Monthly Archives: November 2021

The Ostrich – Based on Sudhindra Nath Dutta’s “Utpakhi”

[What follows is an English translation/transcreation of the much quoted classic Bengali poem “utpakhi” (উটপাখী, meaning ostrich), written by Sudhindranath Dutta. He published it in his collection called “krandasi” (ক্রন্দসী, meaning the Sky and the Earth) in the Bengali year 1344, which could have been 1937 approximately, according to the Western calendar.
I am putting this up on Facebook a second time, 5 July, 2014 being the date of the first posting. I was satisfied with that attempt till now. However, when I read the original poem recently, I began to doubt my interpretation of it. I put in more thought into the matter and concluded that the poem addresses severe mental depression engendered by events like the great depression of 1929. Dutta, I think, believed that compared to the great depression, the Maratha invasion of Bengal in the 1740’s was a kindergarten story. This is clear enough from a reading of the last four lines of the third stanza of the poem, which I didn’t attend to sufficiently in my 2014 version. Be that as it may, I see now that the poem acts as a bridge connecting art and economics.
Chaplin too tried a similar exercise in Modern Times, but his style was different. Dutta’s poem is humourless, when Chaplin made people laugh at their own misery. For him, the symbol of helplessness was the little man. For Dutta, it was an ostrich lost in the middle of a merciless desert. Interestingly enough, both artists end up in hope, each in his own way.
]

Can’t you hear my words of counsel pray?
Why in vain then burrowed lies your head?
Where to hide? How vast the desert’s sway –
Footfall squeezed, all shady nooks lie dead.
E’en a mirage today the horizon won’t display
Ruthless, silent, blue the sky will loom
To delude the hunter, seems there is no way
He’s got to snare you, else he spells his doom.
Where can you flee? Run you’ll how much more?
The sands uncaring won’t your claw-marks veil
Childhood friends, those associates of yore
Bygone all, helpless, alone your trail.


What will you reap, why sit on a cracked egg’s shell?
Even penitence will not make it whole.
Won’t boundless cravings self-destruction spell?
In a wish free void too you can’t hope to stroll.
Best that to my reasoning you pay heed
Sail your fancied ship in a sea of sand
News of oases you know well indeed
Cautious wisdom never was your brand.
A fresh new home then let us go and build
In any odd retreat, thorny bush enclosed
Salty water, at least, it will yield
Dates will fall too, gravity’s pull unopposed.


Behind a fence of mythical creepers there
We shan’t construct a zoo with iron grills
Nor call up hosts of buyers to the fair
To prune your wings of all redundant frills.
With surplus feathers scattered on the ground
Fans for a hermit’s fret-free needs we’ll weave
The dusty trail of a star extinction bound
We won’t hunt on a dark and moonless eve.
In praise of you no rattle will be heard
For mindless greed with wants to ever combine
To forestall marauders, a peaceful lullaby bird,
You’ll fail to be, in this crash of twenty-nine.

The wounds of damage, of course, must be borne
By us alone, I know, in equal share
The early ones have booked their gains and gone
It’s left for us all remaining debts to clear.
Disgusting is this game of self-amour!
Can blindness ever keep devastation on wait?
Avoiding me will swell your woes for sure
Self-deception suits not a dire strait.
Let’s get together and sign this treaty then
Helping each our opposite goals to reach
You can guide me beyond the mortal plain
And I my friend will find you a worldly niche.

______________________________

(It was my good friend Dianne Shiff Thaler who taught me a possible pronunciation of the last word I used in my work. That was close to 57 years ago. However, it is never too late to thank a friend.)

To Her Eternally – Based on Sudhindra Nath Dutta’s Shashwoti

Fatigued rainfall, untimely seeking rest,
Lies in the courtyard, dressed in dark and green;
Golden chance for a hide and seek contest
On the skies abscond a light and shade filled scene.
Autumn’s arrived, its precincts half-known still,
The air echoes the striking of its drum,
Fulfilled at last is the silent waiting’s will,
Nature extends its concerted welcome.
Fog enshrouded boundary of a long day,
Will soon be obscured by the moon-climb up the sky,
Lovelorn patience along its dusty way,
Will brighten up with a flower trodden sigh.
In this gathering she too has joined in,
A seat in the feast is reserved today for her,
Look backward my listless eyes in the din,
My shrivelled up heart can’t leave its worn patched cover.

Once on such a rains departing night,
A hundred births ago it could have been,
She had come and made our hands unite,
With love instinctive at my face she’d seen.
Then too did a harvest happy breeze,
Play in joy with her ripened paddy hued hair,
All those eternal wants and wins to seize,
Searched for a meaning in her lowered eyes full clear.
Trembling on the crest of a wavering word,
Haunted a seventh heaven on that day,
A moment single stood there on its guard,
And stopped time flying its restless, undying way.
An immoderate and a boastful promise had caught,
And pulled to the earth an unflagging Pole Star,
Human memory with all its fragility fraught,
Has opened now my disaster’s doors ajar.

A time for truce has returned in all its glory,
Beckoning sweetly the unattainable once more,
Inhaling her fragrant inebriating story,
Unnamed flowers in swollen unknowns soar.
Filled up rivers her passions symbolise,
Lost in shoreless oceans, out of depth,
The unblemished sky reflects her heart’s true guise,
Its coronation, a glittering sun filled wealth.
The dreamy nights are blue as were her eyes
Grass-like was the softness of her down
To call her “Dearest” this voice mine once more tries
Only today she loves someone unknown.
Anthills I’ve stocked to my memories’ fill
In all my pores lie lifeless droplets sweet
She may forget but a million millennia still
I’ll remember, my mind will never retreat.

