Life envisaged from different Angles

A few translated poems

originally by Ranajit Das
Translation by Ketaki Datta

Author Bio: Ranajit Das [born 1949] is an eminent Bengali poet, a recipient of numerous awards like Birendra Smriti Puraskar, Paschim Banga Bangla Academy Award and Rabindra Puraskar. He has ten volumes of poems, one novel and two books of literary essays. Amader Lajuk Kobita, Ishwarer Chokh, Asamapto Alingan, Sondhyar Pagol are a few noted books of poems by him. A Summer Nightmare and Other Poems is a book of his translated poems, published by Rupa and Co. in 2011. In 2012, he represented India in the Literary Festival in Croatia.

Ketaki Datta

Each love-affair comes with
a tag of expiry-date!
Before kissing her, go down on your knees,
Twist her body a bit, to read
the alphabets in Braille, with the arcane date,
Inscribed on the pore of each hair on her body,
Dot by dot, on the curve of her arched waist,
Running your eyeless fingers on them.

And again, as you stand up for another kiss,
Mark with keen eyes how the neon-sign
of that latent date
flickers like traffic lights,
In the eyes of your beloved!

Kiss now, like an enraged lunatic,
Fearing an inevitable break-up—
Anytime, just anytime!

Each kiss is a valedictory one!

Each love-affair sports an
Expiry-date on it;
Before planting a kiss, read it,
Feeling it with your blindman’s fingers!

[Expiry Date, a poem in the collection Asamapto Alingan, 2016]

The robots sit together,
The metro-compartment is dreadfully still!
Rows of lowered heads glued to their cell-phones,
With headphones stuck into their ears,
With the red-blue glow of the phone-screens
Toying on their faces,
Taking after Satan’s searchlight, as though
It’s the deadly beacon of the ‘Blue Whale’ game!

Robot or Alien? None raises his face to the world,
Robot or Alien?
No one lifts his face to the universe.
Who are they standing in front? Friends, women,
exhausted old blokes,
Tamarisk-clump or the waves of the ocean?
Submerged in the ‘virtual’, none pops his mien up
to the world!
Being nonchalant to the sun, the clouds, the grains or love,
staying utterly unconcerned,
Digital mesmerism keeps shaping up the Cyborg,
Human terrain gets effaced, turns obsolete.

In the subterranean train of the evening,
I sit scared, morose,
Array of faces lost in their mobile phones
are all quiet aliens in disguise.
I am alone in their midst, the near-extinct,
last man on earth,
Holding a book of starry verses in my hands,
In whose bosom life’s frothy sea stands concealed!

[Alien contained in Bishadsindhur Kichu Lekha, 2018]

Corona Virus

Just a message to deliver:
‘Beware of playing mischief with Nature
anymore, so mindlessly!
In the wrath of the forest lurks
the virus: Corona,
Mind you!’

Just a message to disseminate:
‘Refrain from having Chinese dinner
with fresh blood of the bats –
Never carve out shoes for the Americans
from the hide of a pangolin,
In the rage of the forest stays the pathogen,
Just a message to spread:
‘Have-nots of the world, recognise once more,
The hypocrite, the ferocious, the bourgeois
and the middle-class too,
who love to live by putting on masks and gloves,
watching the television, being regaled with songs,
driving the destitute, the hapless and the migrant labourers
to death on the thoroughfare itself!

Long back, Karl Marx had predicted it,
Bow down to his grave once again!’

Just a message to deliver:
‘Selfie-addict humans now lend your ears
to the Oracle of Delphi,
Man is in need of Nature,
But Nature doesn’t need Man.
You have ruined this planet
with sin and pollution,
If you still do not rectify yourself, abstaining from
limitless consumption and lechery,
Then I shall goad you on to absolute extinction
with the angry whiff of the virus,
harboured in the blood of the wild animals!
Do store it in your memory,
Mr. and Mrs. Homo Sapiens!’

