Some poems of Tagore, translation, transliteration and interpretations,

Some poems of Tagore,
Translation, transliteration and interpretations,
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Over the years I have translated and transliterated some poems and songs of Rabindranath Tagore, purely out of my love for his songs and poems. In most cases, I tried to find Tagore’s love and passion as presented in his poems and songs and while doing so, sometimes added a word or two just to help the idea as interpreted by me to emerge , keeping in mind the basic tenet of Tagorean songs/ poems. So in that sense, in some cases they can be called my humble interpretations of Tagore’s poems as well.
Putting together all those translated and transliterated works into one single document had been my objective for quite some time.
I am glad that I have been able to do that just a few days before Tagore’s birth anniversary.

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1

Where my moving stops
There whence I (like a leaf) drop
There how opens thy door;

Where my song ends
Whence it ( towards thy Self ) bends

There how the silent ocean lies;

Where my eyes get closed
With (thy )darkness whence it opens
There how the Eternity lights up;

The flower outside blooms
Onto dust how it swoons
Within me how thence
ambrosaic fruit bears essence;

Whence to thee
My works I see
How thence my words flow
Finding in the sky thy eternal show;

Whence I lose me
Spent absolute,
How do I find thee
In Thou how I find me.

(*note: it is a transliteration/ translation of a poem/ song of Rabindranath Tagore, number 100, as can be found in ‘গীতালি ‘ / ‘ Geetali’ section , page number 449, Collected Works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, volume two, Birth Centenary edition. )

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2

Now have I scraped out time-
Whence wilt thy time come,
Put the taper there at thy door
Whence wilt thou light it up,
Shoved away all burden
Tied the boat at the ghat-
Left all the seeking on roads
Selling wares, buying up in markets
Of the ville;

At the evening that mallika which blooms
Her fragrance fills my room,
On leaves of lotus jasmine have I gathered
Only to pay obeiscance to thy feet,
Kept my mind for thee, calm and restive
For thou have I adorned my self
With sandalwood paste;

Spent the whole day doing works
Now whence thy time wilt come,
May I ask;

Whence the moon wilt rise tonight
By the side of the river
Hovering quiet over those coconut trees,
How the courtyard of the temple
Would find light embracing the shadows of trees;

The southern breeze would blow sudden
Bringing forth the tide-
The tied boat mine by waves so touched,
Would how with the ghat converse
About his longings and dreams
( expansive and vast);

Whence the tide would with the bay get merged
Whence the water would become still,
The breeze whence would become mild
The moon would also go to sleep,
How then would with indolence come sleep
Only to lie at thy feet;

Sitting quiet leaving my sleep on ground
How on wait I for time thine
Get bound.

(*note : it is a transliteration / translation of a poem of Rabindranath Tagore titled ‘প্রতীক্ষা ‘ / ‘ Pratiksha’ , as can be found in page number 195-196 , volume two, ‘ খেয়া’ / ‘ kheya’ section, Collected Works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, Birth Centenary edition.)
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3
I only said
‘ can anyone for me
Take down the full moon
From that kadam tree
Right at the evening’
My words thus listening
Brother said laughing
‘ never seen anyone so
Like a fool like you
Moon resides far away
How can I touch the orb
Of silver’;
I said ‘ that I do not know
But whence our Mother
Smile through that window
Will you say the same
That our Mother stays
Far away, at some distant lane’;
Still brother said
‘never seen anyone so
Like a fool like you’;
Brother said
‘ where will you find
Such a big string or instrument
To bring moon here
To her bind’;
And I did revert
‘ yonder lies the moon
The small rounded one
Can not with ease
Her we by our hands bring
Please’;
Listening to me thus
Brother laughed
‘ never seen so anyone near and far
Like a fool as you are ‘;

(* note: it is a transliteration of a poem of Rabindranath Tagore as can be found in page number 36-37, ‘ শিশু’ / ‘ Shishu’ section, Collected Works / রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, volume two, Birth Centenary edition )
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4

Those angels who live in the clouds
They how call me, how me they call;
They say ‘ Gee! How we play
From morn to afternoon to eve,
( with the passage of the day)
In the morn with golden rays
At night with silvery flakes
Of the moon
( how with her songs we swoon)

And I them ask,’ how can I in your joys bask?’
They say, ‘ Come with us to the end of the field
There we’ll with mirth do seal
You would’ve just to stand there quiet
And stretching your hands up stand upright
We’ll take you to the land of clouds’;

I tell them , ‘ Mother is there at home
Looking forward to meet me
How can I leave her
Only to see
Your fantasy?’

Hearing this, O mother,
How they go afloat
Only giggling;

Instead mother, I will be the clouds
And you wilt the moon be,
By my arms will you I embrace
We will make the sky on the terrace;

All those angels who live in waves
How me they call, how they call me
Saying, ( after rising from the blue blue sea)
‘ We only sing from the very beginning
Of the day,
We sing for all who want to be jocund and gay’;

They say , ‘ To which country do we go
No one that does really know’ ;

And I to them tell , ‘ How can I go?’
They ask me, ‘ why can’t you come to the ghat’s end
There standing quiet , closing your eyes
You should us call,
And we’ll take you sure
To the land of waves pure’ ;

I to them tell, ‘ Mother mine always me calls
When the day ends and the evening does fall,
How can I her so , for you leave?’

Hearing this, O mother
How they go afloat
Only giggling;

Instead mother, will I the wave be
And you a farway country,
I will go to sleep
On thy lap,
And no one will find us
With You in glory
Will I bask.

(* note : it is a transliteration of a poem of Rabindranath Tagore, titled ‘ মাতৃবৎসল’ / ‘ Matribotsol’ , as can be found in page number 39, Collected Works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, volume two, Birth Centenary edition. )

5

At what point of time
Know not me
Out of the infinite depth of sea
Of immense creativity
Rose Two;
One , the angel of heaven
The Goddess with splendour
Who could incite desire
And the other
The Goddess of Goodwill
And compassion
Filled with Love-
The primary potion
The Goddess of Heaven,
Lakshmi;

One meditation broke
Filling the cup
With laughter and fire
Putting desire
Of beauty
Purely ‘ falguni’,
She gave rise to songs
Of springs, of youth,
Which could never be kept at bay
For long,

(Like that flowery chants

Which come out spontaneous

From intoxicated hearts)

She took away sleep,
Made the bud of rose
To turn sanguine, red
Where passion is always bred;

The Other how returned
With tears of dew
Pouring forth
That serene feel
Of finding morning of life, renewed;
How She returned
With the sky full of bless
How She made all to smile
Finding solace, in self contentment;

How She had all brought
To that sublime thought
Where all could find
How the pristine could bind
All at that meeting point
Of life and death,
How She had ushered in the eternal
The songs of seasons, the autumn,( the fall,)
How She had implanted that pure
Where we can only by Devotion lured.

{*note: it is a transliteration of a poem / song number 23, of Rabindranath Tagore, as can be found in ‘ Balaka’ ( বলাকা) section of his Collected Works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, volume two, page number 500.}
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6

Child O my child
Playing with dust
How you spend
Your day without end;
I just smile
Seeing you thus
Playing with bunch of grass;

And I remain how
With books and copies
My mind I rake
My soul I plough;
The copies I fill
With drawings and sketches
Moments of time I seal;

Child O my child
Playing with dust
How have I forgotten
Many little things;
Where could I get
Toys , thinking about them
How I have lost in the game
How go I searching in vain
Gold and silver how I gather
False (thinking thy name);

And You, the Child
How you do create
Whatever in hands thine
You with ease get,

And I how spend time
Wishing to get
Which is not in my fate;

How do i go beyond
The implausible
How by that
Do I turn a song, (a fable,)
How do I on the river of dreams
Float my boat ( as it seems).

{*note: it is a transliteration of a song/ poem of Rabindranath Tagore, titled ‘নির্লিপ্ত ‘ ( Nirlipto) as can be found in ‘ শিশু’ ( Shishu) section of Collected Works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, volume two, Birth Centenary edition. }
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7

My freedom lies in the lighted sky

My freedom doth in dust and grass lie;

How I lose my self beyond the body and mind
In songs my liberty how do I oft find;
My freedom , in the minds of all , lies
In works hard which dangers and plight trivialise;

In the Lord’s sacrificial fire how my self I free
As if in that self annihilation I always find Thee.

(*note: this poem is a transliteration of a song/ poem of Rabindranath Tagore, )
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8

Have not the courage to be
A small child so
With old age how I grow;
Try to save trivial things
With them boxes how I fill
Full upto brim;
Yesterday’s thoughts
How come today
How they brought
Tomorrow’s burden;
How that quest never ends
As I keep on the search
Those have I gathered
How discover I
Have no value
(So do I search
For eternity);

Being afraid of future
Can’t get to see
Where doth the path lie
Day after tomorrow
(Where wilt I be)
Future will remain
In future such
When wilt the holiday
Come with mirth?

Try to light up
My mind’s candle
Which just flickers
In the breeze and does tell
To walk me tip toeing;
So many people
So many friends
They advice bring,
So many little things
Nitty gritty they send
( how I take the path
That goes by without bends);

Come there that assurance
Again in me ,
To find that child
Within my mind’s sea;
Let there be that breeze
Which can touch my sails
As I wish to go floating
Without fail(s);

Wish to go beyond
The future so
That can I see
The present through;

At the terrace
At the bank of pond,
How I wish to learn
The unknown , Unbound;

(*note: it is a transliteration of first three stanzas of a poem of Rabindranath Tagore, as can be found in volume two, collected works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, birth centenary edition);
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9
Mother, if thou have been the sky
And the champa tree, I,
With you without words
Would’ve I conversed;

The breeze from thou
Touching branches mine
Would’ve called me
With tunes for a dance, to thee;

Without words how can I
Pay heed to calls thine,
so my words doth fly
Falling on the leaves that shine;

Thy light to my dewy drenched soul
Would have whispered and told
Upon, making me sing
A song of joy (perhaps
As it would bring);

Then I would have made
All my buds to bloom pure
As they would have said
All the words, dancing sure;

The shadow of thy cloud
Floating in from somewhere
Touching mine for a while
Would again go away like a feather;

It would then become
That fanciful tale
And story of that prince
Who had gone beyond
kingdoms several;

He would have told me
Where lied that vine
Where lived the sea monster
Where the princess with beauty
Did everything bind;

Would have seen
those teary eyes
Of the queen
Heaving a sigh
And my leaf would
Tremble too
Seeing that
Heart rending view;

Then all of a sudden
Whence the rain
Would catch
The breeze even,
The drops of water
Would then dance
On my leaves
All by rhythmic chance;

They would then become
Thy recitation
Of Ramayana , epical,
They would then turn
The rains that fall;

Mother, if Thou hath been
That blue colored one
And me, a child small,
Thou would have been
The smile of the light
And me would just be
A trembling leaf
at thy sight;

You would have
From the sky
Opened your eyes,
And stretching hands I
Would just sing (for eternity);

Thou would be then
The starry night
(Not a feign)
And would I
Just give a try
To make flowers
Bloom everyday
( in words , stories and lays)

(* note: it is a transliteration of a poem of Rabindranath Tagore as can be found in page 609, vol.two, collected works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি , birth centenary edition.)
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10
Onto white and pristine sails
whence the mild breeze touch,
Never seen rowing of the Boat such;
From which land beyond the seas
Which treasure it brings never ceased,
With it the mind wishes to float,
And wishes to leave all desires and wants,
(Singing perhaps Thy songs with ease
As they come out from throat)

How the stream keeps on falling,
How the rumble can be heard,
How the ray of lighted beams
Comes through the clouds unbarred;

O Thou the Boatman, who art Thou, whose laughter and tears
by thy boat You tow,
How mind mine thinks of thee-
With which tune You would string
the day’s song ( giving it a meaning)
Which prayer would be sung (for long).

(* note: it is a transliteration of a song/ poem of Rabindranath Tagore, as can be found in collected works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি,
song number 145, volume four, birth centenary edition.)

11
Never tried to know Thou still mind mine moves to thee
Never knowing Thou the World still rests in Thee,
Thy immense Beauty who had felt true
That sweetness eternal and new-
How have I given my soul to thee
So unknowingly,
Thou art the light of luminosity,
I am blinded in the darkness,
Thou art free , epitome of liberty,
I am immersed in that shoreless sea,
Thou art endless, I am so tiny, beggarly-
How we meet by wonder , You and me.

( * note: it is a transliteration of a poem of Rabindranath Tagore , as can be found in collected works / রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি , volume four, page 650, song/poem number 48. )
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12
How many times have I thought
To feet thine should’ve my heart brought,

Holding thy feet, friend mine, will express
How much do I love thee in secret,

Thought as Thou hath been the God of Heaven
How could a mere mortal like me say my love even,

Thought will live at a distance from thee
All through my life will just remain a devotee,

No one wilt know my love so deep
No one wilt see where my tears me keep,

Now today whence Thou hath arrived to ask
How can I say how much Thou do I love.

( * Note: it is a transliteration of a song written by Rabindranath Tagore, included in ‘ প্রেম ও প্রকৃতি ‘ / Love and Nature section of his collected works, volume four, birth centenary edition, page 675.)
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13
Told her , ” Queen
So many poets have come to thee
(Crossing lands and seas)
To put gifts at thy feet
I have also hearing that
Come to sing like the bird at thy door
Morning as songs pour”;

The Queen came to window
Veiled as she and said,
” Now that is winter,
Sky mine is filled with mist
Garden has no blossoms”;

Told her, ” Queen
Beyond that sea brought for thee
My music, my flute,
Can you not unveil thy face
Only wish to trace
Light in eyes thine”;

She said , ” I have not put on colorful dress today,
Hey poet, impatient, please go back
When the sweetness of falgun would come
I will you beckon,
When will I sit on blossoms,
I will ask you to come and sit
Just by my side
(As we would see the beauty thence
And have a treat);

Told her , ” Queen
I think this journey
Has been by thee
Turned fruitful
For have I heard
Songs of hopes full;
In the mild breeze of spring
Inviting thee to my garden
in blooming flowers
Thou will I see;
On that day of succulent joy
Filled by fragrance thine
Will I find my path to that window thine
Thence will with thee come good times mine;
Today while going away will I be singing true
Songs only hailing thee”.

(* note : this poem is a transliteration of a poem of Rabindranath Tagore titled ‘ইটালিয়া’ / ‘ Italia’ as can be found in page number 727- 728 , Collected Works / রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, volume two, Birth Centenary edition. )

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14
Who art thou
Who people doth ferry!
And I sitting at the door
See how you take
People from one ghat
To another,
You ferryman smart!
Whence the day ends
And men , women , children
From the market come to you
How I also think of rushing to thee
You, the ferryman, how you I see
(And think why can’t you ferry me!)

At the twilight hours
How you take your boat
To the other side
Seeing that how a tune strikes
The chord of my heart
And how do for you I sing!
You, the ferryman, how you people
From distant lands bring!
On the waters, how the golden hue
From the other side
Silken patterns drew,
And how in my eyes
They twinkle with longings due
Enveloping my heart, my soul,
O You, the ferryman bold!

