Do You See?

June of Rhododendrons and Vali Gujarati

As 2012 Charles Wallace fellow in creative writing at University of Stirling, it has been my pleasure to have spent my time well in Scotland. And I thank you all.

Sounds rather formal, innit!

I guess every going away will have to sound like this — graceful and sombre.

No, no, I’m NOT going away tomorrow but of course, June will see me go. I’m not paid to stay beyond, although I have a six-month long visa in the UK.

I’ll go away from many things. One of them, the rhododendrons. You remember my last post with a photo of that flower bunch on my head? Yes, that has been the trigger for a detailed discussion on poetry and flowers elsewhere.

In this respect, my poetry cohort and editor-translator Arjun Choudhury is a genie to soothe my pains. He did this translation of a Bengali poem by Tagore, featured in the great bard’s well known novella “Shesher Kobita” (The Last Poem) and later in the collection “Mohua“. Excellent translation.

In Arjun’s own words: “A few notes, however. I have retained ‘dik’ as opposed to ‘directions’. ‘Digawngawnā’ could be translated as ‘nymph of the directions’, but that would be too literal, I thought. I have retained the rhythmic structure, and the end rhyme, if you’d notice, to the best of my ability. Hope Tagore does not mind my taking this wide sweep of liberties with the poem,” adding, “The translation is by me, of course. I can defend that with a sword, if need be. A reed pen turned sword, that is.”

I’m impressed. Arjun holds his poetry sword in a solid grip.

Read on:


In tieless knots the road us holds
as we two walk the breeze’s folds.
A blink so red! The tinged dust
with colours so our hearts do crust,
the swaying dik-nymphs waft their veils 
along the monsoon cloud that sails
the sky when lo! a flash of light
dazzles the mind to sheer delight! 
For us are not the Campā orchards,
those Bokul clumps neath tree guards.
Oft it is when some fragrant odour
seeps in from some unknown flower,
in the morning, ruling the dawn,
those rampant boughs so they crown
clustered there those Rhododendrons. 

Ours is not the hidden hoard 
of gem and gold.
Ours is not the concerned love 
of the household.
The wild bird primps by the wayside,
but we cage it not in bonds too wide,
we revel, we two, in the loosed sweep
of freedom-loving wings so deep.
We delight; we do, in the sudden ray
of that which is not the common way. 


If you at all read Bengali, here’s the original:


পথ বেঁধে দিল বন্ধনহীন গ্রন্থি,
আমরা দুজন চলতি হাওয়ার পন্থী।
রঙিন নিমেষ ধুলার দুলাল
পরানে ছড়ায় আবীর গুলাল,
ওড়না ওড়ায় বর্ষার মেঘে
দিগঙ্গনার নৃত্য,
হঠাৎ-আলোর ঝল্কানি লেগে
ঝলমল করে চিত্ত।
নাই আমাদের কনকচাঁপার কুঞ্জ,
বনবীথিকায় কীর্ণ বকুলপুঞ্জ।
হঠাৎ কখন্ সন্ধ্যাবেলায়
নামহারা ফুল গন্ধ এলায়,
প্রভাতবেলায় হেলাভরে করে
অরুণকিরণে তুচ্ছ
উদ্ধত যত শাখার শিখরে
রডোডেন্ড্রন্ গুচ্ছ।
নাই আমাদের সঞ্চিত ধনরত্ন,
নাই রে ঘরের লালনললিত যত্ন।
পথপাশে পাখি পুচ্ছ নাচায়,
বন্ধন তারে করি না খাঁচায়,
ডানা-মেলে-দেওয়া মুক্তিপ্রিয়ের
কূজনে দুজনে তৃপ্ত।
আমরা চকিত অভাবনীয়ের
ক্বচিৎ কিরণে দীপ্ত।


And Arjun insisted that this translation is a gift for me! Awww.


Rhododendrons on Stirling campus.



One of my VERY favorite contemporary writers is Tabish Khair. Amazingly simple, humble, friendly man. How do I know? I met him this January in Delhi where he was a guest faculty in postcolonial literature at my alma mater JNU (from where I have a Masters in Linguistics). Tabish is also a columnist and academic teaching in Aarhus, Denmark.

Since my wayward interests are many, and one of them lately is 17th or 18th century literature-Surat-Gujarat-travels — something in this vein — I picked this from Tabish’s recent post on PN Review. I’ll quote a little from it:


‘We have broken a mosque and made a temple,’ Mahesh Patel, a Hindutva supporter, said to a reporter in the summer of 2002. He added, ‘We used hammers. Muslims should not live in India. They should go to Pakistan.’

But the building that was torn down by Hindutva fanatics on 1 March 2002, one of many demolished during the BJP government-supported anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, had not been a mosque. It was the tomb of a seventeenth-century poet, sometimes called the Chaucer of Urdu poetry. Vali Mohammed Vali, also known as Vali Gujarati, had died in Ahmedabad in 1707 and the tomb had been built for him by the residents of the city. It must have been a tribute to his popular poetry as well as recognition of his love for the region of Gujarat and Ahmedabad, which he once celebrated in these lines:

It shines among cities, who would not make 
A world to house it simply for its sake? 

It’s known by the name of Surat; its sight 
From human hearts all animus does rake. 

Numberless creeds and countless are the faiths 
Of its inhabitants: Adam’s mistake 

Has bred so many colours of skin here, 
Beauty pervades its people like a lake. 

Such beauty that the court of Lord Indra 
Would trail behind, abashed in its wake. 


The poem has been translated/transcreated by Tabish himself.


Tabish Khair: From Internet



Why is the sky again back to grey?


2 comments on “June of Rhododendrons and Vali Gujarati

  1. Mihir Vatsa
    June 10, 2012

    Nice post. We were talking about your newly acquired talent of blogging today in the Indiblogger conference in Delhi, with Abha and Kriti. We are all very impressed. A+


  2. Do You See
    June 10, 2012

    What, talk about me?? Was it Abha Iyengar? I don’t know Kriti. So you were at the Indiblogger conf too, MV? Tikuli is another friend who went there. But gosh, why would guys talk about ,my blogging…it’s just random posts, like musings! Most of it unstructured and obscure as well. A+? Haha. Kid, you are smart.
    It’s not “newly acquired”. I’d stopped blogging because of plagiarism issues and general apathy. Even now I don’t post new poetry, just others’ poetry and prose…
    Tell me more about the meet. And the “impressed” part 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: