Seven Poems by Alokeranjan Dasgupta

Translated from Bengali by the Poet

The Darkness of the Seven Stars

It wasn't in Allahabad, nor in the Hindi sunset sinking over the Delhi Ring Road, but in Stuttgart that I met Raghuvir Sahay for the last time. On the way back from one day of a poetry conference, I happened to watch the screens of a television shop as astronauts, just back from a successful mission in the universe, declared how they had witnessed sixteen dawns every day out there in space.

The following day at the conference was devoted to translating from Bengali to Hindi and vice versa. As Raghuvir was an expert in both the languages, I asked him about the hidden meaning of a few words of Kailash Vajpayi's poems. As we walked along side by side, Raghuvir gave me a version orally. Then I told him:
         "Now you're up against Jibanananda's most difficult poem."

"So what? But it would be of the greatest importance to discuss it with the deceased author. You know of course that I have no truck with God, but I do believe in the Beyond. Moreover I've been going into astrology a bit recently. Just wait while I consult Jibanananda about The Darkness of the Seven Stars in the domain of the sixteen dawns."

Raghuvir had become fond of talking about death; the last piece he wrote was called `Marghat' - the place of incineration. And while I was swimming against the current in an Indian-Indian translators' euphoria, Raghuvir was placing one foot carefully in front of the other, poised for revelation. But as I turned towards him to share the desired rendering of a word - he was no longer there.

(--`saatTi tarar timir', Mundeshwari Pherighat Par Hate Giye; 1998)

Now Peace is Also War

I can't really make out if we're at war or at peace.

I imagine the deceased assembled at some solemn occasion,
merely sharing hand-picked novelties of grace and experience
with the sundown; yet as I sidle up really close to a sunbeam
I notice they are auctioning off the dusk.

It would be hard to say if it was autumn or winter, in a black
hole in the sky I suddenly see the tussle of the seasons,
so soft and yet so inconsequential - not as when the seasons
are engaged in an allegorical interplay and finally
one overcomes the other in accordance with the will of a biased
producer in an amphitheatre. No, they only want to reduce
perishable mankind into stillness. That is why they allow
some indeterminacy to remain in the cosmos - and that too has beauty.

However, if I'm unable to contain the limits of life
clearly within one definition, then it's a catastrophe!
at such a thought I split heaven and earth
on either side of me and watch as the cloud
approaches cautiously, wanting to stroke the haycock;
the hay too wants to say something, but since each word
would be an assault, it draws itself tighter together ?
can peace be maintained under such conditions?

Either the war never really ended, or else peace is over.

(--`ekhan shantio yuddha', Mundeshwari Pherighat Par Hate Giye; 1998)

In the Wonderful Absence of Power

While pondering in a forest the names of possible ministers
for the shadow cabinet
the day slipped past, and all of a sudden
a frail deodar tree tottered towards me.

Its roots are rather loose, and to tell the truth
it has hardly a single leaf left;
We both enveloped in the joy of lacking power
postpone setting up our government.

(--`kshamataar apurba prabhaabe', Astasurya Enke Dilo Tempera; 1997)

A Time for Writing

There is a certain kind of weather named
after Leonard Bernstein,
my favourite composer and conductor.
such a day starts cloudy;
pilgrims are stuck midway through a valley.
from a pen ooze candle drops of blood
burning on an ashtray.

Directly confronting the clouds
Leonard Bernstein conducts his orchestra
and as the musicians in unison create undulation of sound
the sun breaks out.
Pilgrims run in all directions
asking me:
now that this has happened
why have you still not taken up your pen?

(--`lekhaar samay', Patal Garage Theke GaRi Tule Suryer Safar; 2002)


Ages ago at the start of the first semester
just as I entered into the drawing class
Guru transported me to the south of France
declaring : "When he came here, Matisse
resolved that he would paint each morning
in this light. You too must likewise do
your painting in this place." Immediately
my ego trip took me too dark chasm.

When on the following day I ventured out
to the Cannes festival, my enraged Guru
broke out : "I forgave you yesterday;
today you are to visit Picasso's studio!"
Uttering these words he harshly dragged
me to the garden of sculptures by the master.
Those extraordinary congigurations
haunt me nostalgically even today.

This daily placing pictures by Chagall,
Cezanne,Van Gogh, at the centre of my vision,
marring my own perspective - Guru closed
his eyes. And now I stand beside his grave,
no paintbrush in my hand, no painting done.

Guru is watching me through his telescope.

(--`gharana', Patal Garage Theke GaRi Tule Suryer Safar; 2002)


Before his death, on return to Tripura, Satyen wrote forty-three infallible poems. These
I now carry about with me, hurrying from one potential publisher's door to the next.
But each of them seems to resemble a pitcher filled to the brim; none is ready to publish
an anthology of uneven number.

(--`tetaallish', Lekhar JaygaTay; 2003)

Watching with Ears

"There is no religion other than poetry; the poetry of today
will be tomorrow's religion." This I declared -- and then
drifted away. But to whom did I make this assertion?
This question of mine gave rise to an evening raga.

I have become aware that nothing can be stated
now with ultimate certainty. Whatever the thesis,
its effect will be thwarted; for in becoming confined
to some limited viewpoint, it can never amount to truth.

So now that vision and concept have split apart,
I see with my ears; proceeding and talking
have become intertwined; I listen unceasingly.
No category, none whatsoever, can fetter me now.

(--`chaxushrabaa', Not collected in a book yet)

Published May 28, 2004

Illustrated by Rajarshi Debnath. Rajarshi is a software engineer currently based in Stuttgart, Germany.

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* To learn more about the ITRANS script for Bengali, click here.