It was while i was walking along the hill garden on the outskirt of Mysuru (Mysore) that i heard insistent sharp calls as this busy little bird went about with its business of catching insects in the foliages, i was able to get quite close just when the bird spotted me “Oho a homo sapien” and flew away still chirping and landed on the nearest tree and went about with what it was doing as if nothing has happened. Geez that surely makes me feel important!! Oriental White-eye is a small bright yellow colored bird with some greyish white, purely arboreal these birds are easily identified by the white ring around the eyes. I also found these two birds hiding in a bush!
Jibanananda Das: You can all go where you wish; I by Bengal’s expanse/Will stay
I shall return to this Bengal, to the Dhansiri’s bank
Perhaps not as a man, but myna or fishing kite;
Or dawn crow, floating on the mist’s bosom to alight
In the shade of jackfruit tree, in this autumn harvest land.
Or maybe a duck-a young girl’s-bells on my red feet,
Drifting on the kalmi scented water all day
For love of Bengal’s rivers, fields, crops, I’ll come this way
To this sad green shore of Bengal, drenched by the Jalangi’s waves
Perhaps you’ll see a glass fly ride the evening breeze,
On her a barn owl call from the silk cotton tree;
A little child toss rice grains on the courtyard grass,
Or a boy on the Rupsa’s turgid stream steer a dinghy
With torn white soil –white egrets swimming through red clouds
To their home in the dark. You will find me among their crowd.
What a song that one, i can almost hear it in Bengali, it lingers and lingers... it was only the other day that i was going through my trunk that came across Jibanananda’s collection, i am not able to place where i bought the book from, but must say going through Jibanananda is like going on a spiritual journey to beautiful countryside, you can feel the clayey sand on the feet. Whenever i am in Kolkata (Calcutta) and happen to see tram cars i am reminded of Jibanananda-he died after being hit by a tram on the night of 22nd October 1954. It was tragic end to a great poet considered next only to Tagore. Jibanananda (1899-1954) was a quiet withdrawn man, intensely introspective he was an opposite to his contemporary Nazrul Islam. He maintained a distance from gatherings and political movements, avoiding any ideological debates that filled up Bengal. His nuanced Bengali becomes quite difficult to translate, as the translator mentions “the principles of translation had to be defined afresh to suit the nature of Jibanananda poetry”. The serene natural beauty of his village (Barisal, now in Bangladesh) had deep influence on his life and literature; nature remained a significant force in his poetic subconscious throughout his life.
We who have seen the wild duck, escaping the hunter’s shot
Take wing into the horizon’s mild blue moonlit glow,
We who have rested our hands in love on the paddy sheaf
And come home like evening crows, expectantly; have found
Children’s breath scent, grass, sun, kingfishers, stars, sky-
Traces of these, again and again, the whole year round;
We have seen the green leaf yellowing in the autumn dark;
Light and bulbuls play in the windows of hijal branches;
The mouse on winter nights coat its silk fur with bits of grain;
Morning and evening, to the eyes of lonely fish, the ripples
Fall fair in smoky rice smell; at the pond’s edge the duck at dusk
Smells sleep and is borne away by a soft female hand.
Clouds like minarets call golden kites to their windows;
Under the cane creepers, the sparrows’ eggs are hard;
The river coats the bank with the soft water’s smell;
In the dense night the roof thatch shadow falls on the moonlit yard
Smell of crickets in the air-green air of summer fields,
In deep desire thick juice descends to the blue annona’s core.
Writes Prof. Sisir Kumar Das “Jibanananda rejected the mode of public poetry and political poetry, but the trauma and anxiety of political situation contributed to the growth of his poetic personality. He wrote with strong sense of individuality but did not fail to locate the individual in the larger space of history. His engagements with existential problems are not confined to any narrow subjectivity but involve a cosmic view of life”
From field to field- all afternoon over Asia’s sky
Vultures graze. Men see markets, camps, slums; the silent plain
Are for vultures- where the field’s firm silence stands by the sky
Like another sky- there vultures now descend in rows
From the hard clouds, like smoky weary sky-propping elephants fallen
From distant lights- fallen to earth on Asia’s fields and plains,
For just a few moments, these outcast birds; then they mount again,
Great dark wings on the palm trees-on mountain peaks
Now, gazing at earth’s beauty- how from the Arabian sea
Ships flock to the dark port; or to tender Malabar now
They fly- around a tower’s sad cornice, many vultures
Seems as though passed beyond some death, earth’s bird forgotten;
As if some river of death or some sad lagoon of life’s partings
Break out weeping; they see those Huns merged in deep blue.
When once i have gone out of this body
Shall i not come back to this earth?
May i come back again
On some winter night
With the pitiful flesh of an iced orange
To the bedside of some dying man i know.
Moonlight in the sky-
On the forest trail the body scent of the leopard
My heart is like a deer
Which way am I going in the silence of this night?
The shadow of silvery leaves upon my body;
No more deer anywhere.
As far as I go, I see the moon, bent like a sickle,
Cutting the last golden deer grain;
Then sinking slowly
Into the darkness of the sleep in the eyes of hundreds of does.
A strange darkness
A strange darkness has come to the earth today
Those who are blind see most with their eyes;
Those whose hearts are stirred by no love, fondness, compassion-
The world cannot move without their advice
Those who still harbour a deep faith in man,
Those for whom it is still natural to avow
Some noble truth or percept, art or ceaseless striving-
Jackals and vultures feed on their hearts now.
Where have they gone
Where they have gone today,
All those birds and all those horses,
Those women in white houses?
Those birds aloft in the colours of the golden sunlight
In the scent of babla flowers, and those horses,
They have all departed from our earth
Say where, my heart – where have they gone today!
Darkness: silent, like the lifeless pear
From my scribble pad...
You may think
that i snuggle with the stricken
and their insecurities.
It is in the profligate, their vacant indulgences,
missing conscience coordinates,
in their leisurely remorse and certainties
that I thrive.