Seen how You speak not a word
You the Ferryman, my heart’s joy, The Lord!
Try to find, what is there written in Thy eyes,
If by chance, Thy eyes,
Upon my countenance lies
How do I feel to go
Ferryman, only to Thou!

(*note: it is a transliteration of a poem of Rabindranath Tagore titled ‘ খেয়া’ /’ Kheya’, as can be found in page number 212, Collected Works/রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, volume two, Birth Centenary edition. )
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15
If it is a holiday
Float on water
Boat mine
Made of paper;
Write on it
In words
My name
The street
The ville
Names such
In bold alphabets
Before the boat
Do i set
Afloat;
If it would reach
Someone’s hand
He would know
From which land
The boat had come
Sailing so;

The boat mine
How do i decorate
With ‘ shiuli ‘ and ‘bokul’,
In the garden
Early morn
How the blossoms
Gather and fall
Under the trees
And with dews
On their lips
How do they glitter
As the light of the morn
Piercing winter
Set them with beauty;

And that little boat
How goes with flowers
Towards the end of the day
Whence it reaches the bay
It there how delivers
Those ‘ shiuli’ and ‘bokul’ flowers,

Floating my boat on water
How do i just sit and stare
At it, little waves whence rise and fall
The light of the sun whence shine on them all,
The birds giving calls how go away flying
The mild breeze whence blowing saying
How the day has come again after night
( O how do I with dreams wish to take a flight!);

How little cloudlets float in the sky
Like my little boat how they fly
How they go away , in the ocean of light
To which land , to which country them, people sight,
Those cloudlets and my little boat
How they just haply with each other vie;

At the twilight how they pull me out of home
How with them do I feel the presence of the awesome,
To which village, goes floating my boat
No one knows where it wilt go afloat;
No one stops it , no one compels,
How my boat just goes where it wishes to sail,
Goes it to newer lands, newer seas,
The paper boat mine how goes on unceased,
And rowing with it how does mind mine also go
To newer discoveries how the boat I row;

(*note : it is a transliteration of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore titled ‘কাগজের নৌকা’ / Paper Boat, as can be found in page 61-62, volume two, ‘ শিশু’ / Shishu section , Collected Works / রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, Birth Centenary edition. )

16
That boat of Madhu the boatman
Is left tied at the ghat of Rajganj
No one is taking it
As it is filled with jute raw;
If they would give me that
I would attach hundred oars
To it would fly sails four five six-
Would I not with it float
Selling wares , instead would I
Go even if for once
Away voyaging
Seven seas thirteen rivers, just sailing;

Then You should not cry, sitting
At the corner of the hut, lone,
Iwould not go away like Rama
For fourteen years to some forest;

Iwould go like a prince
Carrying wealth in the boat
Would take Ashu and Shyam with me
Would we go sailing, we three;
Would go for once voyaging
Seven seas thirteen rivers crossing;

At the morn would set the boat free
And how it would go all by itself (to the sea),
At the noon You would be
At the bank of the pond
Then we would’ve new kingdom found;

Would go beyond that ghat of Tirpurni
Would go beyond that faraway land,
It would take the whole day for me
To come back to thee,
At the twilight hours surely would
Tell You stories where I had gone
Sitting on thy lap,

Only would I go for once
Crossing seven seas thirteen rivers.

{*note : it is a translation/ transliteration of a poem titled ‘ Noukajatra’ ( নৌকাযাত্রা), as can be found at page 31, volume two, ‘ Shishu’ ( শিশু) section, Collected Works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, Birth Centenary edition. }
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17
There’s no end to my devotion to thee,
whence in You do I see,
all my wishes and desires
(Melting into tranquility);

This search, is it for fruits?
(Or for corns? )
Nay for that wilt be
Taking away me
From thee,
(Can never carry that burden
If I think only of fruits,
coming to me sudden),
Instead leaving the fruits
Do I soulful sing,
To make buds bloom;

Thus in my life comes
That eagerness like a balm,
Which brings new pains
With newer creative sense;

Once do I get things I wish
They with time only diminish
And I (opening to thy sky)
Stretch my hands again
To get more of thy perpetual music
Thy perennial sense that sticks,

And how that keeps on
Me getting Thy ambrosaic potion
And I turning them to songs.

(*note: it is a transliteration of poem/ song number 37, as can be found in page number 411, Collected Works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি , Birth Centenary edition. )
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18
If thou hath reached the shore
Leave thy oar
Take my hands instead
For moments make me sit
By thy side ( for a treat)
For moments few
Make me sit
On the meadows (drenched by dew),
The night has got blown away
By the waves, as arrives the day;

Thou the Boatman,
If my home is not far away
If the tune of homecoming
Holds over me the sway,
With the arrival of the morn,
Just that music Thou play
Which upholds the song
Of the road at that root of the tree
( as my home do I see
Arriving at that step of door)

Thou the Boatman
If Thou hath reached the shore
Leave thy oar
And take my hands instead.

( *note: it is a transliteration of a poem/ song of Rabindranath Tagore, number 66, as can be found in page 429, volume two, Collected Works/ রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলি, Birth Centenary edition)
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19
Where does this path go,
Who that does really know,
To the foot of which hill,
To which sea coast
To which wish implausible
Who does that really know;

Who travels to and fro
Through this road , who goes
Who does that know,
How are His songs,
What smile doth He carry for long,
For which quest does he go
Who that does really know.

{* note: it is a transliteration of a poem of Rabindranath Tagore, as can be found in collected works, birth centenary edition, volume four, page 123, included in ‘ পূজা ‘ ( worship) section.}
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20
Breaking the key to my home, who wilt take me
O friend mine!
Without seeing thou, canst live life so lone;

Perhaps the night has ended
Perhaps the sun has sent rays,
Thy soft pinkish morning’s glow
On the sky blue how doth show-
There can see the path ahead,
Wilt not thy chariot reach my door?

All those stars of the sky
How stare momentless
As they beside the night
and dawn’s path take rest,
Seeing thou they wilt leaving all
Into the luminous sea take a fall;

All those pilgrims of the morn
Perhaps they have come like birds-
Singing songs of mirth, in flocks,
Perhaps the flower has bloomed,
Perhaps the music has arisen
In thy lyre of the sky ( of this season).

( * Note: it is a transliteration of a song of Rabindranath Tagore, as can be found in collected works, birth centenary edition, page 22, volume four.)
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21
There the Palm Tree stands on leg one,
Surpassing every tree,
Peeping to the Sky of Thee,
Having the wish, piercing the clouds dark, up there,
Thinking where from wilt she get the free air,

So She just over her head
Her wishes hath She bred,
Thinking all those Dreams of her, near the sky,
Can,at least away,from Home,someway, fly;

Her leaves how tremble all day long,
How her dreams, fly, to where(the Sky) they belong,
As if, evading those Stars, wilt they go, lone,
Catching the air, to where Her dreams the Palm hath sown,

But whence, the breeze ceases, true,
And the murmur stops too,
Those Dreams of Her, doth return,
To the Motherly Earth of her,
Loving more her deep, loving more , the Mother.

(*Note: based on a poem written for children by Rabindranath Tagore, )
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22
Can’t remember mother mine;
Only whilst playing
All of a sudden unnecessarily
A tune rings in my ears,
Then thoughts of mother mine
With my games intertwine;
She probably used to sing
Rocking the cradle-
She had gone away
But left the song subtle;

Can’t remember mother mine;
Only when in morns of ashwin
Carried by the dew drenched breeze
Comes the fragrance of sheuli,
Then don’t know why mother mine
Comes to my mind;
Probably she used to bring
Blossoms such in basket-
So the smell of puja
Comes to me as smell of mother ;

Can’t remember mother mine;
Only while sitting at one corner of bedroom
Try to look out through the window
Towards the sky azure,
Then get the feel of mother mine
Staring at me simply
Like the way she
used to look at me
Many many years ago
Holding me in her arms-
She had left that stare
All over the sky.

