Poems on partition
WHILE the two poems of Jibanananda Das, arguably the greatest Bengali poet after Tagore (he came from Barisal in East Bengal after Partition), recreate the beauty, harmony and peace of undivided Bengal replete with the blessings of nature and myths and legends, the two poems of Taslima Nasreen which follow recreate the agony and unreason of Partition in a diction that is harsh yet nostalgic. The two poems of Jibanananda Das are a part of his incomparable cycle of lyrics entitled Rupashi Bangla. During the Liberation War of Bangladesh, Bengali fighters kept Rupashi Bangla in their camps and read the poems as a source of inspiration. These four poems capture the complete psyche of the Bengali people – from idyllic harmony to cruel separation and then from divided nationhood to a thirst for reunion.
Go where you will…
Go where you will – I shall remain on Bengal’s shore
Shall see jackfruit leaves dropping in the dawn’s breeze;
Shall see the brown wings of shalik chill in the evening,
Its yellow leg under the white down goes on dancing
In the grass, darkness – once, twice – and then suddenly
The forest’s oak beckons it to its heart’s side,
Shall see sad feminine hands – white conch-bangles
Crying like conch shells in the ash-grey wind:
She stands on the pond’s side in the evening,
As if she will take the parched rice hued duck
To some land of legends –
As if the fragrance of the quiltcover clings to her body,
As if she is born out of watercress in the pond’s nest –
Washes her feet silently – then goes faraway, traceless
In the fog – yet I know I shall not lose her
In the crowd of the earth –
She is there on my Bengal’s shore.
(Sonnet 3, Rupashi Bangla)
I have seen Bengal’s face…
I have seen Bengal’s face, that is why I do not seek
Beauty of the earth any more: I wake up in the dark
And see the dawn’s magpie-robin perched under the parasol-like huge leaf
Of the fig tree – on all sides I see mounds of leaves of
Black plum – banyan – jackfruit – oak – pipal lying still;
Their shadows fall on the spurge bushes on zedoary clumps;
Who knows when Chand near Champa from his madhukar boat
Saw such oaks – banyans – gamboge’s blue shades
Bengal’s beauty incomparable.
Behula too someday floating on raft on Gangur’s water –
When the fullmoon of the tenebrous twelfth night died on the river’s shoal –
Saw countless pipals and banyans beside the golden corn,
Alas, heard the tender songs of shama – and one day going to Amara.
When she danced like a torn wagtail in Indra’s court
Bengal’s river field, wild violets wept at her feet like anklet bells.
(Sonnet 4, Rupashi Bangla)
There was a land watered and fruitful
People of that land used to swing on festive days
Just as the golden paddy swung in breeze,
There was a land which held happy fairs
Merging the smell of soil in soil
When autumn clouds held fairs in the sky.
There was a land of mangoes, jackfruits
Where one could get soaked to the skin
Returning home in rain then faintly tremble,
Or bask in the sun after the fog cleared.
There was a land – yours, mine, our forefathers’?
Some suddenly halved this land of love into two.
They who did it wrenched the stem of the dream
Which danced like the upper end of the gourd,
Dream of the people.
They shook violently the roots of the land
And people were flung about who knows where,
None kept account of who perished who survived.
Residents of Bikrampur landed on Gariahata crossing
Some came to Phultali from Burdwan,
Some fled to Howrah from Jessore,
From Netrokona to Ranaghat,
From Murshidabad to Mymensingh.
The outcome was inevitable,
As when you release a wild bull in a flower garden.
Two parts of the land stretch out their thirsty hands
Towards each other. And in between the hands
Stands the man made filth of religion, barbed wire.
(From the selection Behula Eka Bhasiyechilo Bhela, 1993)
India was no discarded paper that you had to tear to bits.
I want to erase the word 47
I want to wash away the inkstain of 47
With water and soap.
47 – the word pricks like a thorn in my throat
I do not want to swallow it.
I want to vomit it out
I want to regain the undivided soil of my forefathers.
I want Brahmaputra as much as I want Subarnarekha.
I want Sitakunda Hills as much as Kanchenjungha.
Srimangal as much as Jalpaiguri.
I want the sal forests of Bihar
As well as Ajanta and Ellora
If Curzon Hall is mine, Fort William belongs to me too.
That man who fought in 71 and won
That man who thrashed away the two-nation theory
He can never accept defeat at the hands of 47.
(From the selection Ay Kosto Jhenpe, Jiban Debo Mepe, 1994)