Book Reviews

Call from the Native Land

The post modern bilingual poet-academic, an English teacher by profession and writer by choice Jaydeep Sarangi’s Laal Palasher Renu, his maiden collection of Bengali poems, depicts the multiplicity of poetic images, ranging from the remote country side areas to the metropolitan Kolkata. The collection, consisting of 43 poems reflects the poet’s deep passionate feelings regarding varied subjects expressed in the garb of his poetic heart. This shows the poet’s easy access to diversified areas of contemporary concern.
Sarangi’s poems cover a wide variety of themes and styles. The poet has given equal emphasison dealing with social issues of grave urgency, as well as simple themes of day to day interest. The colourful diversity in themes has given Sarangi’s book a mixed flavour. Central chords of his poems are love, fellow-feeling, while his concern for the marginalised don’t go neglected in the abode of the Laal Palasher Renu.
But what is most striking in the Collection is that the poet’s dealing with the common and simple themes and giving them an extraordinary reflective touch. In the poem, ‘Missed call’, the poet has started with a very common observation of missing cell phone call in every day’s busy life, but with the progress of the poem, the outlook of the poet has got changed both in letter and spirit. The incapability of human beings of keeping commitment in the broader perspectives in any form gives the poem a different hue. According to the poet, 

Some calls are received
Some are missed
In auto rickshaw’s sound or in the tunnel of metro
Could not redial again later
Commitments veil themselves,
In the rush of everyday’s work.
(Translation mine)

If concern for the marginalized and aspiration for the qualitative upgradation of their lives become politics, then surely political elements are there in Sarangi’s one of the famous poems in the Collection, ‘Lal Matir Taan’ (The Attraction of the Red Soil). The revolutionary attitude of the poet has surfaced in his expression in the beginning of the poem:

Have wishes, suddenly break
The years’ long untouched can of mind.
(Translation mine)

At the same time his realistic detailing of the saga of the people of the land of ‘Red Soil’ has been very touchy and original. In the end, the poet’s attempt to relate himself with those persons despised is prominent. He writes:

Who on the bank of cannel,
Dream, and vacate their hearts
To refill it again.
Loose cotton from mother’s cloth
Reminds me that
I have my family
On that land of Red Soil.
(Translation mine)

Another characteristic feature of Sarangi’s poems is their universalism and international overtones. His powerful imagination has dared to cross the National Boundary and depicted the realistic pictures of both the countries– ‘Epar Bangla’ and ‘Opar Bangla’ (This Bengal and that Bengal, more clearly West Bengal and Bangladesh respectively) in his poem, ‘Shantir Payra Urhe’ (There Flies the Pigeon of Peace). Similarly, his approach to universalism is found in the lines of the poem, ‘Baulder Katha’ (The Words of the Bauls) –

Baul says–
“O’ heart awake
 Accept all”

Dr. Sarangi is from a district, which has heralded a strong folk cultural tradition, the patch of which is evident there in his creations. The traditional Bengali folk elements like ‘Baul music’, ‘Tribal culture’ etc. dominate his poems. Not only the folk cultural tradition of the western frontier Bengal, but his poems have upholded the metropolitan middle class Bengali culture of gossiping and chatting, regarding contemporary political activities and trends. His poem, ‘Slum is Only Slum’ offers these lines:

Change or reversion?
Fascination or Love?
In crowded bus,
In metro-tunnel,
People are mad in discussion.

