Friday, 13 February 2015

Lest You Forget: Another Tagore Translation


Rain and snow have descended with vengeance on this little settlement nestled against the mountains. The afternoon is cold and dim, the mountain tops sprinkled with snow and curtained in clouds, the birds have hidden themselves as have the humans, down in the valley not a single light is lit, only the rain and wind roam wild and the mist swirls all around in gray swathes. I stand shivering on the porch, the hood of my fleece jacket pulled tight against my ears and look around. In that queer half light of an afternoon sun that has hidden itself from the rain and wind, it seems as if my little basti is floating in space on the back of the rain clouds, hemmed on one side by the grim, gray mountains, all alone, lost, forgotten by the real world......
It's all rather forlorn, so I retreat inside to the warmth of my little room, switch on the room heater and my iPad, burying myself deep inside the quilt as Hemanta's soulful voice fills the room with the Poet's terribly sad তবু মনে রেখো (Tobu Mone Rekho, Still, Remember Me).

This one's another of Tagore's jewels, a song for remembrance. It talks of how we continue to live even after death in the thoughts of those who loved us in life.
The verse contains a plaintive plea from the poet to his love, a plea that she continue to remember him even when she has finally reconciled to his loss and has stopped grieving for him. But the song is not just a love-song, for it echoes a want common to all of humanity, the desire to live forever, the desire to be immortal, to live on in the memories of those who come after us.

Of course my version doesn’t compare in any measure to the original, but nevertheless, do read on.

I have also posted a link to a You Tube video of the song in Bengali. Let me know if you like it.

The Original Verse in Bong

Tobu mone rekho
Tobu mone rekho
Jodi dure jai chole
Tobu mone rekho
Jodi puratono prem
Dhaka pore jai nobo-premo-jal
Jodi thaki kacchakacchi,
Dekhite na pao chhayar moton
Aachhi na aachhi -
Tobu mone rekho.
Jodi jol aashe aankhipaate
Ekdin jodi khela theme jaye modhurate,
Tobu mone rekho
Ek din jodi badha pore kaje,
Sharodopraate -
Mone rekho
Jodi poriya mone
Chholochholo jol nai dekha deye noyonokone -
Tobu mone rekho.......

My Translation

Still remember me-
when I have gone
far, far away...
Remember me!

Still remember me-
when new passions
have overgrown old loves....
Remember me!

that time, when I elude your eyes,
and you wonder
whether I linger yet
there, just beyond the shadow’s edge.....
Remember me
O, still remember me.......

When tears overcast your eyes,
on that mellow night
when my play is done-
Remember me;
Just remember me...

When my work comes to an abrupt end
one balmy autumn morn-
Remember me
O, remember me.....

on that day
when thoughts of me
no more wet
your eyes with tears-
Remember me......
Remember me......

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Thoughts on Tagore

The British have an expression: ‘Bee in one’s bonnet’. The Cambridge dictionary says that this phrase means to keep talking about something again and again because you think it is important. Well, at present I have one (a bee, that is) buzzing around in my bonnet. The bee is of Tagore’s poetry. A trifle unusual bee I know, but since it is buzzing fast and strong and is rather compelling; I asked myself: why not share some of this buzz on ‘Blog Land’?

              Why Tagore? Good question. Well, it just so happened that I was surfing TV channels one bored evening and happened to hear the rendition of a Tagore song on DD Bangla. Struck by the melody and of course by the beautiful lyrics, I did a bit of reading around on his life and his poetry. And since then I have been, in one word, hooked.