____
This immortal Bengali poem (“Shashwoti”) was published by Sudhindra Nath Datta in his collection Orchestra. His introduction to the collection was dated August 1, 1953.






























প্রেমিকের হারানো প্রেমের শোক – Based on “The Lover mourns for the Loss of Love” by W.B. Yeats

শুভ্র ললাট, স্থির করতল, মেঘলা কেশের রাশি,
ছিল মোর এক অপরূপা সহচরী
স্বপনে দেখেছি পুরনো আমার সকল হতাসা নাশি
অবশেষ প্রেম আসবে ভাসিয়ে তরী:
কিন্তু হায় সে হৃদয়েতে মোর দেখে চেয়ে একদিন
তোমার মূরতী আজও সেথা আছে ভরি;
কান্নায় ভেঙে হারিয়ে পথ সে হয়েছে কোথা বিলীন

_____

The Lover mourns for the Loss of Love by W.B. Yeats

Pale brows, still hands and dim hair,
I had a beautiful friend
And dreamed that the old despair
Would end in love in the end:
She looked in my heart one day
And saw your image was there;
She has gone weeping away

লোকটি স্বর্গের বস্ত্র চায় – Based on “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by W. B. Yeats

অমরাবতীর সূচিশিল্পিত বস্ত্র থাকলে মম,
সোনালী, রূপালী, আলো ঝলমল, কারুকার্যেতে ভরা,
কখনও বা নীল, কভু নিষ্প্রভ, কখনও বস্ত্র তম
নিশীথাবৃত, আলোতে বিমল, কভু আধা আলো হরা,
দিতাম বিছায়ে সে বস্ত্র আমি তোমার পায়ের তলে:
কিন্তু আমি যে নিঃসম্বল, আবৃত শুধু স্বপনে;
সেই স্বপ্নই বিছায়ে রেখেছি তোমার ওই পদতলে;
দলিয় নম্র চরণে, কারণ দলিছ আমার স্বপনে।


___

He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W.B. Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

যবে হবে তুমি পলিত প্রবীণা — Based on “When You Are Old” by W.B. Yeats

যবে হবে তুমি পলিত প্রবীণা, ডাকবে তন্দ্রা গভীর
পোহাবে শৈত্য আগুনের তাপে, সেদিন এ কাব্যচয়নি
ধীরে পড় ধীরে, স্বপনেতে দেখ নমনীয় সেই চাহনি
যা ছিল একাকী তোমারই আঁখির পল্লব ছায়া সুনিবিড়।

ভালবেসেছিল কত জনে তব প্রসন্নতার প্রভা
কপট কিংবা অকপটে ভালবেসেছিল রূপরাশি
একজনই তব অন্তরতম তীর্থাশ্রমবাসী
দেখেছিল, ভালবেসেছিল মুখে দুখচঞ্চল শোভা।

আগুনের লাল তপ্ত আভার পাশে তুমি নুয়ে নুয়ে
দুখে অস্ফুট, ভেব কেমনেতে পলায়িত ভালবাসা
পাহাড়ে ঊর্ধ্বে মিটাতে গেছিল পদচারণার আশা
তারাদের ভীড়ে ঢেকেছিল মুখ থাকতে তাদের ছুঁয়ে।

_______

When You are Old by W.B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

আজ ভগবানের খোঁজ নেওয়া হয় নি

ভগবান ওহে, আজ ভোরে উঠে, যাই নি তোমার খোঁজে,
ভুল বুঝো না হে, ভুল বুঝো না হে মোরে,
নীল সাগরের ঢেউ ভেঙে পড়া বালুতটে ছিনু মজে,
ছেলেমেয়েগুলো খেলছিল সেথা প্রাণ ভরে।
তুমি তো জানই কত ক্ষণিকের তরে আমি আছি ভুবনে,
কত সামান্য বসন্ত আবহাওয়া,
আর এও তুমি জান শীঘ্রই আমি হারাব বিবাগী পবনে,
রইবে তখন, শুধু তব সাথে গান গাওয়া।

_____

Based on “I Didn’t Go to Church Today” by Ogden Nash

I didn’t go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand,
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.
He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We’ll have a plenty of time together.





হাঁস আগে না ডিম ?

মেয়েছেলেটার মুখ ঝামটাই ধরিয়ে দিল নেশা।”
“মুখ ঝামটা মিনসে মদোই করল আমার পেশা।”
আসল কথা একটা মাতাল অন্যটা দজ্জাল,
করলে স্বীকার কেউ জানে না কী হোত কার হাল।
______

Based on “Which the Chicken, Which the Egg” by Ogden Nash

He drinks because she scolds, he thinks;
She thinks she scolds because he drinks;
And neither will admit what’s true,
That he’s a sot and she’s a shrew.


হাবিজাবি ২ — দ্বিপদী

দোষ

জন্’মেছিল সে তার — এই মহা দোষ,

মরে গিয়ে সাজা পেল তাই চারু ঘোষ।
____

পর্যটক

ভুলেও যাস নে স্পেনে, শুনি বুনো ষাঁড়

তাড়া করে ফেরে সেথা নেই কারও ছাড়।

____

দন্তরুচি (অগডেন ন্যাশ অনুপ্রাণিত)

যত বেদনাই দন্ত বৈদ্য সাঁড়াশি আরশি হস্তে দ্যান

করুণ নয়নে তাঁর পানে চেয়ে থেক করে তুমি মুখব্যাদ্যান।

____

ডাক্তার (অগডেন ন্যাশ অনুপ্রাণিত)

সুস্থ লোকেরা সকলেই দেখি মরে ডাক্তার হায়

অসুস্থদের বাঁচানো ছাড়া কি আছে তব কোনও দায়?