Poems by Nirendranath Chakraborty, translated from Bengali by Chandak Chattarji
Born in 1924, Nirendranath Chakraborty is one of the few iconic Bengali poets of our time who continues to be widely read and loved. Emerging in the 1950s as part of the generation of poets including Samar Sen and Sunil Gangopadhyay, he stands out for commenting on and protesting against social and political conditions in a language that is effective by virtue of its telling simplicity. His rage against a brutal world finds a quieter, more contemplative expression than that of his younger contemporaries; his poems are like a searchlight that brings into focus the many hidden agonies of his people. It seems to me that he captures the spirit of urban Bengal the way Jibanananda captured the spirit of rural Bengal. In his more personal poems, he looks inward with the same unflinching gaze, examining both himself and the human condition with a wry humour, an acuity tempered by tenderness, and a melancholy remarkably free of self-pity. CC
Do not wait for me any longer, fellows,
The day has waned.
You better start off.
I’m not carefree like you.
As soon as I settle down somewhere
Enormous branches grow inside of me
And under my feet
So I can’t venture out now
As soon as someone says “Let’s go!”
You had better start off, fellows.
Don’t wait for me any longer
I’ll be late.
“The days, now,
With bowed head,
Advance towards night.
Pain goes on
Even last year
At this time of twilight
I saw five stars.
I see one less.”
Being means some books, a writing table.
Being means the blue of the sky
The sun on the pond, the green of trees
Two birds on the cornice of a house
Some hidden current in the water,
The gradual going out of sight
Of a lonely boat in evening silence.
Breaking the humid air the bringing of the news of rain rushes the breeze
That comes and strikes at the heart.
Being means the faces of people; sweat, weariness and melancholy
All that comprises a family.
Being means having a hold on happiness, unhappiness, aversion and attachment.
Being means painting in light and dark,
The painting that is significant yet completely meaningless.
Being means living in it.
This translation is published in the Fiction and Poetry section of Jan-Mar 2017 issue of The Indian Quarterly. Translations of several Marathi poems by Jerry Pinto and Neela Bhagwat are also published in the issue. Priya Sarukkai Chabria’s new poems are also part of the section.
Elsewhere in the issue, Jai Arjun Singh writes about caring and communicating with an ill mother he is exceptionally close to, Jerry Pinto ponders over familial bonds and what lies at the heart of the family. Sydney-based writer John Zubrzycki tells the wondrous story of Ramo Samee, the most famous Indian magician of the 19th century. Anita Roy visits the Lancelot Ribeiro retrospective in London and find how the painter found his distinct voice. Karan Kapoor talks about his inspiration, his parents, Shashi and Jennifer Kapoor. Mandakini Dubey reflects on the nature of family ties.