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.

.

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

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.

.

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

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.

.

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

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. 

.

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

Categories
Poetry

Poetry from Nepal

Written by Krishna Bajgai, translated from Nepalese by Dr. Rupak Shrestha          

             

Krishna Bajgai
Alphabet Adoration

Since the thirst of alphabets 
Was witnessed in his young eyes,
The illiterate parents made him 
Swallow all the alphabets,
Forcing him to memorise.

As soon as he was strong enough
To carry on his back 
A bag of alphabets,
His teachers forcefully fed him 
Tough words from books.

As he grew, 
He started to learn by rote 
History and politics,
Finally, philosophy,
From the professors' antiquated notes. 

He grew up with alphabets,
Learned to play with them,
Understood layered
Meanings of words and sentences,
By days and by nights.

He stuck on his routine life,
Made books his pillow at night,
Surrounded himself with the alphabets 
In classrooms and libraries 
For hours and hours, days and nights.

One day, 
All of a sudden,
A gigantic price was put on his head,
Charged for playing with 
Weapons made of alphabets.

The next day,
An arrest warrant was issued in words.
Soon he was freed 
by the rallying of sentences.

Again, he wrote 
More and more with alphabets
While he continued to live,
Till the last sentence he wrote was –
‘’I adore alphabets.’’

Krishna Bajgai leads the Samakalin Sahitya Pratisthan that he founded in 2014. He publishes and edits www.samakalinsahitya.com. He has thirteen published books, three of his which are taught at the Universities in Nepal for Bachelors’ in Arts degree. Two have been part of research for the Master’s degree curriculum at Tribhuvan University. Decorated by seven prestigious awards in his literary career, he is also affiliated with many literary institutions.

Rupak Shrestha, a renowned figure in the Nepalese Diaspora in the United Kingdom writes free verse, ghazals, songs, muktaks (quatrains), and haiku, does literary criticism and translates. He has been felicitated by different literary institutions for his contribution. He has authored Big Ben ra Samay (Poetry Collection) 2011, Pokhtak (Muktak Collection) 2014, Butte Kimono (Haiku Collection) 2017, and Rupak (Songs’ Album) 2018.

.

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

Categories
Essay

Persian Perspectives: The Third Perception of Man

Translated to English from Bijan Najdi’s essay in Persian by Davood Jalili

Bijan Najdi is often identified with the collection of short stories, Cheetahs who ran with me. But he was a poet at heart. His melodic prose and his powerful stories have the traces of poetry between words. The flow of poetry in his stories evolved into a very exquisite flow of thoughts and perceptions. Najdi wrote an article entitled ‘The Third Perception of Man’ in which he considers poetry to be the outflow of the most intense emotions.

Man’s first perception of fire must have been to touch and burn himself, that is, to feel the burning with direct contact. The next step was to understand the fire to learn from his earlier experience. That is, we see the fire, and without touching it, we know that it burns. This third stage is understanding the fire of “poetry”. That is, if you can, without the fire in your presence, think of it, feel the burning in your fingertips that you have to put your hands under the tap, you have achieved a poetic moment in your life, without the help of words.

Now you can transpose this third stage from fire to the suffering of others, to the history of your land, to the massacre in Palestine, to freedom, to the mass burials in Herzegovina. Poetry does not need “words” in such circumstances. It is the highest form of expression of the most intense suffering of humankind.

The study of the traces of life and the survey of dreams, the nightmares of cavemen and the psychoanalysis of designs and shapes carved in stone prove that even before the advent of calligraphy and language, man had experienced all three stages of perception. The drawings on the stone that depict a human with bird wings on the back and legs of a deer and a human profile are an object of the same third sense.

Is suffering and love born of lines and words the only foundation for poetry? Does our understanding of God depend on our learning to write the word “God”?

However, it was but natural that after the evolution of language and the emergence of calligraphy, man tried to write that “third comprehension”. Henceforth, poetry was no longer seemingly independent of time. Poetry proved its objectivity with the help of the “word”.

In simpler language, basically, any kind of understanding does not necessarily need words, but with words, understanding can be built.

Form and content are a philosophical and academic discussion. They have nothing to do with poetry or at least they have nothing to do with the moments of composing poetry.

There are two types of thinking. Both can, perhaps, influence poets as well.

Some people look at their surroundings with inductive reasoning and want to get a whole by identifying and analysing the details. On the other hand, some people deduce by accepting and prove from a general rule.  They would accept the thought for the presence of each component.

Both methods have scientific values. Poetry as the “third perception” is born of intense feelings that frees the poet from both when writing poetry: form and content.

There are poets who believe that form is the manifestation of poetry. In my opinion, this kind of formalism is just a way of thought; that they want by looking at an apple, to get an idea of ​​its taste and smell, with the help of the word, and they want to reach “sense and understanding”. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think it conflicts with the “essence of knowledge.”

However, no one can stop this group from trying.

Volume has dimensions in its geometric definition, so it has an inside and an outside. However, the enclosed space is not the object of discussion. Every point of space is either in or out. That is, each point of it can be both inside and outside at a time. Volume poetry[1], according to Royaee[2], one of the most famous poets of this school, is the transcendence over length, width and height to float in the contraction and the expansion of the soul of the universe, which the poet enters with the “help of words”.

Volume poetry is a look at nature, objects and words that create a sense of yearning by discovering the form and inherent talent of the word to explain the inside and the out to escape from volume.

The spatial poetry of Royaee steps out of the volume enclosed in the words, to get help from the hidden spaces between words, oblivious to the consciousness of being a man. But in such poetry, you can neither sense the history nor the historical identity of the poet.

Nevertheless, poetry of Royaee is full of eagerness to know. But because he is not able to convey his eagerness in his manifesto of volume poetry, his adherents and he have diametrically opposing outputs. I think this is a kind of crisis in poetry, but we should not be afraid of it.