(Transliteration of a poem by Tagore)

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23
Across the world in tune generous
Song of mirth soars
When will that song in
Depth of heart ring ,
Only the Lord knows,

The air, water, sky and the light
When will love them the best,
They will take seat on heart allright,
Wearing varied colored dress;

When will open eyes
To fill the mind glad
Will take path thine,
Leaving none sad,

That You art there
When in life that will sing,
Thy name will in every work
Only happiness bring.

(* a transliteration of song number fifteen, Gitanjali, )
————————————
24
Who plays the flute in me?
Who fills me with,
mirth and melancholy?
Why the tune of flowers on bloom,
fills my soul’s little room?
Why does the breeze flow,
in such a way, so much perfumed?
Why is this abrupt rise,
Of a desire in my eyes?
Why my words do take the form,
Of a curious fiery oath?
Why is there a flood of scriptures,
In my heart, breaking forth?
Why is there such a dare
Of words long confined, to come out bare?

(Note: it is a transliteration of poem, from Collected works of Rabindranath Tagore, Birth centenary edition, vol.4,pg 312)
——————————-
25
Which tune rings in me,I know, knows my soul,
Which keeps me for days awake,
From whom what I get as deliverance,
Why I stare at the path of the sky,
Why on door mine morn leaves a dye,
Why evening sings a wooded dense song,
How Thy flute keeps me entombed,
Keeping me from all banal works, torn,
I know, knows my Soul.

(Note: it is a transliteration of a short poem,from collected works of Rabindranath Tagore, vol, 4, pg 301, Birth centenary edition, )
——————————————
26

Mother,
There canst be any end to your gift,veritable,
The blood which flows down my veins, eternal, a fable,
You hath given me the gold of Sun, the dazzle of stars,the silver of Moon,
Making my life as blessed as your never ending boon.

(Note: it is a transliteration of a short poem by Rabindranath Tagore, titled ‘Matribondona’, )
—————————

Soudamini

There’s no end of works for Soudamini. Be in winter, summer or monsoon. She would have to wake up as early as four thirty or five, then would have to go to the shed first. Then she would give grains and straws to her flock of hens, goats.
After that she would start sweeping the yard with broom.
If it is winter or summer her works remain simple, just to broom.
If it is monsoon, there is no need to sweep though.
After that she would have to go wake up her sons and daughters.
They would try to wriggle on the cot.
But Soudamini would never stop from waking them up.
Her husband, Haran, would go to the fields, waking up even before her. His mind was always with his fields and cows.
If he could, he would go and sleep in the paddy field which he owned.
He loved his one acre land of paddy field the most. The mahajans, the zaminders, and now the merchants- they all tried to snatch that land from him. But they could not do that from Haran’s father.
They could not take that from him as well.

The one acre land.

Haran’s only Love.

Soudamini, on the contrary, had never shown love to anything, barring working till morn to night.
She would gather stray leaves of coconut and twigs to tend fire in the earthen chulla. She would cook rice and lentils.
She would send her children to the primary school some two miles away from their hut. She would, in a small bag, pack puffed rice and a bit of vegetables or grounded flour for her four children.
After sending them to school, she would take the cloths heaped on the floor of their hut, to the nearby pond.
After washing those clothes and bathing, she would come back home with a pitcher of water.
When she would return, her husband, she would find sitting at the dawa.
She would hurriedly serve him the meagre food she had cooked.
Haran would take the food and go away to the field.
An acre land of his love, the paddy fields.

By that time the children, coming home would start playing at the yard.
Soudamini would watch them, sitting at the dawa, resting her body against the bamboo pole that supported the thatched roof.

At dusk Haran would return with his cows.
Soudamini would take the cows to the shed. Feed the cows, tend them, tend the flocks of hens and goats.

At the evening, after tapers would be lighted at the tulsi manch, Soudamini would go near her earthen chulla again.
There she would have to cook food for her children and husband, if there were something to cook.

If not, she would still go there, to boil something. The vegetables or the grains of rice.
She would eat after all were served.
And she would sleep after all would have slept.
That’s Soudamini.
The mother.
Soudamini had never expressed her love though.
For anything in her life.

A flight of an immense mind

Flights from My Terrace
The Boy in Yellow Knickers and Other Essays
ISBN 978-93-5207-***-*
Publisher : Authorspress

Very rarely we have found essayists who could put into their works daily events of life for the reason essays are always parenthesized as something which should be pedantic, erudite, stirring our thoughts and grey cells with ideas that make us ponder and debate and discuss. Essays carry no slightest touch of poetry, usually, if not we are reading someone like Charles Lamb.

And Santosh Bakaya has written essays which are like stories. They are filled with events of life, very subjective and by doing so she has gone beyond the traditional idea of essays being objective and unwittingly readers can still relate to that subjective and personal view as expressed in the essays for they have that quality of engaging the readers, that quality which stories have .

The very first one, ‘ Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive’ begins with opening up of an immense mind to the beauty of nature and also to that understanding of how mind and heart work at tandem to gather that beauty specially in case of a writer and poet.

‘ As I sat in my chair looking up at the aqua sky, the birds flocking to and fro , I heard a chugging sound…’

Unbelievably poetic as the description is, it at once brings to the readers, the eternal show of nature which keeps on happening all the time around us. Gradually as we move on with the essays we come across snippets of our daily lives, our houses, our furniture, our parents, siblings, children, spouses, maids, newspaper vendors and hundreds of people we meet on streets, at parks, at cafes.

The author has put them all in and has done so with such succulent ease that the readers simply forget whether they are actually reading essays. They get the feel of mornings, afternoons, evenings, nights of different seasons of years. Nature and people as in real life create our lives, in a similar fashion the essays reflect life as if they create life through words.

In ‘ The boy with the crutch’ we get a vivid empathetic mind finding rhythm in the boy’s ‘stumbling tumbling tripping limping haste towards a runaway kite’. We at once picture a scene , as if a clipping of a movie being cast infront of our eyes.

So fluid is the movement of incidents, so dynamic is the structure of the essayist’s keenness , that we continue to savour the little things of our lives through the essays which perhaps we oft overlook in our real life.

There lies Santosh Bakaya’s strength.

She brings us back to life and to its little pieces of happiness as embodied in scenes or events which we all witness in our lives in one way or other but oft fail to gather them.

For example , think of the graphic description of a policeman in ‘The power of the baton’.

‘He had gaps in his front teeth and he appeared to be whistling out the words’.

We at once relate to the scene or to the character. We are reminded of people around us who talk as if whistling out words. So from a very subjective experience the essays move towards objective views.

Add to that the poetic fervour that always keeps the words into a musical flow.

‘ to slippery chunks of joy, passed and gone, like the disappearing dewdrops on a verdant lawn’

( In the blink of an eye)

We find rhythm, we find movement, we find cadence. We find moments.

And as in our daily lives we sing or dance or watch movies or go out for tours, the essays also bring them all.

They take us to discover the variety of life and its pied hues.

If in ‘The two guys’ we are amused by the conversation between an Indian and a Frenchman , in ‘Love in the air’ we find an elderly couple sitting at a place beside a group of youngsters and how by a simple act of kindness the old man gives a lesson on love to the youngsters.

Yes, lessons are there in the essays and they are being given with that beautiful subtlety which never makes the essays pedantic or didactic.

A poetic view of life or a writer’s view of life is what the essays bring forth and they give us that with abundant music. They ennoble us. They make us keen. They make us make out more our life.

Yimli’s Eyes of Buddha

‘Then what happened?’ Suparna asked Yimli.

