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Date of Publish: 2017-01-21

A few poems of Abani Chakravarty



Here I go to bring light …
the boy goes out as the dusk looms
Will he return soon…
in the dark shack of her house
the old mother looks out eying the road
streaks of hope’s light flashing on her pale face


The son’s not yet back home
Old mother helps herself up
she lumbers down from door
to door
if one knows where he is!
if anything is known of him!
The old dame’s dispirited body
livens up and her fading eyes
spring to sudden luster…
when she hears:
not her son alone,
even Ratul, Putul, Jaduram and
Bapuram  went down the same road,
all gone in search of light.

Someone says: her dear child
while searching for light
himself became the light
in the dark road!
Down the old mother’s eyes
as if a new vault of sky
looms, floating


In the calming morning sun
the old mother plucks
leafy greens out
into the basket.

On the doorway
the boys sing songs
of homecoming


Transcreation from Assamese by Upal Deb










Behind the well-heeled glass walls
We live like fishes
Our lives are full of playfulness, merriment
We need to step outside
When the gust of wind blows, only dry leaves fall

Well, this is right
There is no difference between summer and winter
Lost in our music, probably no one will, open the lid
And take us away
After seeing our true colours

Transcreations from Assamese by Parnab Mukherjee

All for poetry


Why did I come here?
To make you listen to a poem
Listen to your applause
Wiping the sweat
Lighting up a cigarette offered by you

I am always restless
for the sake of a poem
from my birth
from all my births

I saw a dream
Of my nightmares
Every night and every day

My son asks
Some other people ask
What do crows, vultures and jackals eat
How does the impure vulture clean the beak
What does a man consume to survive
What does the chatak bird eat to live?

I move away from the onrushing speeding vehicle
And move to the edge
I leave the road for the rampaging elephant
I do not board the wobbly boat that is being steered by the boatman
I do not want to float
I am fine, screaming from the fringe,
And then I find that the mud slipping away from the edges
Is this accident?

A real accident?














The gaze of the dhol player sees virtually nothing


I am watching, yes, I am watching
My eyes are watered-burning
Drona has come and given me diksha

The humble Abhimanyu
Meanwhile, Ekalvya discards the diksha mantra
Where do I hear the shrill sound
How much more will you write?
Black flowers tremble as the madol is sounded
The ornate hanging resonates with the sound of archer’s bow
The eyes of the dhol player sees nothingness

transcreations from Assamse by Parnab Mukherjee











That screaming chant of an unreal peace

You have taken the body of the poem on your shoulders
And open the third eye

Unripe moon
On the sand, on the sand
Tearing away the heart

Peace is for us
Democracy is for us
The fatwa has been issued

There is a weapon in our hands
But please change your hearts
That is my humble submission

Lactating nights
Sound of the bayonet
The bird Fehu….calls out

In the plea of saving democracy
I have signed on the road where people walk
The leaders are inside the vault
And the intellectual is busy hiding inside closed doors

Here there is a chit of shredded paper
Hands on the trigger
Breaking the concrete wall, the soft fire gathers in the heart



Soft grass
Calls out
The sand becomes the graveyard

I need a pigeon for peace
I need skies-filled with stars
Democracy-for us
Aha ! for us
That collective call for unreal peace

Transcreations from Assamese by Parnab Mukherjee












After looking at Srinivas Ramanujan and my childhood photograph

(in the memory of Suvratananda Duara)

From where does zero begin
Even zero is a complete number

In the card of life
The slave of currency dies if he does not have the right king

Mistakes of a digital computer
Is reworked upon by analog hands


I keep looking at Ramanujan standing on the steps of the temple
With fire in his hands
And writing the latest news on the Divine


( transcreations from Assamese by Parnab Mukherjee)







On hearing Israt Afreen

Your shivering lips caressed the light
As if to stamp out the darkness
You burnt yourself as you turn the available light
Into a lamp in our hands

( transcreations from Assamese by Parnab Mukherjee)















