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Date of Publish: 2015-12-13

Hiren Bhattacharjya (1932-2012)

Born in Jorhat,one of the most prominent Assamese poet. His poems are marked by a deep sense of humanism, patriotism, deal with love and are deep in exploration of emotion. His published anthologies of poetry include: Roudro Kamona (1968), Kobitar Rod (1976), Tomar Bahi, Xugondhi Pokhilaa (1981), Mor Desh aru Mor Premor Kobita (1972) , Bibhinno Dinor Kobita, Shoichor Pothar Manuh (1991), Mur Prio Bornomala (1995), Bhalpuwar Buka Mati' (1995), Bhalpuwar Dikcou Batere (2000)

 

Poetry of Hiren Bhattacharjya : a note

Arindam Borkataki

Dr Hiren Gohain noted that undiluted concentration and the truthfulness of personally-experienced emotions cannot be the permanent refuge in the life of a poet. (‘Aagkatha’, ‘Mor Desh, Mor Premor Kabita’, 1972) But the gradual thinning of these two traits in the poetry of modern times can be duly compensated by individual emotionalism, based on the edifice of profound trust and experience and which has a natural human significance. Contrary to what his contemporaries did and the path they trod, in Hiren Bhattacharjya’s poetry, we feel that (just like Coleridge’s use of the phrase ‘innocent nakedness’, said in the context of his praise of Wordsworth’s poems) irrespective of the themes, even the form of his verses had a distinctive identity of their own. When he wrote, ‘a poet I am and limited are my capabilities’, ‘never was I a poet’, ‘your words, take away the poem of the evening wrapped in a ’kerchief’—the unleashing of the pangs of the heart is owing to words not being potent enough to capture the broad space of life. But whenever there was the longing to transcend the barriers of ‘the broad space of life’ by going beyond the limited confines of ‘the tools of rhetoric’, there was the striking of the roots of a very powerful masculine force observed in his poetry.

Right from the start, it has been observed that his poems invariably center on the mind, a mind that is associated with the cultural landscape interwoven with the very fabric of Assamese life. Nature itself assumes the ambience of the place created by the cultural import of a language. At a certain point of time, those poems for which Hiren Bhattacharjya is widely-known seem pretty barren precisely because of the easily intelligible fiber of the explicit message and the motto that they contain. Regarded to be of the first order, in terms of appeal and merit, this kind of poems sends shockwaves through the minds of the readers. And for a very long time, these poems stay in the hearts of the readers—‘Bhogali’ or ‘Jonaki Mon’ are primarily collections of this kind. Visibly lyrical in nature, these poignant poems readily lend themselves as pristine material for the composition of songs. These poems, as a matter of fact, constitute the domain of acutely intimate and grand contemplation. Viewed from a critical perspective, the traits which are conspicuously absent in these poems, generally prominently visible in modern poems, are rebellion, ambiguity and negative critiquing. It is the tantalizingly beguiling worth of the poems of ‘Jonaki Mon’ that leave the readers smitten, albeit these poems do not contain even a speck of the issues that confront the common man in the wider realm of the activities of his daily life. But sadly, we have kept ourselves confined to Hiren Bhattacharyya’s ‘Bhogali’ and ‘Jonaki Mon’. This is exactly the hazard of the popularity of poems. Despite the intense brilliance of his poems that have truly enlightened us, filled our frail hearts with boundless joy, spurred our minds at every step with infinite doses of motivation, we have not been able to do justice to Hiren Bhattacharyya just because we were blissfully unaware of the futuristic potential of the corpus of his works.

