Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Trysts with Poetry -- The Curtain Falls

At this stage of my narration I feel a bit like the trickster who, after promising hefty returns, has delivered very little in terms of real money and is actively toying with the idea of turning tail unless he can quickly pull a rabbit out of his hat. That some life can still be brought back into my story by importing a girl or girls at this juncture is a fact I am acutely aware of. The only hitch is that none of the girls we were actively pursuing at that phase were even remotely connected with poetry. Read a few lines of verses to them and unless you have taken precautions of sealing all the escape routes, they would perform the fastest vanishing trick you have ever seen in your life, something to leave even the great Houdini mystified.

Why not just stick to the originally intended course, a little bird whispers in my ear. You began with poetry, or rather with your close encounters with it, then why this veering-sheering? Well, something in that.

The sixties and seventies was the period of the rebels throughout the world. The literary-political landscape of Bengal was not untouched… it saw the rise of a bunch of powerful, masculine, yet romantic poets like Sunil Gangopadhyay, Shakti Chattopadhyay, Tarapada Roy, Benoy Mazumdar, and many more… poets who in their youthful arrogance declared their arrival: Amra shashon kori raat-er Kolkata (we rule the nights of Calcutta). Breaking the shackles of Tagorean style of poetry, a process that started with the likes of Buddhadeb Basu, Jibananada Das, et al (surprisingly, this happened with Tagore’s own encouragement and blessings), thus came the full circle.

Memory and history both being my weak points, I feel uncomfortable and apologetic about my above facts. However, the main purpose of this being to give an idea of those tumultuous days, I hope I have managed to build the perspective right.

Personally I have always preferred Jibanananda above all the poets so far as pleasure of reading poetry is concerned (even above Tagore), him being the only poet perhaps with whom I could spend, unforced and with pleasure, a few whispering and leisurely summer afternoons, with a pillow under my chest.

To come back to the period I was talking about, poetry perhaps had never had it so good. Poets sprouted in such great numbers at every nook and corner that poet Shakti Chatto had to exclaim in his exasperation: Eto kobi keno? (why so many poets?)… had to admonish too, by cautioning: Shokolei kobi noy keu keu kobi (all are not poets, some are) – clearly laying the rule that it has to come from within, that there is a difference between art and craft, between creativity and skilled labour.

I learnt a few things about poetry at this time, mostly from my friend B and teacher B’babu. One, that antya-mil or mitraakshar – the craft of ending lines with similar sounds -- was not a necessity for all sorts of poem… rather it may be an impediment most of the times in expressing one’s thoughts. Secondly, chhondo, or rhythm (as taal in music, but not as rigid), though is something without which poetry won’t stand on its own feet. In other words, unrhymed yet rhythmic (amitraakshar chhondo) poetry will be great, but the opposite is usually a disaster.

These points are debatable, I know it. Why your failed poet cites all this hocus-pocus, you may ask. All this is just to make the point that armed with so much theoretical knowledge and with own attention divided between two girls, my condition was, as the condition of anybody in such situation would be, quite vulnerable.

Let me pitchfork and airdrop X and Y right here. X was lithe, Y buxom. Both from our area, both our good friends. We, the boys, lusted after both of them, collectively, without any friction between us. Collectively, yes, but my uniqueness perhaps expressed itself in the way I compartmentalised my attraction for each of them. X had been my romantic spot, Y, strictly set aside! Being a puritan deep down, the former of the sentiments was, needless to say, perceived to be something on a higher plane. Perhaps such compartmentalization was purely my own creation, as there was not much difference between them in real terms. Predator is the word by which you would like to describe them. Lured by the deadly duo who obviously had laid their eyes on much higher preys, who conceded but only stints of flirts with us in the way of pure time-pass, taking refuge in daydreaming and songs, and even in poetry when undone with a high fever… well, what else could I have done!

Our ancestors being Mukhopadhyays, one would think music would naturally come my way; that songs would naturally dangle from my lips. Dangled it for certain, but without, well, the accessory called tune. Each time I tried to haul it to a little bit upwards, I mean to attempt to sing in a higher pitch, the blasted thing just cracked! Even when playing in my comfort zone, the truant tunes slipped like a slippery fish! My bathroom songs, however, managed to reach the intended person, meaning X, and many a times she would also acknowledge this. Oh, I today heard you singing. Her ending after that abruptly would leave me foggy if my crooning had the desired affect on her, if it softened her wee bit; or the Tagore-Shome joint effort came a cropper. The only person who on some days complimented me on my extraordinary efforts at bathroom-singing, without being aware of its purpose of course, was my Mother; this too happened only on days when I picked up the “Duniya mein, ahah ha ahah ha, logon ko, ahah ha ahah ha” of RD Burman for my practice.

Some time in this period, probably on a bad-voice or X-less day, feeling gloomy and hopeless, I delved my hand into poetry after years. The funny part is that what I wrote or on which part of the day, under what atmospheric conditions, wind blowing which way, under what mood – in cloud nine or in utter gloom, etc, etc, were the lines written, a sheet filled with lines unrhymed and in faltering rhythm – I can hardly remember. A vague recollection of not having my heart into it, though, lingers. And with the sheet in hand, I showed it to B.

Apprehensive is the word that would rightly describe me of that day when with a thumping heart I spread the sheet in front of B. "Please offer your honest, on-your-face opinion on it," -- I pleaded him.

B had a hard look at it. “Well, as you seek my honest opinion, I’d say, or rather would have to say , that it is not a poem at all. And the reasons are, …” and then he went on listing there I went wrong, something I don’t remember at all after so many years.

I was flabbergasted, and that will be an understatement. But deep down somewhere, I felt relieved too. The relief that comes from moving out of a mismatched alliance.

After that day, I never had to write a poem again. Wrote a few short stories for college magazines, and after that, other than writing letters to relatives, friends and girlfriend, have been solely at your service, here in Blogger!

B is now highly placed with a PSU. He has expectedly turned into a fine poet and is regularly invited to preside over kavi-sammelans in far-flung areas. He still speaks in a dialect or style only poets are known to use… laced with words and syntax you would hardly find a commoner using in his speech. Hardly matters except in the way of providing us with some additional entertainment, behind his back, of course! What really counts is that to this day he remains one of my best friends.