|Saturday, January 6, 2001||
who do not understand Bengali have much to thank William Radice for
bringing out the greatness in Rabindranath Tagoreís poetry. Many
scholars, including Tagore himself, translated his poems, songs, plays
and essays into English but they left non-Bengalis with an uneasy
feeling that Bengalis, congenitally prone to exaggeration, also
overestimated Tagore as a writer. And on account of the fact that most
Bengalis are very thin-skinned few people dared to question their
reverence for their Gurudev. I was rash enough to do so by airing my
opinion that other Indians, including Bengalis, had written better
novels, plays and short stories and barely managed to save myself from
being lynched in the lounge of Calcuttaís airport hotel. That did not
prevent the Bengal Vidhan Sabha and the Rajya Sabha from passing
unanimous resolutions condemning me. I partly redeemed myself when I
published a lengthy review of Radiceís earlier translations admitting
that Tagore was indeed a great writer of songs.
Tagore was deeply rooted in Indian tradition, deeper than any of his contemporaries or any Indian poet after him. O.E. Lessing rightly remarked "Tagore is perhaps the last great poet of ancient India". This is amply borne out by Radiceís compilation. They are indeed as claimed by him, "pointed, witty, lucid and profound". Here are a few examples:
The forest blooms with the coming of spring:
All that the koel-bird does is sing.
"I suppose", says the crow, "youíve nothing to do
But flatter the spring with your hullabaloo".
Pausing for a moment, the koel looks round:
"Who are you? Where do you come from, friend?"
"Iím the plain-speaking crow," the crow replies.
"Delighted," says the koel, and politely bows.
"Be free to speak plainly all the year long.
"Iím happy with the truth of my own sweet song".
The need for height
The flat field said in anger and pain:
"I fill the market with fruit and grain.
The mountain sits doing who knows what,
Like a great king perched on a throne of rock.
Why is Godís management so unfair?
To me His reasons are not at all clear".
"If all," said the mountain, "were flat and even,
How could rivers bring manna from heaven?íí
Nose says, "Ears, your life must be poor.
No sense of smell, just earrings to wear".
Ears say, "Nose, how sad not to hear,
And all you can do in bed is snore:"
The same path
Letís shut the door to block out sin;
"Then how", says Truth, "shall I get in?"
However you turn and turn about,
Your left hand is left and your right hand is right.
I am an admirer of K.P.S. Gill and share his passion for Scotch, dames and poetry. But he is a doer; I only an voyeur. Doing got him into trouble; ogling has not created any problems for me. I only read poetry; he reads as well as writes it. A common friend Dr Lakhshmi Goswami of Tezpur (Assam) sent me his composition of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair.
Bill Clinton: an astrologerís advice
Verses without a copyright
All others were asked to kneel
Only Monica was told to lie
There is nothing that is sinful
In what is oral and done on the sly
All tomes which talk of sin
Will surely testify
In this hypocritical world
You are the greatest man they say
Most want some freedom around midnight
You want it throughout the day
As any astrologer will tell you
There is a malefic Star (r) in your stars
With a Lewinsky heíll surely Trip (p) you
And make you wage mid-eastern wars
Make you shed bitter tears in your pillow
Make you slide on the popularity charts
Make you ponder on the State of the Union
And the ways of unconscionable tarts
By scanning your frumious horoscope
A sure remedy the astrologers espy:
Wear a watery agate on your finger
And a lock on your errant fly
All others were asked to kneel
Only Monica was told to lie.
Prayer ó 2001
O God; you are merciful and kind
I hope you will not mind.
Some favours if I seek
You are aware, I am meek.
A palace or mansion you neednít give
Just give me a farmhouse to live.
Ten million rupees and nothing more
I shall be content with a single crore.
I do not beg for four or five
I want only one car to drive.
A lovely wife and children two
A small family ó that will do.
As for occupation, let me be frank.
Make me a Minister of Cabinet rank!
If you donít accept my prayer
Who will call you just and fair?
Contributed by G.C. Bhandari, Meerut