              Tagore’s poetry has got this unique characteristic: it is insightful and yet does not use difficult words or complicated imagery to achieve this insight. So while reading his poems or listening to them as music, because of their deceptive simplicity, one may at the first go, actually miss the deeper import of his words. Because the language is so very simple, at times even colloquial, one easily understands the meaning of the individual words but strung together as they are in the verse, their exact connotation may not immediately be clear. Majority of Tagore’s poems have been set to music by the poet himself and are known to all as Rabindra Sangeet. He was a multifaceted personality, a talented music composer himself and the music of Rabindra Sangeet is as a result hauntingly beautiful. So even though one may not yet have grasped the connotation of his words, one can keep listening, enjoying the music, the external beauty of the words, their roll and rhythm.... Then one day it might just happen that while listening, the import of the verse hits you suddenly, like epiphany..; and for a moment, you find yourself totally stunned by this realisation, by the irrefutable Truth in his words...! 

              Tagore writes about many things, of love and longing, of devotion and the Creator, of life and its meaning, of death and dying.....; matters we do not usually bother about in the humdrum of our daily life. But with his simple allegories related to everyday life like the lonely boatman, the ebb and flow of the river, the daily bazaar, the village girl worshipping at the tiny roadside shrine or waiting for her love on a darkening night, he compels us to stop and to think, even if just for a blink. His words can actually be considered a religion, with the ability to shape your thought processes and mould your belief systems; but like Sufism, always looking within one’s self, very gentle, very secular, soaked in altruism and devoid of bigotry.

              While the verses of ‘Gitanjali’ were translated into English by the Poet himself, most of his remaining major works in Bengali are without any official English translation. As a result the audience for his works is limited. I feel that this is a sad situation, because in today’s environment of consumerism, growing interpersonal distances, intolerance, bigotry and other such 21st century maladies, Tagore’s words have deep relevance. The world would definitely benefit from a wider interest in his works and consequently, of the ethos therein.

              In fact, there is this song called ‘Shudhu Jaoa Aasha’, or ‘This Coming and Going’ which is a commentary on the relentless and futile pursuit of physical goals by human kind. He talks about how we spend our entire lifetime immersed in back-breaking toil, setting impossible, often pointless objectives and trying to achieve them, while missing out on something that is much, much more important, that is the soul to soul connections between human beings. In this short life, a mere blip in the Universe’s timeline, we are so bogged down by other goals, that we have absolutely no time to work on reaching out to our friends, acquaintances, soul-mates..... and so these associations remain unfinished, incomplete........

Shudu jaoa asha, shudhu shrote bhasa
Shudu alo andhare , kaanda hasha.
Shudhu dyakha paoa, Shudhu chue jaoa
Shudhu dure jete jete kende chaoa
Shudhu nobo durashaye age chole jae
Piche phele jae, miche asha.......Oshesh basona loye banga bol
Pranpon kaje pae bhanga phol.
Bhanga tori dhore bhase parabare
Bhab kende more, bhanga bhasha.
Hridoye, hridoye adho porichoy
Adhkhani kotha sango nahi hoye;
Laje bhoe trashe, adho bishshase
Shudu adhkhani bhalobasa!

Just this coming and this going,
Down the stream, this endless floating,
With tears while in shadows , with smiles while in light
Just this coming and this going.......

Just this a-moment’s meeting,
These half-touches, oh so fleeting.......
Then the pain of tears, at this parting...
Just this coming and this going.......

Just this forward surging,
So fruitless, borne on newer misgivings;
All these broken hopes, in the dust, on departing.....
Just this coming and this going....

With fading strength, yet relentlessly toiling,
With great desires in the heart, still bearing....
Reach failures; only failures lie ahead, a’looming.
Just this coming and this going....

To a broken boat, desperately clinging
Bereft of words, emotions weeping,
Just this coming and this going....

At the meeting of souls,
Words begun do not find completion;
Under fear, reticence, disbelief and trepidation,
Love happens
But comes not to fruition.

              I’ve attempted a paraphrase, although I am fully aware that it is absolutely nowhere near the original. But for those of you who are not familiar with Bengali, I hope it will convey at least an essence of what the poet has said. May be it would even help engage your interest in the Poet’s works and may be you would be encouraged to read the English version of the Gitanjali and perhaps even venture to listen to some Rabindra Sangeet......

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