A real crisis arises in poetry when people’s eyes, ears, and minds become accustomed to only one type of poetry.

The crisis was the same as we had in the years before the revolution, when some people did not consider Sepehri[3] a poet because of his Marxist views.

The crisis was that under the pretext of modernism, poetry based on belief and mysticism could be rejected in a society. The culture of any society is the result of social behaviors. If these behaviors are restricted in a certain way, a crisis does arise.

The basic bedrock of any art is freedom, and no one should and can ignore the value of lyricists or post-revolutionary idealist poetry because of their interest in white poetry[4].

However, I do not know what poetry is and what good poetry is.

I have no reason to like a good poem as I feel a burning sensation in my fingertips without touching the fire. Believe me, I am neither a poet nor a novelist, I just love the literature of my country very much.

.

(Published with permission from Bijan Najdi’s wife and family)

 Bijan Najdi (Persian: بیژن نجدی‎, pronounced [biːʒæn nædʒdiː]; (15 November 1941 in Khash, Iran – 25 August 1997 in Lahijan, Iran) was an Iranian writer and poet. Najdi is most famous for his 1994 short story collection The Cheetahs who ran with me (Persian: یوزپلنگانی که با من دویده‌اند‎)).

Davood Jalili (1956, Iran) is an Iranian writer, translator and poet. He has published many articles on Iranian websites and magazines and has three published books.


[1]– Volume Poetry is a type of poetry written evolved around 1967. In 1969, Royaee and several poets published the essence of the volume poetry. Volumeism, mental movement, volumetric vision, mental distances, three-dimensional attitude, are other names that have been applied to this type of poetry

[2]Royaee is an Iranian poet (1932) who now lives in Paris. He wrote a Manifesto of volume poetry

[3] Sohrab Sepehri (born October 6, 1928 in Kashan – died May 1, 1980 in Tehran) was an Iranian poet, writer and painter. He is one of the most important contemporary poets of Iran and his poems have been translated into many languages ​​including English, French, Spanish and Italian. 

[4] White  Or Sepid poetry or Shamloui poetry is a type of modern Persian poetry that appeared in the 1930s with a collection called Fresh Air by Ahmad Shamlou and may be compared to free poetry (in French : vers libre ) in Western literature. The main difference between these works and previous examples of new poetry  was in the form of poetry. In this style, the rhyme of prosody is generally not observed, but the song and music are reflected. In the classification of modern Persian poetry, sometimes any poem that does not fit in the form of Nimai poetry (Nima Youshij the innovative of New Poetry) is called white poetry.

.

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

Categories
Poetry

Poetry in Translation

Aditya Shankar translates Sandhya NP‘s poetry from Malyalam to English

Sandhya NP
 
 
 

 Photograph
  
 This photograph
 Like the solitary bogie 
 That was arrested to a halt
 Even as the rest of the train 
 Sped past.
  
 (Photo, translated from Malayalam by Aditya Shankar)
  
 Solitary
  
 Would the yolk of the egg 
 Be wondering
 If it is alone in this world?
  
 Even if it assumes so,
 Would it consider 
 Posing that query to anyone?
  
 Once the egg hatches,
 It would know by default—
 Even the 'I' 
 Is absent in this world.
  
 (Otta, translated from Malayalam by Aditya Shankar)
  
 Light at the Bottom of the Pond
  
 The sun gleams on me
 just as it does 
 At the bottom of the pond.
  
 I will wipe it off with a cloth
 And go to bed.
  
 (Kulathinadiyile Velicham, translated from Malayalam by Aditya Shankar)

Sandhya N.P (b.1981) completed her education in Brennen College, Thalassery. Her poetry collection Svasikkunna Shabdam Mathram was published by Current Books, Thrissur.

.

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.

.

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

Categories
Stories

The Saviour

  A translation from Bengali to English by Dipankar Ghosh of Nabendu Ghosh’s Traankarta, a story set during the Partition riots

Nabendu Ghosh

The bad news reached here too, the news of the rioting. The roads looked tense and empty. Even the pariah dogs that usually roamed the streets had disappeared. Only a few brash teenagers were bunched up in a group at the head of the lane, swaggering around with cigarettes hanging from their lips.

On the other side of the city, fires were raging, severed heads rolling on the blood-bathed streets; teenaged girls had their breasts cut off and little babies had been thrown head down into concrete floors. Tonight they were paying homage to Satan in the stygian darkness, on the other side of the city. The news wafted in the gentle breeze, and the horrifying tales of the day’s events spread through the grapevine to every household.

Gloom descended on everyone. They felt benumbed, paralysed, by a tidal wave of fear.  Fear, unspoken fear.  Fear that made the heart palpitate madly in the breast. Fear that made you seek the company of a crowd. Awful fear. The kind of fear that deprived one of the will to live.

The ladies proceed silently with their chores. Not too many items on the menu for tonight. Rice and boiled vegetables. The children don’t understand much, occasionally they were bursting out into giggles, running noisily up and down the stairs, squabbling amongst themselves.  But, now and then, an older person would burst out like a sentry, “Silent! Or I’ll behead you with a smack!”

But they could think of very little that they could be done to save their own heads from the approaching holocaust. Everyone was discussing behind barred doors, what to do. Not just bad news, but terrible news that the people from the other side intend to attack them tonight. A cold wave of fear ran down their spines when they got the news. What to do, what on earth should they do?

The house of Mr Bose, a barrister who was the local leader, was brightly lit up. Arun was planning to quietly slip out, how long could one possibly stay cooped? But Mr Bose had his searchlight eyes on every possible exit, making it impossible for anyone to either enter or leave his fortress of Lanka without his knowledge.

“Where do you think you are going?” he asked in his deepest voice.

 “Just out – for a dekko.”

 “Just out! Forget it. Are you not aware of what’s going on in the heart of this city?! Go, get back and stay put in your room.”

