Art & Soul by BN Goswamy: Looking for positivity amid the churning : The Tribune India

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Art & Soul by BN Goswamy: Looking for positivity amid the churning

If not all, so many poets have commented upon the times they lived in

Art & Soul by BN Goswamy: Looking for positivity amid the churning


B.N. Goswamy

I am no politician. Not even from a long distance. But while glancing at the news, day after day, like everyone does, one begins to dangle between hope and apprehension. For there is such a stirring all around. Such churning — iss shahar mein har shakhs pareshan sa kyun hai — that one looks for positivity. So many good things have happened all around us and are continuing to happen; at the same time, there are things that are worrying, or views with very mixed feelings. So, one looks for positivity and settles upon something. I look for it most often in poetry. I do not care where that poetry comes from — from Russian to Czech, from English to Burmese, from Spanish to Italian, from Hindi to Urdu. While searching, I came upon a poem in Hindi-ised Urdu, which looks at things with sharpness and sympathy. And I wish to share it. This is how it begins.

Jab dukh ki nadiya meñ ham ne

jivan ki naao daali thi

tha kitna kas-bal bañhoñ meñ

lahoo meñ kitni laali thi

yuñ lagta tha do haath lage

aur naav puram paar gayi

aisa na hua keh dhare meñ

kuchh andekhi mañjdhareñ thiñ

kuchh mañjhi the anjaan bahut

kuchh anparkhi patvareñ thiñ

ab jo bhi chaho chhan karo

ab jitne chaho dosh dharo

nadiya to vahi hai, naao vahi

ab tum hi kaho kya karna hai

ab kaise paar utarna hai?

Is desh ki chhati par ham ne

sadiyon ke ghaao dekhe the

tha vaidoñ par vishvas bahut

aur yaad puraane nuskhe the

yuñ lagta tha bas kuchh din meñ

saari bipta kat jaegi

aur sab ghaao bhar jaeñge

aisa na hua ki rog apne

kuchh itne dher purane the

vaid unki teh ko pa na sake

aur totake sab bekar gae

ab jo bhi chaho chhan karo

ab jitne chaho dosh dharo

chhati bhi vahi hai, ghaao vahi

ab tum hi kaho kya karna hai?

ye ghaao kaise bharna hai?

Even though it should be simple to understand, I worry about things being missed. So, I have done in my poor words a translation into English of the poem. And this, with all its flaws, is how it reads.

What do we do now? Where do we go?

When we launched the boat of our lives

in the stream of sorrow

It seemed

that it was not going to be hard.

There were rippling muscles in our arms

And hot blood was raging inside us.

We were so confident

Sure we were that we will be able to get across that stream of sorrow:

A few determined strokes with oars by our boatmen,

And there we shall be: on the other shore.

But did it happen like that?

Of course not!

We had not counted upon

There were eddies and whirlpools

in the middle;

And the boatmen knew not enough;

Nor were the oars truly tested.

We were stuck.

We were faced with a situation

Where do we lay the blame?

How do we get across?

By blaming the poor boatmen?

By conducting endless investigations?

The stream was the very same

So was the boat: how do we get across?

Likewise:

We knew that the broad breast of our land

Was lacerated with festering, ages-old wounds

And

We kept trusting our hoary old physicians

And time-soaked texts

For cures

For getting magically healed.

But did it happen like that?

Of course not!

Now, we are faced with the situation:

Where do we lay the blame?

Where lies the cure now?

The wounds were so deep, and went back too many aeons of time

That the physicians were unable to help

And all the prescriptions went waste.

What do we do now?

Keep blaming the old physicians?

Or those texts?

The breast of our land still

bears those gashes.

Do we do something different now?

It is up to us.

If not all, so many poets have commented upon the times they lived in. When the British were here, Ghalib wove in his pain, his desperation in his poems; Mir Taqi Mir, uprooted and harassed — Kya bood-o-baash poochho ho purab ke sakinon/humko gharib jaanke, hans hans pukar ke?/Dilli jo ek shehar tha alam mein intekhwab, rehte the jahan muntakhib sab rozgaar ke/usko falak ne loot ke veeran kar diya/ hum rehne wale hain usi ujadee dayaar ke [Are you asking me where I come from (you who live peacefully) in the east, seeing me in this ragged state? I come from Dilli, once the choicest city in the world; home of the choicest of men. That Dilli is now in ruins as the fates have willed. Yes, I come from that desolate place!]. Questions hung about in our land, in the ancient times too: Kim-karomi kva gachhaami? [What shall I do? Where should I go?]. Bhartendu Harishchandra began: Hum kaun the kya ho gaye hain, aur kya honge abhi/aao vicharein aaj milkar ye samasyaein sabhi [Who and what we were; what have we turned into; and what we will be? Let us all sit down together and mull over these questions]. Iran, Scotland, Africa, Latin America: everywhere.

The poem I have drawn attention to makes a statement, throws a challenge, provokes, and asks a question: Ab tum hi kaho kya karna hai? All these things are addressed to no one in particular, no individual, no community, no group. And yet to everyone. I sense that the poet had the young generation especially in mind.

So here we are.


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