EVEN those who don’t read Hindi know the name of the poet Nirala (rare) as a highly eccentric character, a moonh phat (face spitter) who took on Bapu Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, had a crush on Vijayalakshmi Pandit (who never reciprocated) and went crackers in the last years of his life. Now for the first time I have been able to read him translated into English: A Season on the Earth: Selected poems of Nirala (OUP), translated by David Rubin, once Professor of Hindi at Columbia University. I have come to the conclusion that besides being a crackpot, Nirala was a great poet and Rubin is a great translator.
Suryakant Tripathi was
born in 1899 in Mahishadal village Midnapur district, West Bengal, in a
family of Kanyakubja Brahmins which had migrated from Kanauj (UP). He
spoke both Hindi and Bengali fluently. He took on the poetic pseudonym
Nirala in 1923. He lost his mother when he was only two years old. He
married Manohradevi (then 11) from Kanauj. He failed in his
matriculation examination and was thrown out of his home by his father.
He lived for many years with his wife’s parents where a son and a
daughter were born to him. Despite early setbacks, Nirala made his name
as a poet. He went to Calcutta to edit a magazine for the Ramakrishna
Mission and then another journal Matwala. He then moved to
Lucknow where he lived for 12 years and saw the publication of his
collection of poems Anamika. He came to be known as the
"Tagore of Hindi."
Nirala was a poet of rare sensibility towards nature and feminine beauty. In an early composition, he describes a young girl:
She sat on a rock,
her blue skirt gently fluttering — thus,
uninhibited, the evening breeze
held some silent conversation with the lovely girl and smiled.
Her curling hair,
black and luxuriant,
blew loose and fragrant over her pale face,
tumbled over her breasts,
teased her affectionately.
From the open sky
the chill spray scattered,
on her shapely limbs.
In a poem composed in 1916, which roused some controversy, he compared the blossoming of a jasmine bud to that of a young girl being embraced by her lover:
On a vine in the deserted wood
she slept, blissful in dreams of love,
pure tender slender girl —
the juhi bud —
eyes closed, languorous in the folded leaf.
A spring night. Her lover,
tormented by separation in a distant land,
was that wind they call
the southern sandal-mountain breeze.
He recalled their sweet reunions,
the midnight drenched in moonlight,
the lovely trembling body of the girl.
And then? That wind
crossed over grove lake river mountain wood
and vine-entangled jungles
to reach where he could dally
with the budding flower.
She slept —
for, tell me, how could she suspect
that her lover was at her side?
The hero kissed her cheek,
and she swayed, shivering from it,
but even now she did not waken
nor ask forgiveness for her fault.
The long curved sleepy eyes stayed shut
as though she swooned, intoxicated
from the wine of youthful longings —
who can say? Ruthless, her lover,
of a sudden cruel,
struck that tender body hard,
slapped her pale full cheeks.
The girl started up,
stared all about her, astonished,
and found her darling by her bed.
She smiled, gratified in her desire,
and blossomed in her lover’s arms.
It’s okay for everybody
Okay is one word common to all mankind from Red Indians, Eskimos, Canadians, Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Japanese — even Bedouin Arabs of the Sahara. When was it first coined and in which country? No one really knows but many guesses have been made. Professor Allen Read who spent his lifetime studying origins of words put forward many versions of the origin of okay. Americans believed that it came from badly spelt Orl Korrect. G.Is who went to Europe during World War II found the word was commonly used all over the continent. Germans claimed it was derived from oberst kommandant (over-commander) the French said it came from aux cayes, a town they established in Haiti. Another version is that it came into circulation in the American Civil War with the popularity Orrin Kendall biscuits. Others put it earlier to Van Buren who became the eighth President of the USA. He was widely known as Old Kinder hook:"Vote for O.K" was easier on the ear than his Dutch name. And yet another claimant is a Red Indian tribe which has a word Okeh meaning ‘Yes’.
Trust in God, but lock your car.
Marriage is one of the chief causes of divorce.
Work is a fine thing if it does not take too much of your spare time.
Hard work never killed anybody but why take any chances.
A man who wants to do something will find a chance. A man who doesn’t will find an excuse.
Three groups of people who spend other people’s money: children, thieves, politicians. All three need supervision.
Courtesy: Amir C. Tuteja,
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Boss to office staff:" I'm back! Did everyone enjoy my vacation?
Contributed by Reeten Ganguly,