Yimli was busy making noodles in her big pot.

At the counter there were two people, foreigners, backpackers.

Suparna cast a look at them. They were talking in English though the accent was different. Guttaral.

‘They might be Germans…’

Yimli’s husband, Butsugen was bringing in logs upon his shoulders from the barn.

Late October, the nip in the air was catching in. The morning had a feel of cosiness.

Suparna’s husband had not yet woken up.

Suparna also didn’t wake him up. She wanted to get the feel of the place all by her own.

Being an editor of a magazine on women’s issues, she was always on the lookout to find real-life stories.

Yimli’s face had a big scar. Running across from her right ear lobe end to chin. It had almost smoothened but the scar could be visible if anyone could see her face up close.

‘And then what? I ran away from him…’ Yimli said.

‘He didn’t look for you?’

‘How can a husband look for his wife if he had performed no duty to her other than those rituals related to bed time?’

Yimli was straight.

Suparna smiled.

‘Brave girl you are! But how got this scar across your face?’

Hearing this query, Yimli’s face suddenly lit up. She even blushed.

Suparna was perplexed. How can one blush and get lit up talking about a big scar on one’s face? She thought.

Yimli stirred the noodles. They had softened. She started pouring the noodles with a ladle upon a sieve. Water started dripping. Steam started coming out.

‘That’s how I met him…’ Yimli blushed again.

This time she looked at Butsugen.

‘Tell me, tell me!’

Suparna became excited.

‘I was running through the wilderness all day, not knowing where I was going… I only felt that I would have to somehow escape from that hell…the hell where he came drunk every night and beat me up if I refused to perform for him that bedtime thing… He was a beast…’

Yimli paused.

She became absentminded for awhile.

‘Then?’ Suparna asked.

Prodded by her, Yimli restarted the narrative.

‘Then suddenly from nowhere a mountain bear pounced upon me…I am not sure whether I stumbled upon it or it jumped at me…but it happened…its sharp claws I felt running through my skin, face. I thought I would be dead. I was so much astounded and puzzled that I couldn’t even shout out. Then he came with his axe and with it took a big swing and rammed it on the head of the bear, using it as a club. The bear, to my amazement, fell to the ground, as if it went dizzy.

Butsugen took me up and took me to his hut. His mother and sister were there.

They took care of me using herbs…And…and I never left Butsugen after that…’ Yimli said.

The noodles had drained out the water.

She took a cotton cloth and put the noodles on it, spreading its strands using a flat wooden spatula.

‘How much do you love your Butsugen?’ Suparna asked.

‘A little bit more than my own heart…’ Yimli said, flashing a cute smile.

She was blushing again.

Suparna looked at Butsugen.

He had started serving meals to the backpackers. His face had a tinge of simplicity and fulfilment.

At least Suparna felt that, after hearing his act of saving Yimli.

‘What is the meaning of Butsugen, in your language?’ Suparna asked Yimli.

‘Buddha’s eyes.’

Yimli said as she got busy spreading the strands of noodles on the cotton cloth.

They were to be cooked soon for within half an hour the counter would have people. Tourists, travellers, backpackers, honeymooners, monks and drivers.

A missing tooth

She opened her bleary eyes when the cat, all seven pounds of squirming flesh, climbed onto her belly. Squinting into the sunlight streaming in from the open window, she discovered that she was now the weary possessor of a pounding headache, and at some point, had managed to lose both a tooth and a spouse.
She wriggled out of bed, lonely as she had found it for the week. The seven pound cat jumped off her belly. It whined. She drooped down, patting it.
‘ now on , we two have to live together, only we two dear…’
She said, looking at the cat.
The cat looked back at her. It probably understood something for it stared at her for a moment before walking at a leisurely pace to the bed side table and sitting down by its side. The curtain cast a shadow on its back. It was preparing to doze off again .
‘ much like Siddhanth this cat, always finding a cosy nook and corner to sleep off ‘
She thought.
A week had gone by after Siddhanth left her. Last Sunday he went out. He went out leaving behind a small had written note on the table .
‘ Dear Atreyi,
Now that we both have realised you and I can never meet, like two lines of a railway track, I am going to find my own destiny leaving you to find yours. As we both agreed upon certain things like sending you every month a certain amount of money to your account, I will do it. Moreover, if the need be you can always contact me through mails.
Be happy,
Siddhanth’
Atreyi had actually a great feeling of happiness on Monday. After work she went to a resto bar. Returned home after eleven thirty. For the first time in four years she felt quite comfortable with her own freedom. No one to cook for. No one to brag her. No one to give her words filled with holy s..t.
Tuesday also went well. She returned home with a bottle of wine. Cooked chicken chops and had a great late night movie till she dozed off.
Wednesday also had been great. Thursday also.
Friday too.
She thought she was in heaven without any qualms. Only this Saturday, when she thought she would have a great weekend , having a date, she woke up with a broken tooth. The tooth had been turning loose since last night.
Only in the morning she found it under her tongue , moving like a pebble. She took the tooth and put it into a glass of water. The tooth dropped reaching the bottom of the glass, slowly gliding through the water. Some tiny air bubbles stuck to it. She looked at it and suddenly thought of Siddhanth.
‘ it is all because of him…he must have left me with a curse…otherwise how could the tooth fall today only?’
She looked at her face, it looked clumsy. She opened her mouth and felt by fingers the blank left by the tooth which now sat happily under water in the glass.
‘ bah! What a day! Now I will have to go for a date with a gap right here….’
She looked at her teethline. An incisor missing.
‘ without a tooth, do I look bad?’
She again looked at her mouth.
‘ am I looking bad?’
She asked herself.
She tried to smile to make out how her face looked without the tooth. Time and again her tongue went to that gap , feeling the blankness, the void.
Suddenly a strange thought came to her.
At the age of thirty five, would again a tooth grow?
Or will it be left blank?
Like the way Siddhanth left a void.
And then she thought that she could wait for few weeks and if no tooth comes up then she would consider thinking of putting there an artificial one.
‘ yes! Finding a tooth is not a big issue these days…implanting one is pretty easy…why are you worried Atreyi? You will find a tooth and also a suitable one to be your partner for life…’
She rebuked herself with the objective of cheering herself.
And she felt cheerful suddenly.
She got busy in readying herself.
Afterall Raghav would be here at seven.
And she would have to dress herself up suitably for the occasion.
‘What could I wear? This summer? A saree? A formal suit? ‘
She while soaping thought.
She tried to think of Raghav’s face.
The last time she saw him at that meeting he was wearing a dark blue suit.
‘Does he love blue ?’
She tried to think of all the dresses worn by Raghav as seen by her.
Once he wore a beige suit with a navy blue shirt.
‘Yes! Blue is the color…and I should wear a blue saree…
A blue saree with a white blouse … that would give a look of an ocean…an ocean which is blue can have a soothing effect on Raghav specially when the mercury is on the rise this summer…’
She thought .
Coming out of the bathroom she went to her bed room cupboard.
She turned the a.c to its lowest temperature mode. It started making a low purring sound. She drew the curtains . The room looked shaded. Outside the Indian scorching summer was having its fullest glory.
Only yesterday she had read in newspaper that a heatwave had claimed two people in Bihar.
Here at Bengaluru the weather luckily does not go berserk. Thank God!
Still the summer had showed its might. She had been working extra hours to protect her face and hands from getting sun burn. She looked scrutinisingly at her face and arms. So far no brownish botches.
‘Next week will have to buy further supplies of sun screen lotions…’
She made a point before sitting infront of the mirror.
She was feeling a bit upbeat, after having the bath.
‘ thirty five is a ripe age for women… ‘ She thought looking at herself on the mirror.
‘ only Siddhanth left me, like an idiot… how can one leave a mature lemon tree when it is filled with blossoms , ready to bear fruits of summer? Such a moron Siddhanth is!’
Atreyi smiled.
No longer she is feeling bad about summer and its scorching heat.
She felt she had grown for the occasion.
A lemon tree.
Then she thought instead of wearing a turquoise saree she would wear a light green chiffon, coupling it with a white sleeveless blouse. She thought of tying up her hair to a bun.

