Lips pouted, head tilted in rage,
Nostrils inflated, eyes ablaze,
Fumed the eight year old maiden fair,
“Stinking ape ! Marrying with you, I’ll never care.”
Such severe punishment, a misfortune more
Was well beyond endurance, in those days of yore.
Large were her eyes and Kurani was her name,
Fiercely gripping her ample hair, I slapped her to make tame.
Tears began to well up, but they froze, and remained still.
Started she to move away, and not a drop did spill.
Her anklets tinkled, as in suppressed anguish, I began to whine,
“Get lost – on these berries and mangoes, alone shall I dine.”
The frozen tears thawed, she smiled, and managed my hands to find,
And say, “I overlooked telling you, did I, that a female ape’s my kind?”
The fair maiden’s fifteen now, her eyes are overcast,
With the plush and wealth of thunder clouds, billowing ever vast.
A novice she’s in handling yet, her devastating charm,
In a figure slim, as the corner of her lips, lie hidden behind an arm
Of a smile mysterious, glowing in chorus, with a sprouting fun filled hue,
Distant she has turned and yet, so close she’s turned anew.
Her company though has grown all scarce, incessantly still,
Excuses I keep on seeking, frenzied yearnings to fulfil,
To this end, on jackfruit glue smeared branches of the trees,
I manage to trap a myna, a parrot, when Lady Luck decrees,
And present them to Kurani, who outright them rejects,
Saying, “I ain’t no more a baby,” her case she firmly rests.
My heart grows heavy, knowing so well, that I hardly ever can
Slap her across the face again, or scary warnings fan.
Kurani’s mother, showers her blessings, when I return home on leave,
But she bemoans, “I’m weary Mani, for can you really believe?
Kurani starts on nineteen soon, see how grown’s this lass,
As big as the hills and mighty mountains, but no bridegroom’s shown alas!”
“Will search for a worthy match,” I try, the mother to console,
My stealing glances, for the daughter though, fail to meet their goal.
Pale and speechless, all heartbroken, I leave to start my quest —
When out of nowhere, emerges a laughter, sharp and full of jest.
“Mother dear!” someone’s saying, “Your reasoning leaves me numb!
Who’ll search, for a groom for his own bride, unless he’s dumb?”
Suddenly, this message clear, halted all solar motion,
Suddenly a thousand birds sang out, all together in fusion,
Suddenly, the branches waved, in a wild and restless breeze,
And made the magnolias, each one of them, blossom forth in please.
Free translation of a Bengali poem by Manish Ghatak (1902 – 1979). He was a leading poet- litterateur of the Kallol era. He often wrote under the pen name Jubanashwa. Among his famous works are Pataldangar Panchali (a book of short stories), Kankhal (novel) and books of poems like Shilalipi, Sandhya. He was Mashweta Devi‘s father and Ritwik Ghatak‘s elder brother.