No Walkman. No iPod. Just a sheet of paper folded 4 times. That is what I used to carry on my morning walks. The paper had a poem written on it. It had to be a poem I had learnt within the last 5 years. I would recite the poem as I walked, looking at the sheet of paper if I fumbled with a line. Ghalib, Faiz, Gulzar, Neruda, Mathew Arnold, Sunil Gangopadhyay were the ones I attempted. And yes, there was this one by Jibanananda Das. I used to do the English translation, which I had revised to suit my taste from existing translations. Here it is.
For thousands of years I wandered around on this earth,
From waters round Sri Lanka in dead of night to the Malayan seas.
Much have I travelled. I was there in the grey world of Asoka
And Bimbisara, pressed on through darkness to the city of Vidarbha.
I was a weary heart surrounded by life’s frothy ocean.
To me she gave a moment’s peace — Natore’s Banalata Sen.
Her hair was like an ancient darkling night in Vidisha,
Her face, the craftsmanship of Sravasti.
Like a rudder–broken sailor, adrift far out in mid-sea,
chancing upon a grass-green cinnamon island, through darkness
I saw her. Said she, “Where have you been so long?”
And raised her bird’s nest-like eyes – Natore’s Banalata Sen.
At day’s end, like soft-falling dew
Comes dusk. A hawk wipes the scent of sunlight from its wings.
When all of earth’s colours fade and the night opens its manuscript,
the glimmering fireflies start their storytelling.
All birds come home, all rivers; all of this life’s tasks finished.
Only darkness remains, as I sit face to face with Banalata Sen.
- Cobblestone Years
- The Test