The poet’s forefathers settled in West Midnapore near the bank of the sweet silent river: Dulong and some of the poems of the volume are about that scenic river flowing through tribal villages.The poet is at his creative best when he digs out emotions fossilised in past. Jaydeep Sarangi uses the emotions of his poems to convey not only his own memories, but also to depict the lives of others. Some of  Sarangi’s poems attempt to provide a much deserved platform to a rich symphony of egalitarianism. Sarangi is a socially committed poet. In an interview with Sunil Sharma (2012) Jaydeep Sarangi says,
“S.S.: Jaydeep Sarangi is multi-faceted. An academic, a prominent English critic, reviewer, literary interviewer, editor, fictionist and poet. Who is real Jaydeep Sarangi or JS for his friends and admirers?
J.S.: I am a humble man brought up in a forest enclosed town in western West Bengal. I studied in different parts of the country and came in terms with sparkling personalities and genuine friends. I am blessed with friends since my childhood days. My academic friends and colleagues have rare care and concern for me my efforts. I am really lucky that people find interest in me and my works in this competitive time of Globalisation. My heart is full! I am a close follower of His Highness the Dalai Lama. I read his book The Art of Happiness several times and tried to understand Dalai Lama’s approach to living.
There are hours when loneliness engulfs me. I try to make use of it by transferring the power of solitude to productive works. I have been associated with a few social projects and some of the projects have given me strength to take up major ones in future! I have seen people practicing Truth to the highest scale. This is a real rare area of my motivation! I am blessed with friends who are epitome of Indian Philosophical, spiritual and religious truths. They show me the golden light for a calm and peaceful course of my mind.
I try to discover how to use the spiritual and social law of communication to bring myself into radiant union with my personal Higher Power.”
There are references to river Dulong. According to the poet,
“S.S.: You are an Oriya by DNA; a confirmed Bengali by taste and accident of settlement in West Bengal; An English teacher by profession and writer by choice; Now, learning Spanish. Such multi-linguist and broad trans-border perspectives help in the overall evolution and growth of the man within or do they inhibit and cause lingual confusion?
J.S.: Ya….! Possibly, I am fortunate enough to be part of several cultural ethos and linguistic tradition. It gives me a sense of not belonging to a single tradition. It works as strength. Such multi-linguistic and broad trans-border perspectives help me to understand Indianness in a precise way. My forefathers settled in West Midnapore near the bank of the sweet silent river: Dulong. I have been learning Spanish to read Spanish texts in original. It will be a strength if I can learn the language fast.” (Sharma, 2012)

He has poems on ruins which are the trace of something that has vanished and chained to its own past. The ruin gives absence, so to speak, a material dwelling: a rock-solid and skeleton site that embodies an enigmatic sense that the world is also porous, volatile, uncanny, insubstantial and non-negotiable. He writes on small daily things.The poet is conscious of his social and religious root.

Kanak Durga temple is a landmark in the folk tradition, situated at Chilkigarh village in Paschim Midnapur district (Under Jamboni P.S.). It is an exciting weekend tourist spot and a site of art and culture in the balm of nature. The temple stands as living history and remains the centre for many oral beliefs handed down across generations. Devi Mahamaya came in a dream and ordered king Gopinath to set up a temple. Artist Kamilya transformed that dream into reality. Kanak Durga is a form of Devi Chnadi – the goddess of Energy and Power. The old temple is widely known as Baramahal. There are several references to Kanak Durga temple at Chilkigarh. These poems remind us poet’s English book of poems, From Dulong to Beas (2012).
Sarangi’s Bengali  poems are known for the lucidity of expression, free images and profundity of thought. His poems are written in such a language, in which common people speak. He doesn’t create linguistic distance and remains rooted in his soil. Ideas are expressed explicitly, which strike the thought process of the readers. His poetic  idioms are fresh and charged with in-depth suggestivism like Srijato and Subodh Sarkar. Dr. Sarangi is an established name in the realm of English poetry and Indian English criticism. His book of English poems, From Dulong to Beas (2012) is a literary wonder! Sarangi’s first volume of Bengali poems, Laal Palasher Renu has really marked a solid beginning of his long potential journey as a bilingual poet.
Sharma, Sunil, Interview with Jaydeep Sarangi, the poet of the future, From Dulong to Beas: Flow of the Soul by Jaydeep Sarangi. Authorspress, New Delhi. (2012)


More by :  Prof. Soumitra Chakraborty

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Your Identity
--Jaydeep Sarangi

What makes you so happy?
The red soil and the sweet smell
Of tress numberless;
College boys passing with confidence
Challenging the world of profits and delight.

Life moves on....

05-Aug-2012 08:17 AM

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