Bangla poetry will have a prominent place at the Dhaka Lit Fest 2016. Here we feature four poets who, among many others, will be seen in many Bangla panels. For the full list of speakers and programme schedule, visit www.dhakalitfest.com
Those who sang with their fingers on the flute
those who wrote poems at midnight — those farmers,
those factory workers who were the real makers of steel,
who made biscuits and shirts for me and sari for Nilima;
they all are different people now; their homes are
the bastion of revolution now!
Those who sang with their fingers on the flute
those who learnt from the school, or from the world,
or from this civilisation, or from nature,
those students and teachers and workers —
they have come together and are all very different now.
They don’t sing songs anymore,
they’ve all become different people now.
Those who thrust wooden ploughs into the heart of the soil,
those artists, those labourers
who sang with their fingers on the flute,
who dreamt in their sleep;
leaving the village by the Dhaleswari river
they are all rushing towards the city now!
They threw their ploughs away and have taken up
in their foreheads flash the red ribbons.
In the exultation of triumphing over the city,
they call Rabindranath independence;
they call his songs sten guns.
Those who sang with their fingers on the flute,
those who wrote poems at midnight —
they all are farmers now — seasoned farmers of revolution.
For you, the barrel of a gun has become a flute in my hand too!
(Translated by Rifat Munim)
[He is a leading poet in Bangla literature. He stole the limelight as soon as his first volume of poetry, Premangshur Rokto Chai, was out in 1970. He has since published at least 35 poetry collections including Na Premik Na Biplobi, Tar Age Chai Somajtontro, Banglar Mati Banglar Jol and Chasabhusar Kabyo. The theme of a revolution by underprivileged groups cuts across his voluminous body of work]
The flute I would leave behind for my daughter
I wonder, what can I leave behind for my daughter!
I am in my late fifties.
I do not have the ability to buy a flute
that I would offer her when I would leave this world.
My mother had wonderful bright fingers
that danced upon the keys of piano-
She glowed like a tiger seen in the forest
on a moonlit night.
She held up the glorious arrogance of
the mount kanchanjangha
As she stood upright.
But keeping aside all those
She gave me a shawl–
An ancient worn-out shawl
Which she inherited from her father- in -law.
I wrapped up my entire world with this wrapper
in winter and in wet days,
In the days of happiness or days full of dismay.
The houses these days are cloudy and filled with clouds.
The cold winter wind always trespasses into the house
With endless effort I somehow manage to protect myself
with that worn out shawl.
As a star-studded sky
The old shawl is gradually getting filled up
with numerous holes.
I have not inherited my mother’s instinctive skill of mending;
Cotton derived from lamb’s wool
That could have kept the shawl warm
is unknown these days in the market.
I can only faintly remember a flicker of fire
That I found glowing inside my mother.
Nowadays the houses are too much cloudy
Our days are ridden by bone-chilling cold.
How can I assure myself that
My daughter would be provided with adequate warmth
by that old worn out shawl ?
Or should I ask my mother for that indomitable holy fire
That I found burning within her !
(Translated by the poet)
[Ruby Rahman, born in 1946 in Dhaka, received her BA and MA degrees in Bangla, English and Psychology from Dhaka University, and for many years taught English at a college in Dhaka. She has several books of poetry to her credit and is one of the few luminaries in the feminist literary tradition of Bangla literature]
Rights of the tiger
The first man I met at the zoo was actually a human being
he was feeding peanuts to the monkeys,
the loitering kids were picking up the bits and pieces
trampled on the ground.
Pointing with his fingers he showed me the tiger cage.
Disappointing everyone, the tiger slumbered on,
A large chunk of meat dozed in front of him,
The children were unhappy and did their best
to mimic a tiger’s roar.
The adults hadn’t expected such manners from the big
I had some urgent business with the tiger.
But I was tense that it would be in a foul mood,
and also because I hadn’t learnt tiger talk very well.
Never expected the tiger to be asleep at all.
One day as I was going over my questions
written on a piece of paper one last time,
which I wanted to ask the animal,
I was aroused by the happy shouts of women and children —
the tiger was finally displaying its blood red tongue.
I was impressed with it all. But the problem was getting close
enough to the tiger to ask anything.
But then amazing me, the tiger itself sauntered close
and calling me up asked,
“Well, you could have gone to the Sundarbans you know or
spent some money and visited some tiger sanctuary away somewhere else
to meet a tiger — but ah, well anyway,
what’s your point?”
I humbly said, “Sir, your tiger rights are being violated all
around. We have been fighting to establish human rights.
If you permit, we can try the same for all the tigers of Asia,
Africa and Latin America.
Hearing this the tiger howled with laughter just like
a scary villain of the tinsel world.
“Didn’t you once write a poem to heal all the unwell green of
this earth? “
I had to agree, nodding my head sheepishly.
“Please leave tiger rights alone for some time
and try curing yourselves for a change.
Man and earth are seriously ill, in case you noticed.”
He seemed really disturbed at it all,
and that’s how I got rid of worries about tiger rights.
(Translated by Afsan Chowdhury)
[Asad Chowdhury is a poet, writer, translator, radio and TV personality and journalist. He is a former director at the Bangla Academy, Dhaka, and has worked as an editor at the Bangla service of Deutsche Welle. He was a contributor and broadcaster at Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra in Kolkata]
Mohammad Nurul Huda
Everywhere you see heads:
dark heads, golden heads, heads with
You see only heads,
progenitors of scenes,
world of ideas.
On the top you see hair or grass or a roof
inside you find brain as you find fire
or watery expanse
in the womb of the earth.
Heads of various kinds;
round heads, square heads,
all with steadfast goals.
In the field they remain steady,
they grow restless when they march
Classic heads move on river banks,
on the wide green fields,
on the white sands of the Sahara,
or in Greece or Ithaca
or the equatorial zone.
In the sun the helmets glitter.
This ancient earth,
the favoured child of the universe,
turns on its axis in history or geography,
and these heads turn on two feet,
nude all over.
They run from one sunny spot to another,
seek a cool shaded path in the dark.
Disappointed, the entire scene throbs
as they loudly shout.
In the forest the lion roars
while in the universe of the housewives
roar the carriers of sun-scathed heads.
(Translated by Kabir Chowdhury)
[Known as Jatisattar Kobi (poet of national identity), Mohammad Nurul Huda is a poet, novelist, critic, translator, folklorist with more than 100 books to his credit. He writes both in Bengali and English. He won the Bangla Academy Award in 1988 and the Ekushey Padak in 2015. His poetry collections include Shovajatra Dravidar Proti, Amra Tamate Jaati and Shukla Shakuntala]