The End of Exile: Sunil Gangopadhyay

Take my hand, Jamuna, we’re going to heaven
Come, lock your mouth, your eyes, your body, with mine
Come as pure as a fresh leaf
Heaven isn’t very far, like the voices that waft in from
The North Sea when spring is in exile, like the warmth of winter
From the arm that owes a debt to another’s breasts. Take my hand, Jamuna, We’re going to heaven.

My time abroad ended today, such a sweet parting
Man has never known. Jamuna is my companion – a thousand handkerchiefs
Wave towards heaven, Jamuna, I ensure you’re a close neighbour to the constellations,
Are you actually not the legendary tears of the star
Named Swati?
Are you not the moonlit night in the fragrance of the lime leaf left behind?
Are you not a slender stick of incense? You’re no one
You’re forgetfulness, you’re made of sounds, the colour of woman, in your breasts and thighs
You are woman
In travel and in rest you are the thirst for love in every book
Woman to trusting eyes, in sweat and hair, in the dirt under cracked nails
In every molecule you are woman, woman within woman, beauty laughing in emptiness,
You are the heretic Manisha’s taunt, every young poet’s
Neera, touching your sweetness through error and sleep,
All the rants and angry greed become river currents
Because you kiss sinners, the sentries unlock heaven’s gates
Is this what you’re like? You’re no one
Except my Jamuna.
Take my hand, let us add the rhythm of dance to descriptions
Of embarrassed scenes from life, come, take my hand
I have suffered too much on this earth, in distrust
I am a murderer, I am a cheat in the underground city, a fugitive
In the forest, a debtor at the meatshop, I disrupt celebrations as
A spy in disguise!
But despite my doubts I have not forgotten the way to paradise, like my former homeland
You know nothing, neither love nor a low-hung heaven, which is just as well
You are the adolescent river, the currents of forgetfulness, the reward of evening…

Come, little girl, let’s play in the garden of heaven today

[ Original: Probasher Sheshe ]


What I Wanted, What I Won’t Get: Sunil Gangopadhyay

– What do you want from me?
– I didn’t ask for anything, did I?
– That’s true. Then why do you
Call out to me like a storm?
– I don’t know. Look, there’s the water
Like silver in the sunlight
Like your eyes
The distant boat
It’s you I see everywhere
– Tell me truly, poet, what do you want from me?
– I think you’re a goddess…
– I’m no goddess.
– But you don’t know who you are.
– Who am I?
– You are Saraswati, and since the word originally meant
Female, you are within reach
Sometimes I call you woman
– You make me laugh. You always say
Whatever comes to mind, don’t you?
– Largely. Whatever comes to mind…
Why does it come to mind?
– What do you want, tell me truly. Don’t change the subject.
– Blessings.
– Blessings? Mine, or the real goddess’s?
– You are she. Across the table
The pale red sari
Fingers touching the chin
Come to me
Bless me, put your hand on my head
Drive me mad with your blessings
Clutch my hair, draw blood
From my brow with your nails
– You’re mad enough. You want to be madder?
– Only when I see you. Or else I’m
– Then it’s best not to see me, isn’t it?
– If I had spent my life caring for what’s best
And what’s not
It would have been a lark’s life, a robin’s
Or a wild cat’s or Mahatma Gandhi’s
Or the life of a worm in rice stalks
– What about a human life?
– Do you think I’m human? I was, though
Before I saw you
– You look straight into my eyes
You gaze for a long time
You don’t even blink
What do you see ?
– The you within you, when you take off your clothes and ornaments
The you behind all of those
– Is that really me? Or your imagination?
– Look, little girl…
– You just called me a goddess
– Same thing. The vessel of imagination is the goddess –
You are that Neera
I need your blessings
– That’s not very difficult. I can give it at once.
– You have so much, give me a drop
– What do I have? I don’t know
– You are, you are, there’s no greater truth
– We met on the stairs
You didn’t say anything then.
My lonely days, my unseasonal ways
Are all mine – only the breeze from my childhood knows
– Will you give me a fraction of your sorrows? I
Shall be enriched
– I have no sorrows – even more than sadness
A noble raptness
Has gathered around me
It can’t be shared
What else do I have that I can give you?
– You are, you are, there’s no greater truth
You’re a goddess, I want to kneel
With your palm on my head, blessings
But it doesn’t end there
Not a poet, I turn into a male in a flash
My restless hands
Want to grasp with all ten fingers
Your waist like a lioness’s
Like a baby rubbing its face on your body
As though fidgeting to learn a secret
– Go away, male, come closer, poet
What can I give you?
– Nothing
– Hurt?
– Call it hurt
– This is nice! What if
I name the illness exile
Not seeing you, non-existence
And distance, hurt?
– How much distance, after all? You remember?
– How did you think I could forget?
– You sitting here, your fingertips touching your chin
Strands of hair on your forehead
Your feet hidden by the pattern on the edges
An imminent smile on the corners of your lips
Immortality lies in this scene
You have no idea, Neera
The image will remain even after my death
– Will time stay still? What do you want from me?
– Death?
– No, don’t say that
– Then affection? I’m such a beggar for affection
– Haven’t you got any?
– I can’t quite tell. When an elderly man wants your affection
He wants your body too
Can you press your cheeks to his to give him a sweet warmth?
– Madness once more?
– Show yourself
– I want to see you too
– No
– Why not?
– Don’t say that. Don’t say that ever again
It frightens me
This is one-sided
Who am I? Insignificant, ordinary, a nobody
But still I dare your beauty
– You’re a poet?
– Do you think I remember that? I keep forgetting
I turn obstinate, seeking favours
– What do you want from me?
– Nothing. If there’s a smote in my eyes
Will you remove it with your warm breath?