[Corona Virus , contained in the collection Ashrur Debota, 2016]

India Tour of Sherlock Holmes

Numerous dung-cakes line up the wall, look!
Each dung-cake bears the deep imprint of a palm,
Can you see, dear Watson?
This is the only investigating link here,
in this land. Tell me, Watson,
These marvellous wall-’script of palm-marks,
nourished by sunlight and excreta,
Each fold of which encapsulates
woebegone Dravidian fingers
of emaciated women,
Could you detect in them any crime, soft-murder,
Sun-incineration with any yardstick,
descended from God,
One by one?

[ Sherlock Holmes er Bharat Bhraman contained in Samay, Sabuj Dayini, 1984]

Mad Woman
Quite often, the children on their way back home from school, close in on a mad woman on the road and pester her, saying, “Hey you, mad woman, would you like to have a banana? Hey you, insane lady, would you like to go to Dharmatolla?” The lunatic wench then rushes towards them to retaliate. Immediately, the kids feign to escape like a pack of wild dogs, though they still encircle the victim, altering their strategy. In such a frenzy of irritating the mad woman, the kids pelt her with stones and burst into peals of laughter. This spectacle, no doubt, is an irrefutable proof that human beings are invariably the children of Satan. While returning from office, I rebuke the children, “Hey kids, why are you after her? Do not irritate her, I warn you!” Startled, the children fix me with a stare, in which anger is writ large, as if I have snatched off the prey from their mouth. This moment seems to throw the hardest gauntlet to my personality! They are neither the band of party-cadres surrounding me in front of my house, demanding exorbitant puja-subscription, nor they are the highway hooligans of solitary thoroughfare, during midnight! But they are the dreariest of all, they are schoolboys hemming in an insane woman, I know. If my individuality betrays me a bit at this point, these fierce and violent kids will flock around me as their fresh victim, changing their gameplan. They will tug at my briefcase, hurl pebbles at me and shout in unison, “Hey you, insane, would you like to have a plantain? Hey you, madman, would you like to travel to Dharmatolla?” The stones hurled by them will hurt me, I may get infuriated to fly at them threateningly, they will pose an escape and laugh aloud, noisily, and being circumscribed by them all around, I shall keep losing my mind, slowly, gradually…
Would then the madwoman lift a stone in her hand to avenge in my support??

[Paagli from Dhanksheter Brishtir Kobita,2013]

Translator Bio: Ketaki Datta is an Associate Professor of English with W.B.E.S. She is a novelist, short story writer, poet, translator, editor and reviewer. She has two novels to her credit, “A Bird Alone” [2008] and “One Year for Mourning” [2014]. Her translated novels are three in number, “Shesh Namaskar: The Last Salute” [Sahitya Akademi, 2013],” Jarasandha’s Paadi : The Voyage” [Booksway, 2009],“Selected Short Stories of Rabindranath Tagore in Translation” [Avenel, 2015], “Kumarsambhab and Sakuntala” in “Pracin Sahitya” [Visva Bharati and CENTIL, J.U.,2017], “Nineteenth Century Women’s Writing and Writing for Women in Translation” [Bhawanipur Education Society College and CENTIL, J.U.,2015], , umpteen translated stories were published in “Indian Literature”[Sahitya Akademi],” Pratibha India, anthologies like “Three Stories by Tapan Bandyopadhyay”[2012] etc. “Oral Stories of the Totos” by her has been recently published by Sahitya Akademi[2021], “ Somewhere Beyond, Someplace Else: A Book of Travel Essays”[2021] originally by Shyamali Bhadra Pramanik’s “ Anya Kotha Anya Konkhaney”, Ananda Publishers, was by her too. “Literature in Translation” [Avenel Press, 2014] has been edited by her. Indian Literature [Sahitya Akademi] has published a translated story by her [Non-Citizen] in their Sept-Nov issue of 2021. Stalks of Lotus [Antonym] contains a translated story by her. “The Value of Woman” originally by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay [Narir Mullya] has been launched this year in the Kolkata Book Fair. Three of her translated stories are in press, two with Orient Black swan and one with Niyogi Books[ just published]. In April 2024, Black Eagle Books has published the translation of ‘Dhruvaputra’, a Sahitya-Award winning novel, originally written by Amar Mitra in Bengali.

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