————————-
She heard sound of the elevator coming up.
It was seven almost.
She had been waiting at her living space.
Every time she heard the sound of elevator door opening she thought Raghav had come.
That happened for the last ten minutes or so.
The door bell sounded at last.
The much awaited door bell.
She sprung like a child .
She rushed to the door.
There Raghav stood.
Smiling as he was.
She smiled back.
The evening went quite good .
Raghav had brought a bottle of wine and a bouquet.
She had arranged the table at nine.
At the table the talks went from hobbies to work related issues.
‘ To tell you Atreyi, ‘ Raghav started, putting a piece of mushroom into his mouth,
‘ your arrival had sent real good signs…professionally…’
‘ really? How come? ‘
Atreyi asked, eager to know how her presence worked wonders.
‘ we were in need of a good copy writer with certain creative potential particularly for a project, who knows animation too…and you know finding all these rolled into one is very tough ask, bordering to impossible…but this guy … he just dropped from heaven like an angel for us…really…this Monday only he joined us…and from day one we all are very very impressed by his work ethics and creative mind. Stupendous! This man Siddhanth! He had arrived like sunshine to our company , really, such a beauty of a soul, a fully devoted man to his works.’
Saying this Raghav concentrated on separating the bones from chicken drumstick.
‘ Siddhanth? You say?’
Atreyi asked, her voice quavered a bit.
‘Yes…’
Raghav answered with out looking up.
‘ Siddhanth Malhotra? ‘
Atreyi asked.
‘ Yea!’
This time Raghav looked up.
‘ Do you know him?’
He asked curious.
‘ yea…sort of…once we met at a bar…’
‘O…’
Raghav started eating .
‘ I remember him …because he had a tooth missing …’
Atreyi lied.
‘ just like I will remember you for your missing tooth…this evening ‘
Raghav quipped and laughed.
Atreyi smiled.
Though it was a beautiful summer evening and Raghav was seemingly satisfied with the arrangements she had made, suddenly she thought she felt dried. A dried lemon without any juice. A scorched burnt singed tree.
Her tongue somehow again went back to the blank portion of her gum.
It felt the void again .
A strange void with a strange feel.

Finding Gandhi

Book : Ballad of Bapu Author: Santosh Bakaya Publisher: Vitasta Publishing Pvt Ltd. ISBN 978-93-82711-57-5

My first impression of M.K. Gandhi, is a simple drawing of a drooping figure of a frail man with a stick in hand. It was drawn by one of my cousin brothers, when we were studying in primary school. That drawing then appealed to me as a simple thing to do without much artistic skill. From that pictorial knowledge of Bapu, I graduated to something celluloid, when my father one beautiful spring evening brought home a videotape cassette ( at that time VCP was in rage) titled ‘Gandhi’ I was told that the movie was the first one to get American Motion Pictures Award for India. After watching the flick for many days I thought Ben Kingsley to be the real Gandhi. That got rectified later when I was made to read an interesting article on Gandhi ( this time by my mother). On Gandhi , several research books with razor sharp debates and deliberations can be easily found in our country. Afterall, Bapu had remained one of the most ‘ loved and hated’ man all through his life. But reading ‘ Ballad of Bapu’ is like having a dream of Bapu, colorful, smooth and enchanting, for it is not a mere research work on Gandhi’s life and his doctrines. It is a Ballad, a lyrical one, sustained from page one to the last. Divided into several short chapters and decorated with rare photographs of Bapu’s life, the book is a poetic analysis of Gandhi and his works. I might have said that it is a poetic biography, but if even by mistake should I say that for once about the book, I will be committing a great blunder; I will be completely overlooking the deft touch of analysis of Gandhi’s works as done with meticulous ease by the author-poet. The author is not merely writing a biography. She has mined out several incidents apparently small and insignificant,of Bapu’s life, only to indicate a larger pattern. For any student of history, the book will amply provide details which are astoundingly well researched. But that is probably not the focal point of the book. The author has found how by different actions and deeds, Gandhi laid a foundation of non violence as a principle which is undoubtedly Godly and because it is Godly, it had to face severe challenges, the final challenge being the assassination of Bapu. By sacrificing his life, Bapu had , with finality, proved the Godliness of his principle. Chapter by chapter, events by events, the author has shown how Gandhi became Mahatma. Of all the chapters , the ‘Centrestage’ , ‘ Phoenix farm’ ‘Tolstoy and Gandhi’ ‘Tolstoy farm’ ‘Gandhi in India’ ‘Annie Besant and Gandhi’, ‘Jallianwala Bagh’ , ‘Chauri Chaura’ and ‘Imprisonment’ appeared to be the most engaging for in these chapters we not only find different anecdotes on Bapu’s life but also the valuable authorial commentary on Bapu. For example, if in ‘Phoenix farm’ we get to know about Gandhiji’s reading habit ( ‘At dawn Gandhi read The Gita, the Koran at noon’), in ‘Tolstoy and Gandhi’ we find how voraciously Bapu read Tolstoy while in jail at South Africa. ( ‘In jail, in Tolstoy’s books he found a soulmate/ Greatly inspired by this man born in 1828’). To write history is difficult, to write personal history is more difficult, but to write personal history of a man like Bapu and that too in ballad form maintaining ‘ a a b b a ‘rhyme scheme all through is simply superhuman a work and that Santosh ji how easily has performed, as if she is a musician or a pianist who is just running her practised fingers on words to make them sing. And they sing in tune with Gandhian philosophy, his unwavering faith on non violence and peace. A testimony to the author’s assertion on Gandhian philosophy can be found in the chapters like ‘Jallianwala Bagh’ where she has written : ‘Towards a self disciplined Bardoli his eyes turned/ A policy of senseless gore he had always spurned’ ( page 156). Same assertion comes to the fore in the (in)famous ‘Chauri Chaura’ incident. Bapu with all resilience stood up for non violence and went to prison again, blaming himself for the crime which was not his doing, truely like a father, who can go any distance, to any extreme , for his sons and daughters. ‘No provocation can justify murder, he exclaimed/ For the protestors’ crime, himself he blamed’ ( page 160). The unshakeable faith in non violence, however, never posed any hindrance to Bapu to stand for what is right. While he was imprisoned, he wrote to the British Government why he felt sedition was the creed that he followed. In fact , Bapu was imprisoned more on charges of sedition than any leader if that period, yet how mistakenly oft his non violent acts are interpreted. The author has rightly pointed out : ‘Sedition was their creed , said the man with integrity/ In his first article ‘Tampering with Loyalty’ (page 163). In similar vein Santosh ji has carried on in the chapter ‘Imprisonment’ when she explained : ‘On 19 September 1921 Fearlessly wrote this son The government was shocked at his sheer audacity’ But Gandhiji probably had been too much for both the British and those who could not make out proper his philosophy, as the author has pointed out: ‘He started Harijan, a weekly new Which , with his rapier touch he did imbue… … But for the Sanatanists an unpalatable brew’ This outer struggle led eventually to an inner struggle in Bapu. So, even after independence he could not be happy. He had remained restless with agony, hurt by pains. ‘2nd October 1947 did not dawn like any day Though it was the Mahatma’s 78th birthday He was restless The fury relentless Dampened his spirits he could smell decay’ ( page 259) And that decay took him to the point of being challenged which he answered by sacrificing his life. ‘Was he a mad man or a coward? He whipped out a pistol, with no compunction?'( page 308). The author has left that rhetorical question beautifully, almost theatrically poised towards the end of the concluding chapter. If we are to rediscover and relearn Gandhi, if we are to trace the path between Gandhi and Mahatma, we are sure to read this book. Another interesting feature of the book is the bibliography. A poem by P. B Shelley (which was once recited by Bapu at a gathering) titled ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ , provided in the additional reading section serve as proper embellishment to this wonderous book.

