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Translated Poems of Shakti Chattopadhyay by Tapan Mozumdar

Linocut by Haren Das

"Shakti Chattopadhyay lived a life of abandon. Drunk in excess, he would disappear for days. He would argue aloud, sing with vigorous gestures, and spend life as if he had several of them. Such extravagance, however, disappeared in his verse. Even the ones he wrote in a self-confessed trance, like Aboni, bari achho?, are gems of measured word choices. He barely edited, but his verse is pin pointed, like Manto's short stories.

During a meet of our online poetry society, The Quarantine Train, conducted and curated by the poet Arjun Rajendran, I found an opportunity to recite a poet of my choice in original and translation. Translating verse in which every word is irreplaceable is never an easy ask, that too, for the poems which have defined cultural sensitivity of a generation. These two poems by him are arguably the most popular and quoted pieces of Bangla contemporary poetry are daunting to be tamed with translation. I have tried. I enjoyed every moment of pondering over the right replacement, haggling with the correct sound and tone that does justice to the original. I hope my translation has remained true to the sustained magic of Shakti Babu’s poetry."

-Tapan Mozumdar

I can leave, but why will I?

I think it is better to turn around.

So much soot I have smeared in two hands

for so long.

Never thought of you as you are.

I stand on the cliff at night now

The moon beckons: here, here, here

I stand by the Ganges in sleep now

The pyre summons: here, here

I can leave,

In any direction I choose I can leave

But, why will I?

I will hold my child’s face and kiss

I will leave

But I will not leave now

I will leave tugging you all

I will not leave alone, ill-timed.


Aboni, are you home?

Aboni, are you home?

Doors locked, sleeps the lane

The night knocks, I hear again

Aboni, are you home?

Rain pours twelve months a year

Clouds graze like cows in here

Reluctant green reed grass

On the door adhere– Aboni, are you home?

Half-dead—midst of a pain deep

Drifting in my heart, I fall asleep

Knocking night, I hear a rushed

Aboni, are you home?


The original Bengali poems:

যেতে পারি, কিন্তু কেন যাবো?

ভাবছি ঘুরে দাঁড়ানোই ভালো |

এতো কালো মেখেছি দু-হাতে

এতো কাল ধরে |

কখনো তোমার করে, তোমাকে ভাবিনি |

এখন খাদের পাশে রাত্তিরে দাঁড়ালে

চাঁদ ডাকে : আয়, আয়, আয়

এখন গঙ্গার তীরে ঘুমন্ত দাঁড়ালে

চিতাকাঠ ডাকে : আয়, আয়

যেতে পারি,

যে-কোনো দিকেই আমি চলে যেতে পারি

কিন্তু, কেন যাবো ?

সন্তানের মুখ ধরে একটি চুমো খাবো


কিন্তু, এখনই যাবো না

তোমাদেরও সঙ্গে নিয়ে যাবো

একাকী যাবো না, অসময়ে |

অবনী বাড়ি আছো?

অবনী বাড়ি আছো দুয়ার এঁটে ঘুমিয়ে আছে পাড়া কেবল শুনি রাতের কড়ানাড়া ‘অবনী, বাড়ি আছো?’

বৃষ্টি পড়ে এখানে বারোমাস এখানে মেঘ গাভীর মতো চরে পরান্মুখ সবুজ নালিঘাস দুয়ার চেপে ধরে– ‘অবনী, বাড়ি আছো?’

আধেকলীন– হৃদয়ে দূরগামী ব্যথার মাঝে ঘুমিয়ে পড়ি আমি সহসা শুনি রাতের কড়ানাড়া ‘অবনী, বাড়ি আছো?’

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