Arun returned to his room.

His daughter Ruby came out. There were dark circles of anxiety under her large almond eyes. Her curly black tresses were floating in an unruly fashion, her usually healthy pink glow was replaced by sallow pallor. She was depressed, and fear had put its mark on her. Movies, parties, and picnics were suddenly out of question, the desire to fly around the flowers and taste their honey at will had suddenly flown out of the honey bee. Ruby was lost.

“Daddy –”

“Yes?”

“Will you take us to uncle’s house?”

Meaning Bhawanipore. Meaning a predominantly Hindu area, where perhaps she could put on her crepe silk sari and wander around at will, shaking her long coil of hair.

Mr Bose shook his head in frustration, “Uncle’s house? Now? Impossible! The roads are barren, not a man or a car about, we will have to cross many localities, driving through corpses and rivulets of blood, and more importantly, sudden unprovoked attacks! That important thing called life that we are trying to save, could very easily be ended en route! Stop making silly suggestions, go up to your room and stay there Ruby –”

But how on earth could Ruby sit calmly in her room! She felt frightened out of her mind. Occasionally the sound of shouting was floating in from afar. Awful noises. Last night she had seen the sky flare up in the east. She had heard all the beastly tales. It had all left a fearful imprint on her mind and every now and then, a spark of fear would set off a burst of anxiety in her mind. The nervous pulsating of the vessels under that pink alabaster skin of hers bore witness to her angry, frightened state of mind.

Now, it was one thing browbeating Arun and Ruby, but Mrs Bose?  Perpetually conscious and tense about her obese abundance, she was an entirely different proposition. No doubt the dreadful news of the riots would put her in a fairly explosive state of mind — of that Mr Bose was certain. Therefore, when the substantial lady made her appearance Mr Bose felt a bit intimated, fairly aware that if he tried to browbeat her, the result could be counter-productive.   

“Listen, I can’t go on like this — this suspense, this danger, it is unbearable.”

“But what — tell me what am I to do dear?” Mr Bose protested weakly.

“Do something, for Heaven’s sake! Don’t just sit still, quietly—”

“I am not sitting still. I am trying to think. Besides, we have two rifles, five hundred rounds of ammunition, we have a sentry, a bearer, a man servant and also a chauffeur, so what are you worried about?”

Mrs Bose collapsed on the sofa, there was a glint of fire in her bluish eyes, sharply she said, “Spare me a list of your rationale, please — your little group would disappear in front of a massive crowd. I’d like to see you stop them with those five hundred rounds. You don’t consider that an unending supply, do you? No, I’m sorry that is not enough to reassure me — I’ll faint any moment under the strain!”

Knock, knock. Somebody at the door.

“Sir,” the sentry’s voice outside the door.

“What is it Tiwari?”

“Some people of the community want to meet you Sir.”

“Offer them seats,” he spoke aloud, then continued to assure Mrs Bose, “Now listen, don’t get overexcited. Let’s wait and watch. We are due to have a meeting of the local defence committee. It is such a large community I am sure they are all willing to fight to protect us all. Don’t be nervous dear. If the situation deteriorates then of course we will have to take a risk — but the car will be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.”

*

In the margins of the so-called civilised society, at the end well-to-do side of the neighbourhood, separating them from the Others on the opposite side, lived a group of people who considered themselves a part of the same community. They were the untouchable Doms. Living in pigeon hole sized tiny hovels, they just about carried on living. They swept the roads, carried water for folks, washed their drains and lavatories. They collected night soil, got into manholes and extracted rubbish from them, they cleaned refuse bins and manned the garbage carts of the municipality. Their hovels were plastered with mud, and they ate from chromed metal plates of their dirt mixed rice. They sat in the light of little kerosene lamps and got boisterously drunk in the evening. And although they considered themselves to be part of the community, to the more genteel and affluent part of the community they were always a bit of an embarrassment. 

These people in the no man’s land between the two communities numbered some two hundred. And the only man who had the absolute obedience of these two hundred odd bods was called Jhagru. Such was his hold over them that, if he chose to call daylight as night his men would do so without batting an eyelid. He was their unopposed and unanimous chief, their sardar.

Jhagru’s men had come to him. They had seen bits of what had happened on the other side, heard most of all the atrocities that had taken place, they had even helped the frightened people who had managed to flee from the fortress-like bounds of the place, and taken them to safety. But the question was, what would they do today? If what they had heard on the grapevine was proven true, then how were they to react?

Having binged on some onion bhajis (fritters) and the potent rice-wine of Tari, Jhagru was feeling content. The capillaries of his eyes were bloodshot, and in the cool evening breeze his large figure deemed ready to take off like a well inflated balloon. He eyed his wife’s, Suratiya’s, generous proportions as he was preparing himself for some decent basic entertainment for the evening, his men all descended on him with the bad news, and spoilt his mood.

 “Bugger off !” he said crossly in Hindi. “What will be, will be. So what if they attack?”

Ranglal said, “But surely we must do something -”

“You buggers have ruined my drinking,” Jhagru barked at them.

Waving a hand, he demanded, “What the hell is there to worry about? If they attack, we will fight. What else? The main thing is, be prepared with your weapons, when the gong is rung, jump on them — end of story –”

“But sardar–”

“No buts, you all run off. Sitting here with my toddy, let me enjoy my drink — you blighters get back to your homes.”

They all left.

Munching his onion bhaji, he sipped from his earthen cup. Slowly but surely the warmth off the stinging spirit made his ears ring, his breathing got heavier, his eyelids drooped, his sight got hazy. Jhagru was drunk. In that state he was pleasantly surprised to notice that Suratiya had turned into an exceptional beauty, like an unattainable princess of a fairy tale.

“Suratiya dear –”

“What?”

“Come on, over here –”

“Unh-hun –”

“Have a bit of tari?”