- Nalinidhar Bhattacharya 

I am unable to recall when exactly I met Abani Chakravarty, with age probably the memorylane is also getting hazier by the day. Yet I met him many a time, drank the ambroised  sweetness from the flute that played in the pangs of his heart ; a son of soil, he listened to the Ramayana of sorrows, he sought the emancipation of his ill-fated people. True it is that he dreamt,  but nightmares also increased his pain. But his conscious mind was utterly optimistic. He was not a man to dance to shadows, only by understanding himself  with sheer intelligence and sagacious feelings  he picked up worlds to express the purport of reality. He had the power to turn experiences into the architecture of churned words.  The purpose to build a prosperous and lustrous essence of life gave his poetry a very different aura. Not slogan poetry  as such ,  his poetry was a diverse spectrum  of irony and love, luminous with the  reflection of people’s  expression. The source of his poems  is those people  who have been exploited and distressed throughout the ages . He expressed  himself only after his soul  had become one with that of the people. These  people are devoid of  a voice, the poet in Abani heard their cries,  understood their feelings . He realized that  like those people he was also captivated in  prison. He was captivated like a fish, unable  to move in the water, unable to breathe, nevertheless  his vision was powerful. The lifeless  aquarium  that he was confined in,  his vision had pierced  its walls through and through. Bizarreness  turned him eccentric,  anguished  and  restless. “He was sensitive; probably not being able to restrain  his afflicted mind he disappeared and never came back. He left for us only  inspiration-inspriration to create-through which probably we also, as he thought , can be long-lived with the lifetime of unborn poets. He was a visionary. Abani was not a noble poet, but he worshipped-to establish the majestic edifice of poetry in a wider background like no other.

Abani was a studious  poet. Keeping his progressive purpose at the forefront he studied the poetry of Russia, China, South Africa and other countries. Not only had he studied , he also translated  them. It shows how earnestly he wanted to build a strong identity  in  the international level by virtue  of the similar progressive  outlook  so it becomes easier for the poets of Assam to relate. The practice  of translation gave the expression  of his poems a different grandeur altogether. Poems from his early days were pellucid and easy:

“Who brings about harsh

famine to my opulent land                                                                                                                         My bosom boils                                                                                       

like a staggering sun                                                                       

Let the repellent past burn to ashes                                              

Let the sleeping Vesuvius awake.”


However, the expression of the following stanzas appear to be beautifully curvilinear:

“When we grow eyes we see                                                     

the hills ahead of us,                                                                                                            

the mountains behind us                                                                                                           

the gorges beneath us,                                                                 

cloud, shadow,sunshine, day night                                                

dusk, evening, morning.”

(Concentration Camp)


“Water from the eyes of a desirous                                      

Boatman is drained out

Sand heaps forming by the ghats

Crocodiles lay eggs

A musth elephant gallops by

A langching hangs from his neck.”

(Mojiya Bhokebhokay)


“ Sure then to occur the Aranyakanda                                                    

My pen knows no explanation                                                                                                  

Of the Lankakanda.

It seems the eucalyptus at both sides                                                     

Have sucked the flesh and                                                                                                           

Blood out of the soil

And vomits out Carbon Monoxide                                                    

I will hide no more.”



“Oh burning odour

Kindly remove the prayer

-from darkness guide me to light”

(Okkhyomotar Baabe)

These stanzas are worthy, genuine, meaningful expression of hope and despair from his anguished heart. The expression “grow eyes” in the first stanza is significant. If we see it objectively through dynamic eyes we will see that the path to progress has become utterly thorny and obstructed. The poet has been able to express his realization through some easy symbols.In the second stanza, the poet in the eyes of the boatman that goes upstream sees the water that dries in his eyes. Sand heaps, the eggs of crocodile, the footsteps of the musth elephant( One can rightly remember the mad elephants from Ahom history)- through images of this sort he has significantly resonated the circumstances of his present times. In the third stanza, seeing the dreaming man of soil lean, the poet thinks of Aranyakanda.The image of eucalyptus is symbolic of the exploitation all around- everywhere what appears is only the toxic air of Carbon Monoxide.. At this moment, there is no question of concealing oneself- therefore he says “ I will hide no more”. The poet’s pen knows that it is ignorant of love, the violence of Lanka( Lankakanda). Walking through the toxic air he somewhat feels despair. He senses the burnt smell. Perturbed as he seems he concludes that the overwhelming prayer “ From darkness guide me to light” is of no use for it is the “unusual dark”. Nonetheless, the poet also turns to be optimistic. Hence he says:

“Courtyard will be swept                                                                                                          

At the very break of the dawn     

The dancing girl will see                                                                                                                     

By the morning a siphung will blow                                                                                          

Tee hee tee tee laa laa                                                             

And the Lakhimi Pathar will beam a smile.”

