forgiveness from my conscience, from my God. You’re my firstborn; to you, shall I bestow my throne, on your head, the crown shall glitter. But even if I do so, Jayasingha would always stand as a barrier on your path, an impediment. It is because of my fault that he’s dreaming of possessing that which is not his. The greed of the kingdom would turn him to cause anarchy in the land. And there is, but only one solution to this problem.”

Saying so, he unsheathed the sword that glittered brightly against the rays of the sun. Holding it in front of Bhimsingha, he said, “Take this, and pierce this sword through his heart. Let one death ward-off thousands of deaths, let justice prevail at the downfall of injustice. Don’t panic, on the face of cold responsibility. No relationship is important enough.” His voice shook, as he uttered the words, realising their onus, in essence, within his heart.

Like a statue, carved in stone, Bhimsingha stood. In a flash, he understood what the king was going through. To uphold his duty, he was sacrificing his most valuable, loved treasure. Bhimsingha witnessed the intense loftiness of his father’s ideals. His greatness impressed his to the core. His love for his father increased a thousand-fold. Bhimsingha clearly understood, that in piercing the heart of his brother, he would in fact, be stabbing his father. He could hardly say anything. His mind only whispered, “You’re a god, a divine being.”

Watching him standing quietly, the king again reiterated, “Son, don’t shiver at this thought. You’d be committing this act to uphold justice, for the well-being of the land, there’s no sin in this act of yours. And even if you commit a sin, it would be not yours, it would be mine. Follow my command and fulfil it.”

Bhimsingha took the sword from his hand and kept it at the king’s feet. He said, “Father, take back your sword. I’ve no need for it. You’d indeed wronged me, but you’ve repented profusely for it. You’ve fulfilled your duty to the letter. Now let me fulfil mine. I’ll make sure, that there will not be a drop of bloodshed because of me; that Jayasingha would not commit anything untoward because of me. The right that you’ve bestowed upon me today, I grant that right to Jayasingha. From today onward, this kingdom shall rightfully be his. I’ll leave Mewar, to prevent myself from getting tempted, in future, by the greed of attaining the throne. Carrying the affection and the lofty ideals that you imparted to me today in my heart, I’ll leave my motherland Mewar tonight. If I fail to do this, let me not be known as your son.”

Not giving him a moment to respond or desist, Bhimsingha touched his father’s feet and was gone. Astounded, the king stood there.

That very day, Bhimsingha himself crowned Jayasingha. Then, along with his loved soldiers and nobles, he left Mewar. He never came back.  Many years later, when his companions returned to Mewar, they carried with them, the news of his death.

Swarnakumari Devi (1855-1932) was five years older to her sibling, Rabindranath Tagore. She was one of the first women writers of Bengal. She was also a social activist who fought for women’s liberation. Among Bengali women writers, she was one of the first to gain prominence. She helped orphans and widows. She opened an organisation to help women and opposed the evil of sati. In the 5 July 1932 issue of the Bengali newspaper, Amrita Bazar Patrika, just days after her death, she is  remembered as “one of the most outstanding Bengali women of the age” who “did her best for the amelioration of the condition of the womanhood of Bengal.”

Chaitali Sengupta is a writer, translator and journalist from the Netherlands. Her published works include two translations “Quiet whispers of our heart” and “A thousands words of  heart”. Recently her first prose poem collection Cross- Stitched words was published. Her poems have also been anthologized in many international collections and she writes for many print and online journals. 

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