“NNo – I won’t –”

In his stupor Jhagru was suddenly enraged by this rejection, and got headstrong.

“You coming here or not — you bitch!”

“No I won’t — I’ve enough work still to finish –”

“Then suffer the consequences –”

Jhagru got up. Walking with unsteady gait like a child, he reached Suratiya, caught hold of her and lifted her in his arms.

“You’ll kill me,” Suratiya screeched, “you’ll break every bone in my body!”

Pulling his wife close to him Jhagru guffawed loudly, “You frightened? Don’t be, woman. Go on, sit in my lap.”

Jhagru was drunk like a lord. No way could he hold on to a strong woman like Suratiya in his drunken state, let alone have his way with her. Giggling loudly, Suratiya ran away.

Ten or eleven o’clock in the morning. If it were an ordinary day, Jhagru would be up to his neck in work. But since the rioting was a good excuse not to be at work, why not have some fun. 

 “Ran away,” Jhagru laughed. “Bloody woman.” Got to do something, he thought to himself.  The tari was finished, he was drunk, and Suratiya was gone. So he needed to do something. But what?

Suddenly in a dusty corner he noticed his forgotten dhol (drum). He pulled it out and started to beat it enthusiastically. He would sing. Never mind, if it scared the daylight out of people, Jhagru could not desist. He was in the mood for some singing, and sing he would.

Vigorously beating the drum, Jhagru started to sing widely. Amongst the incoherent lyric the audience could have deciphered only one line, which he kept repeating in a refrain:

Chhappar par kauwa naache, Bug bugoola/ Hanh hanh bug bugoola…

(The crow dances on the rooftop, bug bugoola)

 Ya, Ya, bug bugoola

What wonderful tune! What incredible control of voice! What melody and feeling in rendition! The entire slum of untouchables woke up to fact that Jhagru was drunk and was singing.

Respectfully they whispered, “Sardar is singing, by jove he is singing.”

*

The Defence committee meeting was on at Mr. Bose’s house. He himself was the chairman.

Almost all the important folks of the locality were gathered there. Venerable teacher Nibaran Mukherji, solicitor Haridas Mitra, Dr. Santosh Dutta (MBE, RCS), and iron merchant Sukumar Roy.  There were also the young representatives of the Saraswati Orchestra Group, Youth Body-Culture Samiti, and the Evergreen Dramatic Club. A large blanket had been laid on the floor of Mr Bose’s inner courtyard. Seated on it, all the members were earnestly discussing the situation.

In a room across the corner Ruby had drawn the curtain aside to watch the proceedings. Sheer curiosity. Unable to get out of the house, the lack of parties, movies and picnics was getting unbearable. The meeting was an interesting diversion. If nothing else, she would see a wide spectrum of people. Ruby did not watch them passively, she tried to instinctively assess them. It pleased her to do so.

Mr Bose started in a deep, appropriately grave presidential voice. “You are all aware of the reprehensible events that have started in our city yesterday. Some of you may have witnessed the carnage. This is not the time, and I’m not the person, for long drawn speeches. Suffice it to say that we, especially us Bengalis, are witnessing the beginning of an evil period. Today we must bind together against this medieval barbarism. We have to fight it and stop it — meaning, we have to stop this aberration. We must forget the differences of our castes, our classes, high or low, who is untouchable and who isn’t– remembering only one thing– that we are Hindus and nothing else.”  

Mr Bose stopped for a moment, took a hanky out of his pocket, wiped the tension-induced sweat off his forehead. Opening his cigarette case, he offered the expensive ‘Black and White’ cigarette to the assembled elders and lit one for himself. There was a murmur of appreciation in the gathering for his opening speech, Ruby was flushed with pride.

The iron merchant said, “Absolutely, there’s great merit in what you have just said. The time for squabbling about class, caste et cetera is gone — from now on we are all equal, we are all Hindus.”

Mr Bose said, “Now let us determine how we should go about it.”

“Right, right,” they said in unison, and leaned forward.

The venerable teacher said, “Let’s divide the neighbourhood into four parts, each one keeping guard in their side of the four directions.”

The solicitor said, “Let’s use a siren or conch shells to signal danger to others.”

The doctor said, “A group of youths should stand guard, by rota, and blow on a conch three times at the first sign of danger. The siren should go off then. There should be red beacons in the last row of houses in the four main directions, and if danger approaches, the beacons should be lit up to let the others know which direction the danger is approaching from.”

The industrialist said, “The women, children, and the elderly should remain in the top floor or in the terrace armed with bricks and stones. The men should stay on the ground floor, armed with sticks and other weapons.”

All the suggestions were passed. The defence committee meeting was progressing nicely, but suddenly, a young lad called Jatin, created a problem. He wore clothes of hand woven khadi, which meant he was a nationalist, he had short cropped hair, and he was rough-spoken.

He said, “You have arranged everything. But if they really do attack us, then who is going to engage in a hand to hand fight?”

It seemed like a bomb had been set off. Everything felt hazy and nebulous like smoke. Not for a moment had they considered this! Really worth thinking.

The industrialists said, “Why, won’t we all fight them? Let all of us get to grips with them.”

The teacher shook his head in dissension, “That does not sound reasonable. It would mean that a group of people would always have to be outside to fight the enemy. In other words, they would have to be prepared to sacrifice their lives. Can all the able-bodied men do that, or be willing to do that?”

Another explosion. Really, who should fight on ground, if there were a fight?  If their worst fears materialised and thousands of people attacked them suddenly, then would people in individual houses, like disparate little islands, battling the enemy with bricks and sticks be able to save themselves?

Jatin said, “So, in spite of our well-organised meeting, and all our arrangements, we will not be able to save ourselves. So consider what ought to be done–”

Mr Bose was an intelligent man, having passed his bar at Law in the distant land across the seas had sharpened his instincts even more. He realised that since Jatin had raised this insoluble problem, it was fairly certain that he had pondered on the answer to it. And truly it was a serious point. He said, “I really have no solution to the problem Jatin has set before us, so I must request Jatin himself to show us a way out of this dilemma.”