This alludes to the universal life, where love is at its core. The poet has it that primarily for the wrong desire love is disappearing from earth. The English poet Auden said, “I thought love would last forever,I was wrong” What our poet has said addressing the stinking wind we only find a very ironic allusion. He, therefore, is optimistic. Although the poet in Abani says, “Desire breaks asunder/a body of love”, in a holistic view hope is his favourite feeling. He had the prospect- that one day flowers will indeed bloom, moonbeams will delight yards to yards, the stinking air will be put an end. The path of confident ascend was also the path of Abani.

Probably about one month before going traceless Abani came to me. Having met him was an absolute delight to me. Too many plans, too much imagination hovered in his mind. He said he wanted to start an award in the name of his father Rajanikanta Chakraborty. He talked about some trust and other things. I asked him about how he would manage fund. Abani assured that he had been thinking about it and that it would be managed in some time. He talked about other things too, I cannot remember all of it. Some of the tasks might have started, but I doubt if any of them he been completed. Whatsoever, the sacred desire of a vigorous artist that Abani had, can't it be fulfilled now? I sincerely hope, the well wishers will think it over. "The power of thousands working together can push a mountain away." We ceratainly understand the essence of such sayings. If all extend their shoulders, this work will be a really good one. Abani coming up with such schemes shows how passionately he thought for the new generation poets. How I wish he hadn't gone traceless so poignantly! The youths were his friends, he wanted they be "injured". He says in "Kiba Kotha":

"If he is not hurt
I cant show him the cut in my bosom and say
"Please cry, feel my pain".

It means that his friends should also be his co-passengers, they must understand people's sorrow, their hearts must deeply feel the pain and affliction. With such friends his journey would be smooth. The poet says:


"Two moments of sadness, peace of reclining
Thus we pull these to make us go ahead."


The "we" is interesting here, the poet never goes alone, he will always have his comrades who realise the truth of his life. Should we not fulfil the wish of such a poet whose heart forever showed empathy for people?  Not going with the waves but realising the anguish of existence, restraining the mind as well as making it most dynamic whoever wants to walk through resistance becomes a friend and comrade of the poet. The poet loves with all his heart. In all the works of Abani, this adoration for friends can be seen. Be it poetry, cinema or painting he attempted to compose a tune of emancipation everywhere - keeping only that in mind, he became a magazine editor, he fought to keep the memories of Amulya alive. Amulya could be/had already been an inspiration for the youths. Abani therefore came with the memories of Amulya. The reason of his association with Cine Art Society, Lalit Kala Sangram Samiti etc. is his hearty awareness in contemporary times about the resistant role of culture. True that there was a holistic vision in his cultural promptness, he also had a desire to save the soul of individuals from the mire of vices of the present. Poetry for him was a lifeline - it can usher newer notions of individualism. An individual must not be an exploiter, he must be a human. He cannot keep calm after he witnesses any injustice. Abani gave an arch look pointing at the hollow nature of the bourgeois:

"Not martyred
Neither been amidst firings
Never brought to
the streets any crowd
Nor have I protested for anything."

In Assam people were never so detached and indifferent. The notion of an individual has certainly changed. He now does not question himself:

"Were we not born
in this blood-stained soil?"