The town where I live

The town where I have spent most of my days so far, has literary connections which are astounding to say the least. Though never thought to write about those connections, very recently, I got a copy of Tagore’s letter which he wrote on his visit to the town and the shoe factory and that someway instigated me to write a few lines on the town of Batanagar and its literary connections.

Tagore visited the factory on 10th November, 1939 and wrote a few words on his visit and his experience. He called the factory and its surrounding township as ‘ great industrial institution’ and heaped praises on its ‘founder’. He was probably refering to Jan Antonin Bata, the founder of Bata Industrial town ( the factory and the town had been set up in 1934) who actually hailed from Zlin, ( erstwhile Czechoslovakia) a small town situated by the banks of Dřevnice River. Being a resident of Batanagar for long, finding this connection with Tagore is something really a matter of pride. Talking about literary connections to Batanagar, the name of Vikram Seth should always come up. He used to stay in this town. He spent his boyhood here in the town. The reference to the town can be found in his ‘ A Suitable Boy’ , in which he referred to the town as ‘ Prahapur’ and the Bata Shoe Factory as ‘Prahapur Shoe factory’.His family lived in many cities including the Bata Shoe Company town of Batanagar. His father Prem ( nath) Seth had been an executive of Bata Shoe Company. With times, the township has changed a lot. But some basic things had remained the same( namely Tomas Bata Avenue, the river Ganges which flows by, the railway over bridge, etc;) I have always found the place very serene and poetic. Not sure if it is because I am born and brought up here. But the greenery, the breaking of Radhachura and Krishnachura trees into delicate blossoms in spring, the arrival of migratory birds at the marshy lands nearby during winter, the ponds ( where still people /anglers do fishing), the ‘love in the air’ feel, all conjure up magical moments for sure.

From granny, a story

Little Suprotik had been to his granny after a long time. His dad had dropped him there before going to office. Rupali had packed in his bag a packet of chocochips and muffins.
‘Give them to granny and tell her to come to us, if possible, this weekend’
Rupali had told him.
‘I will mom, don’t you worry!’
Suprotik had said.

Granny was waiting for him at the porch. On her recliner, she was sitting when Devarghya dropped him.

‘O my heart’s joy! Come to me child!’
Granny took him to her arms, the moment he climbed up to the porch.
Suprotik after a long time got that familiar smell of granny, her betel leaf smell mixed with smell of turmeric, cinnamon and vegetables.
‘Take these, mom sent’em for you’
Suprotik handed granny the packets of chocochips and muffins.

‘Ma, I will take him on my way back home…’
Devarghya had said.
‘O…will you not stay for awhile and have brunch with us?’
Granny asked.
‘No ma, I got works…’
Devarghya smiled.
‘Couldn’t Rupu come?’
‘No, ma, she got works too, you know…’

‘O yes… I tend to forget…’
Granny nodded her head.
‘Come child…’

Soon granny took Suprotik to her kitchen.
Granny’s kitchen always kept Suprotik full of wonders.
Entering it he was at once gripped with aroma of spices. There was no kitchenette , no chimney, no water purifier,no cabinets. But there was that grand chulla of a kind. It was run on wood and charcoal.
The rotis made there always had that peculiar smell of charcoal.
And those grilled mushroom and paneer cubes.

Suprotik delved into the plate given to him by granny. A simple chinaware, no fancy stuff, but he noted every time he would come to granny’s , she would serve him on that particular plate.
‘Why do you serve me on this plate, every time, granny?’
Suprotik had asked.
‘Cause your dad used to have his food from this one…’
Granny said.

Post lunch, granny took him to her garden.
A beauty of a garden it was!
The bunches of marigolds and roses and chrysanthemums greeted Suprotik at once with their trembling petals.
‘Want to take any?’
Granny asked.
Suprotik looked at granny’s face.
She looked so beautiful in her white saree with thin embroidered border. Her face was resplendent. She looked like an angel almost.
‘Okay… As you wish…’
Granny picked up few marigolds and roses, tied them with a twine and gave them to him.
Suprotik took a deep smell.
‘They are so beautiful…’
‘Nothing like you dear!’
Granny gave a mild pinch to his cheek.
‘Why don’t you go and stay with us, gran?’
Suprotik asked.
‘If I go, who will take care of my garden?’

‘But then you said there is nothing like me?’
Suprotik asked back.

Granny signaled Suprotik to sit down on her lap.
‘Want to listen to a story?’

‘Yay!’
Suprotik clapped.

‘Once there lived a tree who wanted to be the most worthy. He prayed to God. Despite his prayers the woodcutters came and chopped him off. The tree thought he was unworthy. But still he prayed. The log was kept for weathering for few months. Then one day, a carpenter came and turned the wood into a beautiful box. That box was sold to a poor couple. The couple put all their dirty linen in the box. But after some months when they were blessed with a child, they cleaned the box and put him there. Then the tree realised God’s benediction. So see, all the trees that I had planted here, are for my God, whom I worship. So I can’t leave them. And you know who my God is?’
Granny asked.
Suprotik, who was listening to the story with rapt attention, couldn’t at once answer granny’s query.

‘It is you…for you bring me all the hope to work for…I take care of this house, this garden, only with the hope that you will come…’

Granny had said.

‘Okay, I promise to come to you…every week…’

‘That’s great!’
Granny had said.

Late in the afternoon, Devarghya came to take Suprotik.
Granny gave him the bunch of flowers and a jar of pickles.
‘You can have the pickles all the year round…’

While he was returning home, through the window the slanted rays of the setting sun with its own superb spring time hue were caressing the face of little Suprotik.
He was holding on to the bunch of flowers tied by a twine.
‘I would love to be at granny’s every weekend!’
He suddenly demanded.
‘Why? For those flowers? Or stories?’
Devarghya asked.

‘For both!’

Suprotik claimed without hassles.

Food, tv, family and more

‘ There is no love sincerer than the love of food’

– George Bernard Shaw

We, in our family have a curious relationship with food. It is almost like a love- hate relationship. My wife eats food to lose weight. My son eats only when he is hungry and I eat when my wife calls me to the dining hall.

If I am busy writing something, I forget about my own hunger or hunger forgets me. Either way it works. If I am reading I sometimes prefer munching almonds or cashews. While watching tv we all eat something. In most cases the food if served hot would turn cold till we finish off it while watching tv. This I observed happens most when the tv channels are set to ‘infotainment’ mode. However my wife watches bengali tv series with ease and finishes off her plate of food quite successfully without making it wait for long.

The Sports channels are great for foodies I guess. The exciting cricket matches make us all to eat all types of food ( and non foods even like finger nails).

Mostly at home ( barring the breakfast) we eat food while watching tv, so tv and food somehow got attached in our case, or should I say we keep them within parentheses.

Talking about family, my in-laws are great foodies, specially my brother in law. Any new restaurant opens in our small town, he will make sure he visits that on the day of the opening itself. If not on that day then next day sure. He believes in ‘ eating -out’ . The flavour of home cooked foods does not appear as lip smacking as the flavour of restaurants to him. My mother in law loves to cook but if her arthritis allows her. My father in law , have one thing in common with me, he cooks only when feels like.