Jatin smiled. “Fine,” he said, “I will resolve the problem. Have you any idea knowledge of the poor people who live between ‘Them’ and ‘Us’?”

“The Doms?”

“Yes. They don’t belong to the other community, they consider themselves part of us Hindus. And, although they cannot enter the Shiva temple at the other end of our colony, they worship the idol in that temple. Meaning, they are Hindus –”

Mr Bose smiled appreciatively at him, “The idea.”

 Jatin continued, “They might earn little and eat less but they are hardy and strong. The instinct that we have lost, which is presently making us timid despite our numbers, is fully active in them. So if you really want to perform as a defence committee, and live on, then you better bring them into this meeting. And raise a fund-immediately!”

The mention of money made the industrialist take note, “Fund for what?”

“It is best to give some salted yeast to the cow when it’s in milk,”Jatin smiled.

“Meaning what? Cough a bit freely, son –” the industrialist said, testily.

“The meaning is self-evident. We must give them weapons, good food, and a decent flow of liquor.”

“That is true. Those who are going to put their lives on line must be well tended,“ Mr Bose agreed with Jatin.

“Don’t waste time in thinking,” Jatin stressed. “Atrocity has to be stoutly countered with ferocity, so we must be prepared. And let there be no doubt in your minds that they will attack us tonight.”

There was a rustle of notes and coins changing hands. Then and there a collection of fifty rupees was raised, more funds would be forthcoming later. Who could object to a bit of wise investment when one’s life was at stake? Nothing is quite as deep as one’s life — so let the blighters have good food and potent country liquor. Not a lot to pay for the bargain. They might attack this very night. If the cruel pack of animals descend in the dark of the night, then these men will pour out their life blood for our protection. Wasn’t this the least one could do for them? Surely they would serve them. It would be a good deed. Not just the joy of being alive but also the gratification of doing a good deed, by giving the money. So let them eat, let them get drunk.

*

Jhagru suddenly tired of the drum and put it down. He kicked it to a corner, swearing, “Hell, I think I’m sober –”

No work today. How long can a person enjoy staying within the house? It would be fine if there was toddy around. That was gone. A bit of monkey business with Suratiya might have been fun, but she, wretched girl, had scampered. Maybe she really had work to do. Even bonking wasn’t much fun any more, but what he did enjoy was good liquor. This approaching sobriety, clearness of vision, reality creeping into the drowsy stupor of alcoholic haze was most disagreeable to Jhagru. What was termed as normal life was totally abnormal as far as Jhagru was concerned. To him normalcy was epitomised by gallons of drinks followed by drunken fisticuffs, singing and dancing bare-assed, puking the guts out and lying down inebriated.

This was rotten. Must get some more toddy. Must get back into the mood.

“Suratiya –O Suratiya–”

“What do you want?”

“Give us a couple of annas, dear.”

“Don’t have any.”

Jhagru jumped up and roared, “You going to give me the money without hassle, Suratiya?”

Suratiya answered back in the same pitch, “No hassle, no tassle — simple fact, I don’t have the money.”

Suddenly, Jhagru lunged at Suratiya — pulling her by her short pigtail he thumped a few hefty blows on her back, “You ungrateful slut–”

 “Oh my Ma — he’s killing me!” Suratiya wailed out loud. There was no need for the wailing, but Suratiya had talent for dramatic exaggeration.

“Are you gonna gimme the money or not, you wretched witch?”

The people of the hovels took note, and respectfully whispered amongst themselves, “Sardar is giving his wife a thrashing, a good hiding.”

It was at that moment they heard two or three voices call out, “Jhagru? Is Jhagru in?”

The voices were barely audible above Suratiya’s caterwauling. Again the voices were heard, this time a notch higher, “Jhagru? Jhagru sardar— are you in? Jhagru–”

Suratiya stopped her yowling, looked out and said, “Some people looking for you –”

“Me?”

“Yes, some gentlemen.”

“Gentlemen?!”

Caught unawares, Jhagru tried to collect his thoughts as he came out to meet the three ‘gentlemen’. Jatin was one of them.

“Are you Jhagru?”

“That’s me.”

“You have been sent for.”

“Who has sent for me?” Jhagru was a bit puzzled.

 “Bose Saheb, the barrister– don’t you know of him?”

 Jhagru’s pupils dilated anxiously, shaking his head vigorously he said, “Sure I know him sir, of course, yes.”

“He has sent for you — now–”

“Me? Oh my lord, what would he want with Jhagru Dom?”

“He needs you. Won’t you come?”

“Yes, yes, certainly I will come, sir. Barrister Saheb has sent for me, goodness–”

Salaam squire, salaam babus–”

Jhagru stood in front of the defence committee. He was still rather drunk, he swayed a bit on his feet as he waited. They all gazed at him. There was a fine sheen of sweat on his hairline pate, and the pupils of his small eyes flickered a bit anxiously. He was wearing a dirty torn loincloth and a thick loose shirt, an angry boil on his left cheek. That was Jhagru.

Ruby stood close behind the curtain. Her nose in the air, she muttered to herself, “How ugly and dirty!”

All the inspecting keen eyes seemed to pierce Jhagru like needles.

He smiled a bit uncomfortably, blurting out, “Forgive me sirs, I am a bit drunk on rice wine–”

Mr Bose leaned forward to ask, “So you are Jhagru?”

“Yes sir, Jhagru Dom.”

“And you are drunk?”

“Yes sir.”

“You enjoy your booze?”

Hanging his head, Jhagru said, amused, “Certainly do sir.”

A bit more forcefully, Mr Bose asked, “Are you the leader of the Doms?”

“Yes sir.”