[ Original: Ja Cheyechhi Jaa Paabona ]


This winter: Sunil Gangopadhyay

I have promised, I must visit once
The other side of lost this winter
Where the heart of the water is in flames
Where the wind has etched tenderness on stone

Now in summer a thick veil of harshness
Emptiness reigns in fullness everywhere
Roads that took a dip in the river
Have shaken off the droplets in the sun

This winter, beyond the home and forest
Rinsing off the fatigue and the grime
Where the unknown makes its own loneliness
I have promised, I must visit once

[ Original: Ebarer Sheetey ]


Got The Blues: By Sunil Gangopadhyay

Got the blues
Got the blues
Got the blues
No one knows
It’s a secret
Not on my face
My eyes are open
Though they’re closed
No one’s noticed
Day after day
The days pass by
In hope, in hope
In hope in hope in hope in hope
And now my lips
Cannot taste
The tastes they love
Not even woman
Not even woman
Not even woman
Not even wine, not even words
Got the blues
Got the blues
Got the blues
At sundown
On my own
On the streets
On my own on the streets on the streets
Seeking nothing
Going nowhere
Wanting no one
Seeking nothing going nowhere
I’m a man too
All I have
Or all I had
All I have or all I had
In the flower
In the seed
In the worm
Like flames like flames like flames and flames
Got the blues
Got the blues
Got the blues
Still they pass
The days just pass
In hope in hope
In hope in hope in hope in hope

[Original poem: Mon Bhalo Nei]


Age: Sunil Gangopadhyay

So I’m growing older? I ask myself, laughing,
Several times in the bathroom before my shower
Even a pirouette or two in such severe solitude
Can do no harm –
Should I exercise to slim down, wear tight trousers?
Out of breath with laughter in the evening
I tell Nira,
Have you been told I’m growing older? It’s in the papers.
It’s true – my chest hair, sideburns, stubble, are all greying
Here, see for yourself
Everyone will say, what do you mean young, he’s old
This magic can’t be cracked – how a young man can age
But still people always grow old and die
I’ll die too
Having loved some more, written some more poems
Surely I’ll die too
Isn’t that right?
What is this place I’ve wandered into, so unfamiliar
My kingdom was huge, but beyond that the body’s
Infinite music gives me pangs even to lower my eyes
I enjoyed this journey, saw not a few sights, after all,
Even the darkness is sweet. Give me your hand, Nira,
I want its fragrance

Only near you, I think, Nira, has time stopped
Flowing, even now.