The spontaneous response to those poems which at a certain point of time were at the tip of the tongue became somewhat tepid at a later stage. At the time of his death, nostalgically recalling Hiren Bhattacharyya, considered one among the pioneering Assamese modern poets, through the poems that epitomize his stature and identity and which provide us reason enough to love Assamese literature, I remembered every word and every sentence of those poems that lie in some corner of the heart and as if in a moment of epiphany, realized that each one of his creations were in fact, a tribute to an event in history, someone or to the some other entity! Those poems were not scribbled in some nondescript pages of my school books but were etched indelibly in the inner recesses of my psyche as some inbuilt personal treasure. Memory itself might not be something that merely enables us to reminisce or ruminate the past; on the contrary, it might be the device that unbolts the vistas to locate ourselves. Hiren Bhattacharjya’s modernism, always believed to be wrapped in romantic idealism, extended itself incredibly from the individual to various aspects of life in a society and that too, in the early days of the 1960s. A couple of poems of this kind are to be found in his collection entitled ‘Mor Desh, Mor Premor Kabita’ (1972)—‘Jantranaa’ (a tribute to Nazim Hikmatiar), ‘Sar Sandhaan’ (in the name of Independence and Peace), ‘Jyoti, Sei Jyoti’ (a tribute to Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla), ‘Pratiksha’ (at the time when Bishnu Rabha was ill), ‘Patakaa’ (for Vietnam), ‘Aai’ (centenary celebrations of Gorky’s birthday), ‘Shikari’ (elegy on the death of Hena Gangopadhyaya), ‘Pritibaad’ (in the memory of Sankar Dey Purkayastha) etc. A few poets wrote obituary tributes at the time of Hiren Bhattacharyya’s death wherein they candidly admitted the fact that they were always on their guard and conscious of not allowing themselves to be influenced by the poet. It is always not prudent to consciously tread the un-trodden path when the society does not subscribe to it and labels it to be an impudent act of a distracted fellow. Admittedly, the excessive romanticism found in Hiren Bhattacharjya’s poems, at one point of time in life linger just as memories of adolescence. Expressed through the sublime mode of poetry, the intimacy of Hiren Bhattacharjya’s lyricism, contrary to the modern consciousness of self-centricism, rests on the edifice of various aspects of the society because of which, it acts like an affirmation of the sustenance of our cultural heritage that would, beyond an iota of doubt, be treasured forever. The reason attributed for Hiren Bhattacharjya being drawn to the world of poetry from the society at large is the emergence of two categories of poets—one class of poets, with an astounding amount of talent at their disposal and rhetoric as their arsenal, keeps on playing with the mystifying, myriad figures of speech and an equally vast repertoire of words while the other class of poets take up contemporary issues that afflict the society they inhabit although they play with words too in an equal measure. The distinction between these two categories gets markedly reflected in the way they express their reactions. Whereas the individual skill and aptitude of the poets of the first category get easily noticed, the works of the poets belonging to the second category get perpetuated in time basically because they delineate a factual image of the problems and pressing issues of the society, which is analogous to holding a mirror against reality. Hiren Bhattacharyya belongs to the first category. Hiren Bhattacharyya persisted to consistently harbor the aspiration to give vent to his innermost feelings and emotions through his poems. Hiren Bhattacharyya had the inimitable trait of toying with the ball of the reader’s mind and dribbling ahead, and surprisingly that too in the 60s and his popularity is therefore, akin to that of the footballer who dribbles the ball and races towards the goalpost and that too, all alone. At this juncture, I recall what Prabhat Bora had said in the context of the just-concluded Euro-Cup finals—football in Europe is characterized by strengths in specific areas whereas football in Latin America is by and large, uniform, in terms of the strategies they adopt. But be it football or poetry, it is solely raw talent that would determine whether popularity wanes or gets sustained for long four decades at a stretch. It would be pertinent to add here that whether it is football or poetry, both are indices of mass culture.

Hiren Bhattacharjya’s poems offer us the chance to re-discover ourselves, in the sense of immersing in the pleasures of the past and plunging in the anticipated bliss of the future that we dream of. It is not his poems imbued profusely with romantic idealism that proffers the opportunity to re-discover ourselves but only those which are based on the afflictions of the society that are truly an enabling force for re-discovery. The source to the best of Hiren Bhattacharjya’s poems can be traced to the cultural fabric of the masses, which can be regarded to be undeniably the life-force of the bulk of his works. Although a poem itself is a live experience, it is the reader’s response to a good poem that stands as a witness of that work of art. The singular achievement of Hiren Bhattacharjya as a poet is the fact that reading a particular poem of his, at times, leads to the dawning of self-realization on the part of the reader.