 “Well then, listen Jhagru. We will let you, and your comrades, have as much drink as you want. And not just drinks, we will give money for food too.”

Jhagru wondered if he was dreaming. He looked all round, somewhat warily. No, everything looks quite real. He wondered if he was he awfully drunk. Never, he had barely wet his snout. It wasn’t false, it was all true, real.

“You are very kind sir, but –”

Mr Bose interrupted, “I’ll tell you. You have heard about the disturbances, haven’t you Jhagru?” 

Jhagru nodded, yes.

“Tonight they might attack us here.”

 “Yes sir.”

“We are Hindus, and you all are also Hindus.”

“Sir.”                  

“If Hindus don’t save Hindus then who will save them?”

“Certainly sir, absolutely right.”

“If they attack us, you will all fight? We — we shall certainly join you, we will fight together.”

 Suddenly, Mr Bose noticed that amidst the seated gathering Jhagru was the only one standing up. In  an excited voice he said, “What’s this Jhagru, why are you still without a seat? Come take a seat, sit.”

Jhagru’s was stunned. The sudden, unexpected cordiality overwhelmed him, he uneasily said, “But –”

“No buts, no formalities, don’t be shy, take a seat.”

 “I am an untouchable Dom, sir.”

 “Dom?” Mr.Bose lifted his eyes to heaven, his voice quivering with feeling he said, “Dom so what? Untouchable?! You are a human being just like us. A Hindu just like us. Sit down, brother.”

Suddenly, to emphasise that he meant what he had uttered, Mr.Bose walked up to Jhagru, took the astounded man’s arm and sat him down on a chair.

Jhagru tried to say something but his chocked vocal cords would not cooperate. The man who could talk nonstop even when he was completely inebriated, was struck dumb through a combination of amazement, gratefulness, and a feeling of unprecedented happiness.

The soft crackling of notes being counted could be heard.

Moments later Jhagru came out of the house.

On his way back home, as he passed by the temple of Lord Shiva, Jhagru stopped short. He went up to the temple, moved his calloused hands over its mossy wall, and chuckled, “Lord Shiva, you are so kind, so good.”

*

All at once an air of festivity engulfed them all in the slums. Ramprasad Singh’s distillery of illicit liquor was drained within the hour. Banwari’s Confectionery shop had empty shelves, so had Tiwari’s eatery.

Occasionally the sound of a clash in the distance would float in. The battle-crazed sound of destruction, “Allah-Ho-Akbar!” It sounded like the sea from a distance, like waves the sound overpowered the senses.

Every now and then, a dog or two would respond to the danger of the distant noise. In the deepening silence of the dark night, the leader of the slum-dwelling Doms sat awake and alert. His eyes pierced the unknown before him, his ears pricked, attuned to every sound and echo.

At about one o’clock in the morning They declared war.

Allah-ho-Akbar–”

Pakistan zindabad–”

Jhagru started to beat his drums. Doom-doom-doom-doom. Every slum-dweller was awake. Without a word, they all ran out to the meeting point.

They came playing a band, with torch flares alight. A feeling of hellish surreality descended with them. Like a mass of primitive malevolent spirits, some blood-thirsty phantoms seemed to have taken possession of their dark souls.

The main assault was aimed at the Shiva temple, the purpose being its destruction and after that,  the colony beyond.

The entire neighbourhood was overcome with fear. Sirens were blaring, the blood-red lights at the top of the buildings sent out a morse flicker of fright, children could be heard crying as windows banged and doors rapidly closed.  The sound of fleeing feet was challenged by the conches.

The whole colony in fear roared, “Vande Mataram* –”The battle cry that was used to liberate the country from foreign rule was the very one they now used to strike at their own countrymen.

Jhagru had stopped beating his drum by then. Quietly they waited.

“Make no noise brothers– let them get close–” Jhagru directed them.

Allah-ho-Akbar–”

Suddenly they descended like floodwater. In the bright light of the torches their knives and swords gleamed wickedly.

Jhagru was swaying to the beat of the band music, now he shouted, “Go strike now brothers– let’s clear this rubbish–”

The slum-dwellers let out a roar.

The Shiva temple whose walls had never granted them entry, the deity whose blessings they sought merely by touching its moss-covered walls, whom they prayed to and sought solace by beating their head in despair, the unresponsive stony God who never objected to the poverty and deprivation of His people, in His name, Jhagru joined the battle today.

Har har Mahadev– Jai Shivji ki jai—” Glory to the God of Gods–victory to Lord Shiva.

Then, it seemed as if two mountains had clashed. Not soft mud-hills of earth but two primordial masses of rocks.

Blood flowed in streams. Arms, legs, and decapitated heads fell and floundered on the soil. Shattered skulls poured out their contents like an outpouring of ghee. The sharpened knives pierced a chest or belly and emerged victorious, dripping blood.

Overhead, in the dark blue of the eternal sky the stars flickered weakly. Scraps of cloud floated noiselessly. Somewhere in the sooty night surely flowers were opening their petals, some child was peacefully sleeping, a lover was holding his beloved to his chest motionlessly. Somewhere, surely people were dreaming, someone was singing, making love. And yet…

*

The rioting stopped. They accepted defeat and retreated. Jhagru’s band had cooled their ardour for battle. The Shiv temple stands untouched.

But many had lost their lives. On both sides. On this side, only the Doms. All the genteel folks were watching the rear end of the battlefield, but the battle did not extend that far. If it had done, of course they would have pitched in, sacrificed their lives.

In the deserted battlefield only the corpses remained. The stench of spilt blood and decomposing bodies was stifling the breeze.

Outside Mr Bose’s house the car stood with its engine idling in the semi-dark of early dawn. Next to it stood an army truck, with four armed soldiers.

“Are you all ready, Ruby?”  Mr Bose urgently called out. “Hurry up, the military escort will not hang about much longer.”