Talking about feelings associated with food, I love the smell of spices. Not sure how it got so much into me, but the smell of spices led to strange wanderings. Once I wandered off the trail while touring a place because I got the smell of cardamom there.

The smell of mustard sauce is another which creates a subtle feeling in me. I can’t help it. Another smell from kitchen which would invariably create an urge to go and find what’s being cooked is the smell that emanates the moment garlic and onion and chillies are simmered.

My parents being residents of East Bengal ( now Bangladesh) , we had that preference towards fish easily found in rivers and ponds. Salt water fish were rarely brought home. The thrust or direction of home made foods was always towards vegetables like ‘banana flowers’, gourds of all kinds ( the bitter one was a must) and lentil. When my wife came in and took over the kitchen turned multi cuisine. From typical East Bengali we turned Bengali first and then gradually Indian, as far as food is concerned. Idli, chana masala, naan, rajma, mughlai and tandoori dishes – all started happening. Later the chinese and the american and tibetan dishes also started becoming part of our lives.

Thus we got evolved so far and with tv constantly supplying us more information and ideas on cooking, I am sure we are going to get more globalised.

Debbie

“ Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
Rainer Maria Rilke – Letters to a Young Poet

The letter from Debbie arrived yesterday. Debbie alias Debosmita.

After moving to New York, three years back , pursuing her studies, Debbie at least kept one promise.

She kept on writing letters. Initially they were frequent. But for the last one year so, Debbie’s letters had become infrequent.

I was also very much eager to get letters from Debbie. At least initially. The pains and pangs of separation had bitten into me quite a bit. Never thought that Debbie would go away like that. But she had her reasons too. Very strong plausible reasons.

She had that novel opportunity of pursuing her dream – a doctoral research on Sylvia Plath. Secondly she had no one to look forward to at the time of happiness or sadness. Of course , I am there somewhere in her heart, but how can I be selfish like that to plead or implore her to stay back, for a relationship with no future?

‘ Look Sushant, ‘ Debbie told me the night before going away to United States of America.

Her voice had the tone of sadness and melancholy. She had been weeping.

Me too.

‘ Here I got no one to care about me, after dad’s passing away and brother’s marriage, barring you. And with you I can never stay…’

‘ yes… I know…’

I said feebly.

‘ moreover, this opportunity…just think, can I ever miss that?’

‘Nah! Never!’

I had retorted.

‘Then?’

I stopped short of making any comment on that.

She understood.

‘Yes…Sushant… had you been older than me or at least of my age…it could have been acceptable in our society…but marrying a boy five years younger than me…we will be ostracized…’

‘Yes…’

I had said.

‘ but don’t you worry…I will send you letters…as promised…’

She had assured me.

For three years since then Debbie and I had been somehow keeping in contact with each other through letters.

Occasionally she would send emails if there is an urgent news or information to give to me.

Very rarely she would call.

Letters were what we both agreed upon as the best media of communication.

For a person like me who has only one dream to follow and that is to follow literature all through my life, exchanging letters seemed most poetic.

Besides we had a dream which we both dreamt together.

We wished one day our love letters would be turned into a book or compilation like that of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Browning.

We also knew that in hand written letters only we could somehow bridge the distance betwixt us. Her smell would come to me. My hand writing would help her to feel my mood or mental state.

But then there are occasions when memories come opening all floodgates.

I would feel restless to get her near, to plant a gentle kiss on her nape, to caress her, to get the smell of her long brown tresses.

Probably she felt that too.

Once she sent me by courier a parcel.

Opening that I found a CD of a movie titled ‘ The Reader’ and a short note.

‘Watch it…and when would I grow old, you would feel me more…’

I watched the movie and wept copiously.

Then once I sent her my first published novella.

How much elated she became!

She ordered twenty books for her friends there.

Then one day she sent me a postcard from Provence.

‘So you are traveling ?’

I wrote back.

Few weeks later she sent pictures of different places of France.

The season of Fall had turned the maples red and orange. The sight of streets blanketed by leaves created a poetic frenzy.

I wrote her a poem.

‘Now that I do see

How you are faring

So far away from me,

Now that you under the cover

So cosy, of leaves and flower,

Perhaps you should send me

Out of your heart and memory’

Receiving that she sent me a picture of a sun rise over hills.

I did not understand then what she had meant.

Seriously.

But that picture postcard again evoked in me a poetic flow.

I wrote a poem ‘The sunrising’, which after reading Debbie thought to be somewhat akin to a metaphorical poem.

I argued it could be somewhat akin to a John Donne poem.

Metaphysical poetry was never liked by Debbie. Her favourite poets were Tagore, Wordsworth, Keats , Shelley.

Among the romantics, she only kept a distance from Coleridge.

While metaphysical poetry always excited me.

‘John Donne and Andrew Marvell, revolutionised poetry’

I would claim.

Debbie would just smile and say ‘You are just a kid still….where from would you get the poetic intuitions if you never read Tagore or Wordsworth? If you want to learn more about life and poetry read them.’

So I started reading them and what wealth that to me their poetry brought.

I got seeped into poetry because of reading Tagore and Wordsworth and Keats.

And that flow came to my writings.

Debbie appreciated that.

She sent me poetry books of Walt Whitman.

I sent her a copy of my second novella.

Letters of her became infrequent after that.

I wrote her four or five times a week.

She sent me no replies.

For six or seven months I got no news of her.

I sent emails. They stared blank at me from the out box of the mail folders.

I called twice.

The phone rang but no hand picked it up.

Gradually when I was accepting losing Debbie as my fate.

A letter came like a sparkle of light afloat on water.

‘Dear Sushant,

I am extremely aggrieved that I could not send you letters. I was busy .

I read all your letters. They gave me the flowering power of love and hope.

They gave me the strength.

I am writing this with a wish. A wish that may appear strange to you( or may not as you are a poet and writer).

You know why the trees grow?

They grow to bear fruits and flowers of love.

Now that we have, for so many years , took care of our sapling of love and helped it to grow bit by bit, with all love of our hearts…

I wish you send me the seed to grow a tree within me.

Can you do that?

Please…’

I was both taken aback and thrilled receiving such a request from Debbie.

Debosmita had always remained more composed and collected than me. She had remained all through very methodical.

But how could I turn down her.

Her request.

So I did send the seed.

That too almost one year back.

Yesterday Debbie’s letter came with the quote of Rainer Maria Rilke.

‘Dear Sushant,

You would be happy to know that a girl has been born. I am sending a picture of her . I have christened her as ‘Sharodiya’ for she bears the beauty of the autumnal blue sky and white floating cottony cloudlets of our dreams.

Love ,

Debbie. ‘

I read the letter at one go and looked at the picture of that pinkish face of a cuddly little thing.

How many times did I murmur ‘Sharodiya’ I did not know.

But I kept on muttering and kissing the picture.

How did I wish to go all the way to New York, just to have a glimpse of the girl.

Just to feel the sky of autumn right there at the city.

I thought of arranging for my passport and visa.

The amount of money kept in my savings account out of my monthly salary would be just enough for one way air ticket.

I thought I would give Debbie and Sharodiya a surprise!

Then,

A phone call came.

Debbie’s phone number it showed on my cell.

I picked it.

Someone called from a hospital with conspicuous american accent.

‘Mr Sushant Sengupta?’

‘Yes…’

‘Debosmita Banerjee has passed away a few minutes from now. Please arrange to arrive here as soon as possible’

‘But …but her letter…her letter… it came only yesterday…’

I just mumbled but soon realised that it did not matter to the caller at the other end.

I did not remember what happened to me then.

I probably slowly sat down on the floor.

I was feeling dizzy.

How Debbie turned into an angel !

How she left a Sharod blessing for me…