Theme: Poverty


Benimadhab, O Benimadhab,
To your abode I’ll lob;
O Benimadhab, do you still recall me
And that aches you at all?
O Benimadhab, under the Tamal tree
You played flute in musical spree –
While I in Malati school all in gloom
Doing sums at my desk in the classroom;
Outside stands the teacher with her hubby aside
With my lessons I slog inside;

Then just in class nine,
For ‘sari’ I do pine –
Met you at Sulekha’s, O Benimadhab
Upon my first heart throb.
Benimadhab, you a student bright,
From the town arrived, our village to sight –
I’m a girl mere
Complexion no way fair –
Escaped to the next room
As you arrived all in your bloom.
Benimadhab, in a shop serves my father –
Yet, in the woods, around flowers the humming bees gather.
In the evening I do err
In my sums, on freakish spur
Of my passion- for home task not so keen
While in class nine, in my sweet sixteen;
And there by the bridge on the street
Once we sneaked our meet.
Benimadhab, O Benimadhab,
Tell me the truth, do not fob,
Do you still muse
Those days of no use?
Divulged those to your love?
Glimpsed I just once your better half
Under the dazzling light –
For satiety of my sight,
Yet my eyes to blight;
But to truthfully opine,
You two matched fine.
Back home, as passed the spell
I wished both of you well.
Now at night I retire
In the bed spread on the floor there
At the room on the ground floor
Moonlight beams through the window to the door.
The sister next to me
With whomsoever now she be,
Is a pervert- lost wayward
At the crooked bent to the underworld.
Now I’m the sewing teacher local,
Can’t flare up and be vocal;
With my hand to mouth life
Daily is my strife –
How come if I too
Be a base girl with taboo?

Original poem in Bengali by Joy Goswami "Malatibala Balika Vidyalaya (=Malitibala Girls’ School).

Translator’s note:
As per report of the World Bank, the benefits of ‘Globalization’ has reached only 20% of the populace in India. More frightening is, the economic gap of this 20% with the rest 80% is widening with time. In other words, while the economic affluence of the minority rich is mounting, the rest are drowning into the bottomless abyss of despair.
What is missing in such surveys is, how the dream for a happy home of the countless youths is shattered under this socioeconomic pattern for which we have to fall back on the poets. One may recall Tagore’s poem “Bansi” (=‘Flute’) where the young man oppressed by poverty absconded his nuptial ceremony, thus to save the bride from the misfortune of being his life mate. 

“That very hour I did abscond;
Thus the lass eluded my bond;
And I backed to square one
Her passage to my abode to shun
To my dismay;
Though she visits my mind every day
Clad in Dhakai Sari
Forehead with vermilion smeary.” 

Only this nostalgia could be the sustenance of the young man for the rest of his life.
Further, Tagore’s “Sadharan Meye” (=A Commonplace Girl) may be recalled where the fiancée of a middle class girl went over to England (for higher study) only to be beguiled by the glamour of the foreign beauties there and became amnesiac of his fiancée at home. The commonplace girl implores to Saratchandra (the renowned novelist at that time, still a bright star in Bengali literature with his great fame for his empathetic novels particularly on tragedy of women) to write a story whose central character would be a girl (to be named Malati, the imploring girl’s namesake) forgotten and neglected by her fiancée (to be named Naresh, again namesake of the treacherous lover), similarly beguiled by the women abroad. But, the girl warns Saratchandra, if he stops there, it would blemish his image of a great novelist. So, as ‘Saratchandra is not a miser like God’, he should stretch his story further where Malati would score brilliant result in the Calcutta University, and on invitation from abroad, would attend scholarly conferences there and Naresh (having repeatedly failed his exams. there), along with his foreign girl friends, would in amazement be witnessing from far in the hall Malati being awarded accolades.
But, Joy Goswami’s heroine has no room for such fancy even amidst her grinding poverty. Her younger sister has opted for the underworld. So, questions the heroine her modern Dushyanta (the king in the classic Sanskrit story who had forgotten his fiancée Sakuntala) – 

“How come if I too
Be a base girl with taboo?”



More By  :  Rajat Das Gupta

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