 Ruby nodded in assent, “Yes, we are ready, let’s go. You know Daddy, Maa is still in a shock.” They all came out.

“Quite natural,” Mr Bose said, “Do you think I am my own self? The good Lord saved us so we are alive to talk about it. Now hurry up.”

 Mr Bose got into the car. It sped off. They were going to the safety of Bhowanipur.

Arun said, “Jhagru was our saviour, dad! The man put up some fight.”

Mr Bose lit up a cigarette, until now he did not have the state of mind to do so. Letting off a mouthful of smoke, he said, “Hunh — it was their kind of work. Do you think you all could have done that? Certainly not. Anyway, we did not fail to compensate with money, he was well paid.”

Ruby heaved a sigh of relief, what a close call. Thankfully picnics, parties, and movies would not go out of her life, the butterfly had not come to the end of her days.

The car disappeared into the distance.

In the slums of the untouchable community, the women mourned their dead.

Numerous women had lost their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. Their cries of mourning rose like a flame into the morning sky.

Suratiya wept. Jhagru was dead.

Yes, Jhagru is dead, but then people like him are born to die so that may save the Mr Bose of this world. Without five sacrificial deaths in the highly combustible lac house of Jatugriha, the five Pandav princes of Mahabharat could not have been saved.

.

*Vande Mataram — A song by Bankim Chandra written for his novel Ananda Math in the nineteenth century and used during the Indian independence movement widely.

(Published with permission of the translator’s and writer’s families.)

Nabendu Ghosh‘s (1917-2007) oeuvre of work includes thirty novels and fifteen collections of short stories. He was a renowned scriptwriter and director. He penned cinematic classics such as Devdas, Bandini, Sujata, Parineeta, Majhli Didi and Abhimaan. And, as part of a team of iconic film directors and actors, he was instrumental in shaping an entire age of Indian cinema. He was the recipient of numerous literary and film awards, including the Bankim Puraskar, the Bibhuti Bhushan Sahitya Arghya, the Filmfare Best Screenplay Award and the National Film Award for Best First Film of a Director.

Dipankar Ghosh (1944-2020) qualified as a physician from Kolkata in 1969 and worked as a surgical specialist after he emigrated to the UK in 1971.  But perhaps being the son of Nabendu Ghosh, he had always nursed his literary side and, post retirement, he took to pursuing his interest in translation.

.

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

Categories
Stories

The Dark House

A Balochi folktale translated by Fazal Baloch

Once there lived a king who ruled a certain land. He had a son, whose mother passed away during his childhood. The prince was so handsome that no boy or girl in the land surpassed him in good looks. Time passed and the prince became a young man. The king looked forward to his wedding with wedding songs, drumbeats and dance. He gave a picture of the prince to one of his most trusted slaves and assigned him the task of finding  an equally beautiful girl for his son in the neighbouring kingdoms.

The slave took the picture and set out on his mission. After travelling for several days and nights, he finally reached another land and spent the night at the hut of an old woman. Next morning, he resumed his journey and went from door to door till at last he found a beautiful girl in the house of a poor man. The beauty of the girl stunned the slave. When he regained his senses, he pulled out the picture of the prince and compared the two — once gazing at the girl and then at the picture. He believed the girl was worthy of being the prince’s bride.

At last, he turned to the owner of the house and addressed him: “I’m the slave of the king so-and-so. He has given me the task of finding a bride for the prince. I have been wandering from city to city and house to house looking for a beautiful girl. The beauty of your daughter surpassed that of all other girls I’ve seen so far.”

He presented the prince’s photograph to the girl’s father who after looking at the picture said: “How can a poor man like me dare to compare himself to a rich prince? I think you are making fun of me.”

The slave turned to him and said: “I swear by the honour of your chaste daughter that whatever I told you is true. I believe your daughter is worthy of being my master’s bride.” He then asked him for a picture of his daughter and urged him to accept the proposal.

The man took the prince’s picture from the slave and gave him one of his daughter in return. Early in the morning, the slave took leave of him and set out for his own home. After having travelled for half-a-day, he reached a small hamlet and went into a house to rest. It was the house of a maidservant. She welcomed him. After exchanging greetings with him, she inquired: “Where have you been and where are you heading?”

The slave confided  the details and the purpose of his journey. In the middle of the conversation the maid expressed her desire to see the photograph of the prince’s would-be-fiancé. Actually, the maid was the paramour of the prince. But the slave did not know that. The moment her eyes fell on the photograph she went almost numb with trepidation. She had never seen such a beautiful girl in her entire life. She feared the prince would discontinue his attentions to her after he tied the knot with the pretty girl. The prince would most likely not spare her a single glance.

A myriad of thoughts flooded her mind. Hideously envious of the girl, she gave the photograph back to the slave and excused herself and strolled out of the door. Sometimes later, when she returned, she found the slave fast asleep. She surreptitiously took out the photograph from his pocket and cunningly left a scratch mark on the picture – on one of the eyes of the beauty — and slipped it back into his pocket. When the slave woke up, he took leave of the woman and resumed his journey.

Late in the evening he finally reached his destination and gave an account of his journey before the king, presenting him the photograph of the girl as well.

When the prince returned from a hunting trip the king told him that they had found for him a beautiful girl and within a few days he would be married to her. The prince happily returned to his bedroom. Dreams and desires blossomed in his heart. But the moment he took out the picture from his pocket, his glowing face almost turned pale. The girl was exceedingly gorgeous but alas she looked blind in one eye. Anyhow, the prince submitted himself to his father’s will. Soon  drum beats, the sounds of shehnais and wedding songs reverberated in all corners of the land. Amidst music and dancing, the prince was conducted to the nuptial chamber. However, he was not happy with the marriage and thought it to be a burden unleashed by his father on him. On the very first night he ordered the maidservants thus: “Lay my bed away from that of the bride’s and put out all the lamps and lights.”