(Translated by Dr. Jovial Kalita, Associate Professor, Department Of English, Digboi Womens College)

 

Hiren Bhattacharjya's Poems

 

1. Bounty (Bhogali)

You know well enough

This poet hasn’t anything

Save a single shirt

That too with frayed stitchings

Thus so must be love

That unveils to soothe the heart

2. Birthday (Janmadin)

Give me back my boyhood

For the night

I’ll once again drop off

On my mother’s laps:

Lai hale jale abeli batahe... (lullaby)

My reminiscences mount to a rumble

In the flow of the starving moments’

Fragrant blood

3. Favourite bloom (Priya Phool)

A travesty of truth it’d be

Were I to say among flowers

My favourite is the rose

Splendid is that flower

That blooms on the thorns of life:

My love my inbred vice !

4. Hand of grief (Karun Haat)

I asked about the path

To the temple of gods

She stretched out her hand

Soaked with tears

5. Autumnal landscape (Ahinor Landscape)

( i)

The savage fiesta of the covetous sky

Culminates to an end

A green deluge now rolls over

The tumultuous fields

(ii)

The soft kohua blooms shatter

The numbness of the dark sky

Poetry too has its season

The autumnal sky whispered in my ears

( iii)

What marvel

In the curves of sunlight

The engrossment of words

Breaks in emotion

6. A rose-plant (Ejopa golap)

A fire-fly comes

Flying across the darkness

For its slumber

Upon my bosom

Whenever I think of you

A star-flower blooms

Silently in the sky

Who’s planted a rose-plant

On my bosom?

Who’s touched the heart

Pouring upon the blood

A drop of perfume?

When I think of you all alone

Stars converse with each other

On petals of roses

Swarms of fire-flies glow

In the combs of my blood

Who’s planted a rose-plant

On my bosom?

7. Unviable translation (Asambhab Anubad)

On any pretext I may move away

Anywhere I wish to, on the enchanting night

Of your company

I’ll move away, on any pretext

Clearing the path of excellence

This presence of yours

In the halo of shadows

Propped by solitude

Defies translation

Through the web of moonlight

I’ll move away stealthily

8. Quest (Sar Sandhan)

Here itself I’d tied the virile steed

Of your youth !

As the winds of spring

The dust on its hooves

Kissed this vibrant sky of mine

And the skirting green grass

Then passed

The mid-March blazes and the tempests

Of Bohag

..... Sometimes, even now

I wake up in my dreams

In Africa or in Telengana, somewhere

The steed seems to be

In a defiant frenzied gallop

While your whip flashes

The impotence of the lonesome night

 

(Translated from the original Assamese to English by Krishna Dulal Barua)

 

9. These my words,

(For the young poet)

In these my words that have caressed

The orchards of my dream

Is the grace of a life style,

The intimate warmth of time.

 

I have no inventions of my own.

I am like a farmer,

I roll words on my tongue;

To see how each one tastes;

Hold them in my palms to see how warm.

 

I know words are the lusty offsprings of man’s noble creation;

A mere poet am I

In these words that I have relayed

From other shoulders

Is man’s cruel experience,

And the maulings of history

( Translated from Assamese into English by Pradip Acharya)

 

Note on the translator :

Krishna Dulal Barua, a teacher of English language and music, translates both fiction and non-fiction from Assamese to English. His published works include ‘Selected Poems of Nilmani Phookan’ and ‘The sword of Birgosri’ (novel) published by the Sahitya Akademi , ‘Select poems of Lakshminath Bezbaroa’ published by the National Book Trust of India etc.

Pradip Acharya is a renowned translator in Assamese and English, literary critic and author. He taught English in Cotton College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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