The soul now is vicious by individuals without heartburn "because we interact with handkerchief/draping knives into our pockets".In his poems the mutual contempt for each other appears as "knife". Abani's insight about the individuals of today is more than worthwhile. Being born in a blood-stained land, if anyone chooses to keep silent is equivalent of killing the soul. In nations like ours, people after death or losing capacity while being alive are forgotten by their own people. We have taken to forget our dead scholars. Abani faced a similar situation in case of poet Raam Gogoi. He said, "I'm unable to write"' It is painful to the core. It now seems clear that Abani suffered mental restlessness. Who knows that probably might be the reason the humanist poet went missing. We can not assure if he will ever return, but we can definitely do our bits as signs of gratitude to keep him alive. With self-critique we must learn how to restrain and expand our minds. Otherwise we will gradually walk the way which will end at a point where the future of culture and literature will die. Literature essentially is the critique of life. Composing poetry is meaningless unless it sheds light on contemporary times.Abani showed us that way- with his mind, his life and with his pen! In our societies "Aranyakanda" had occurred. We now must learn to think deeply and passionately.

I have come to know from Aditi that Ritwik Chakrabarty and Bhupen Chakrabarty had jointly published a book of Abani's selected poems. These intense expressions of Abani's mind would inspire the new generation - inspire to create. Words have power. What our saint scholars had said as "baak" means word. Rigveda has it that words sing and save the world. This may sound like an enigma but it is sure that words consist a welfare aspect in itself. Abani worshipped this particular aspect with his body and soul, his rhythm may have breached at times, but he has always carried the rhymes in his heart, in sleep and in dreams. Rhymes can blossom life's flowers. Such idea he had. We require information, but not too much for information is not everything. We need ideas and thoughts. What is happening in life and world, why the incidents are taking place, it is important for us to question and know. Abani had this quality.If the youths of Assam adopt this quality, they will be intellectually adcanced. I wish my best to the editor duos on their praiseworthy attempt to publish the selected poems of Abani Chakrabarty.

I would like to say in conclusion, that be it in Assam or India, regional language, culture and literature all over are being neglected. It is apparently natural people would feel more attracted to the English language. The readership of Assamese books is declining at an alarming rate. The readers of poetry, novel, stories, drama and thought-provoking essays are becoming less and less. Creative writing now remains limited only within the friend circle of writers. Is it in order to build that complete professional career that youths are so unbelievably disinterested in literature?

Probably it is a truth, deeply career-oriented youths of today want more to read the English language. English is certainly necessary, but it definitely never asks you to get rid of your culture. The translation of literature from other countries have decreased and it will be even more in the coming days. Why need translation when you can read in English! In these times of despair if the Assamese people rather forget a poet like Abani Chakrabarty, it will be sad. Interestingly the people do not know all the writers of Assamse literature let alone world literature. Majority in the country are illiterate, only some are literate. They lack the intellectual capacity so as to understand the essence of literature. So what turns out that literature is primarily for the elites, rest of the people are deprived of literature. This is the most dangerous disease in our country. There is no dearth of resources, but the problem lies because a minor section of people is devouring all wealth. The story is same with literature and culture. If I say only fifteen per cent of people will understand Bezbaroa and Jyotiprasad, I won't be wrong probably. Did Jyotiprasad go to the other seventy-five? No. So all that is needed is education. Not only that, people's sense of beauty and objective taste must also be spread. If we can take our wise personas from household to household then only it is their victory, or else it is all defeat. Rabindranath rightly said back in the day:

"As many flutes blow in houses
As laughters come
how many houses are built ceremoniusly,
it is felt that you are not invited into these,
It pains me whether  awake or asleep
So that it is not forgotten."

Abani also had this pain in sleep and in dreams. He vowed to take every creation and its creator to every household. What could be more unfortunate that we ended up losing Abani the man himself. This is not really a matter of fortune but the circumstances in our society. The festivals that we hold for our saints and scolars, the quotes of such festivals gradually become upward and merges in the dust at one poont. If we want to remove diseases through horizontal approach we all need insights. It is rude to celebrate festivals in times of crisis, if something must really be done for joy, let it be kind and in silence into your soul. Let the administrators serve with ideals and make better days g appen- so that every household become luminous in the light of lamps. Then only the soul of a poet like Abani's will rest in peace!

Nalinidhar Bhattacharya

( Nalinidhar Bhattacharya (1921-2016) was a noted Assamese poet, literary critic and a recipient of Sahitya Akademi award ) 

Translated from Assamese by Daisy Barman

Daisy Barman

(A doctoral fellow at the Department of Folklore, Gauhati University, Daisy Barman is a scribbler and translator. She can be reached at maa.daisy@gmail.com )




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