 The lamps were blown out and the prince and the bride slept separately in the dark house. It became the routine with the prince. He spent the day outside hunting and, at night, he slept away from his wife in the darkness.

The girl was worried about the strange behaviour of her husband. She was desperate to please, but she couldn’t ask him anything. She was worried. She thought something might be ailing the prince and he didn’t want to disclose his illness. And that was the reason for his sleeping separately and blowing out the lamps. She also wondered if she had made a mistake or the slave had told him something against her.

People began to whisper and gossip about the king’s daughter-in-law for not giving the prince an offspring. Sick of people’s gossip, the young girl began to devise a plan. Secretly, she wove winnowing baskets and sold them door to door. One day she happened to go to the house of the maidservant who was responsible for the agony she was going through. She was shocked to see her husband sitting with the maidservant. The maidservant was almost stunned. The prince had his eyes fixed on the beautiful lady. He took pity on her as he thought poverty had forced her to sell straw-baskets. He couldn’t help but call out to her: “O basket-seller! Come here.” She strolled forward.

He asked her: “Do you live in this city?” The girl replied in affirmative.

The prince asked her again: “Where do you live by the way”?

“I live in a dark house somewhere in this city,” replied the girl.

“Dark house?” The prince slipped into deep thought. A moment later he turned to the girl and said: “Anyhow, I’ve to discuss something with you. Where shall you meet me?”

“I shall wait for you by the riverbank tomorrow,” the girl responded.

Next day, she asked her maidservant to accompany her to the river to wash her hair. She picked up the mirror, hair oil and soap, and, together with her maidservant, went to the river bank. Through the strands of her open hair covering her face, she saw the prince ride up on his horse. She turned to the maidservant and said, “Give me the bottle of hair-oil.”

The next moment, she broke the bottle and pierced her hand with a shard. She began to cry. In the meantime, the prince went to her. When he saw blood dripping from girl’s hand, without any hesitation he tore his chador and dressed her wound with the strip of cloth.

The girl turned to the prince and regretted, “Today our meeting was spoiled by this unexpected incident”.

The prince said, “We shall meet sometimes in the future.” The prince rode back to the palace. The girl and her maidservant took a different route back.

At night, as usual the prince blew out the lamps and slept on his bed. When his wife was sure he was fast asleep, she dragged her bed near to her husband’s. The prince turned on his bed and his hand touched his wife’s wounded hand. The girl cried out aloud:

“O God! Ah! My wounded hand. You touched my wounded hand.”

He asked him what happened to her hand. The girl replied: “Didn’t the shard pierce it on the riverside?”

“A shard?” The prince was taken aback.

“Yes, it did,” replied the girl.

The flabbergasted prince got up. He was surprised to see his wife’s bed placed by his own. He asked his wife: “How do you know a girl’s hand was pierced by a shard on the riverside? She was someone else”.

The girl said, “She was none but me.”

The prince could not believe his ears and said, “You are telling a lie.”

The girl said, “If you don’t believe, turn on the lights and look for yourself.”

He asked all her maidservants to go away that very instant. He turned on the lights. The moment he saw his beautiful wife he was mesmerised. He cursed himself in his heart. He pulled her into his embrace and apologised, “Forgive me my beloved! I was mistaken. Rather I’ve been betrayed.  I… when I saw your photograph, I noticed a blemish in your eye… I didn’t know…”

In the morning, the slave was summoned to the court. He told his entire story. The maidservant with whom the slave had stayed that night was summoned to court.  The king warned her with dire consequence if she did not tell the truth. Finally, she was forced to admit her wrongdoing. And the king ordered the maidservant to be hanged and adjourned his court.

(This folktale retold by Rahman Murad, originally appeared in Quarterly Drad Gwadar, Dec 2001-Jan 2002).

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated several Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters in 2017 and in India.

.

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

Categories
Stories

Flash Fiction: Tears of a Revered Mother

Mereen Nizar

Written in Balochi by Mereen Nizar, translated by  Ali Jan Maqsood

That unpleasant winter night breaks my heart. My mother sobbed loudly and stated with tearful words, “Better than this life, I had tied a rope on my neck and killed myself. What misfortune! What sin have I committed that I am being punished?”

After these words, Mother wiped her tears.  

I was caged with chains of childhood and immaturity. My thoughts were next to nothing. I could not start to comprehend the anguish of my mother. I felt so vague and dumb.

While I shed tears in a corner by the wall, my mother, lay on her stomach and continued to sob.

Time moved faster. I, as a lame, was dragged along with time towards an unknown destination.

I felt my experiences were maturing me.

And then I witnessed again a similar winter night — my mother — the exact walls and home, but there appeared marks of cruelty on her.

She had lost the courage to be alive. She was inconsolable. Crying and lamenting had depleted her youthfulness. Age had crept in on her and humbled her.

The mother, sitting on the funeral of her innocent child, was missing him.

I continued to be the same person, attached to the same walls of the home. I wandered like a lost soul with grief haunting my thoughts. My eyes began to rain with tears. By then, my mother was not alone. I, too, was torn with pains and worries.

The world had changed: many had lost the game of life, many had won. Many were homeless. People were yet moaning under the fallen walls of weariness. One among them was the same old lady who had lost the game of life and was shouldered by four people. She was kept under sanctuary of the Motherland.

I realised the place and situations had changed. My mother’s laments had ceased. The Motherland had sheltered my mother. The sky began to shed its tears along with mine. I apprehended my mother was shedding her tears for me from the sky.

Mereen Nizar is a Balochi fiction writer and an M.phil scholar in the field of Botony. He writes for different local newspapers and magazines.

Ali Jan Maqsood is a student of Law at University Law College Quetta and can be reached at alijanmaqsood17@gmail.com. He tweets at @Alijanmaqsood12

Originally published in Balochi language in Tawar newspaper in 2015. 

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