Poem | Sahana Mukherjee

'Baloon Debate', Banksy 
Source: blogs.uoregon.edu

(For Ghassan Kanafani)

When you first wrote to me
of the man in the sun,
I took him to be a soldier.
So, I put out the light. I fell
asleep. I dreamt mine fields
of love. Mundane, you’d smirked,
and wrote to me again:
What did you think of my man in the sun?
I thought of August,
I told you, and all my poems
on rain, how they cut down
branches of my tree in
Summer. I thought of Tigris
and Euphrates, how they form
Shat – al – Arab and time stood
still between us.

About your man in the sun,
I only dreamt. How does he die?
I wanted to ask.
But, before you could reach out,
and speak differently,
I read the end of your letter:

In your country and mine, old men smoke water – pipes.
As a child, I was scared of thunder as you, wondered
whether Mother was safe at her work. But, in your country,
unlike mine, you don’t get shot under order, at sight. 
We are but linked by paper, after all, and paper, 
as you know, here burns throughout the night.


Poems | Sahir Ludhianvi (Translated by Maaz Bin Bilal)

Photo Credits: Lee La

A Gift of Love*

(Translated for Maitrayee and Dipankar, on their 7th wedding anniversary:
Written by Sahir on the occasion of his dear friend Yash Chopra’s wedding.)

The counsel of dear ones has been effected this time,
The fool on his own asked to be fettered this time.

He who refused to be imprisoned by any,
Has been taken in by the knots of that braid this time.

That which resides at the pinnacle of beauty,
That picture, in his heart, is embedded this time.

Dreams, only dreams were the fate of that youth,
A meaning better than dreams realized this time.

Even strangers were happy, friends gave blessings,
With such care was your destiny graced this time.

On celebrating friends, these verses are a gift of love,
A wish turned into writing engraved this time.

pyār ka tohfa

kārgar ho gayī ehbāb ki tadbīr ab ke
māñg lī āp hī dīwane ne zanjīr ab ke

jisne har dām meñ āne me takalluf barta
le uRi hai use zulf-e-girahgīr ab ke

jo sadā husn ki aqlīm mein mumtāz rahe
dil ke āīne mein utrī hai wo tasvīr abke

ķhwāb hi ķhwāb jawānī kā muqaddar the kabhi
ķhwāb se baRhke gale mil gayī ta’bīr abke

ajnabi ķhush hue apnoñ ne duāeñ māñgīn
is salīqe se sañwārī gayī taqdīir abke

yār ka jashn hai aur pyār ka tohfā haiñ ye sher

ķhud ba ķkhud ek duā ban gayī tehrīr abke


(Translated for Anwesha)

That morning will come someday…

When the veil of dark ages will come off,
When the clouds of grief will melt,
When the ocean of joy will be glimpsed,
When the sky will dance in full sway,
When the earth will sing songs freely,

That morning will come someday…

That morning for which we’ve died over eons, each day,
That morning for whose elixir’s sake,
we’ve drunk chalices of poison,
On these hungry, thirsty souls,
it will show mercy one day,

That morning will come someday…

Agreed now there’s no value, for your hopes and mine,
Even dirt has a worth,
but humans none find,
When the value of men
won’t be measured by a few coins,

That morning will come someday…

When, for money, a woman’s honour will not be sold,
When desire will not get trampled,
when virtue will not be sold,
When the world will feel
embarrassed for its dark deeds,

That morning will come someday…

They too will be spent—these days of hunger and futility,
The idols of the monopoly of wealth
will be shattered one day,                           
When the foundations of
a unique world will be raised,

That morning will come someday…

When helpless decrepitude will not sift through
the dust of lonely streets,
When innocent youth will not go hungry
in dirty, filthy lanes,
When those who ask for justice,
will not be shown to the noose,

That morning will come someday…

On the day when at the funeral pyres
of hunger and dearth, men will not be burnt,
In the seething infernos of breasts,
wishes will not be burnt,
When this world, worse than hell,
will be made heavenly,

That morning will come someday…


wo subah kabhī to āyegi
in kāli sadiyon ke sar sey jab rāt kā ānchal dhalkegā
jab dukh ke bādal pighlengey jab sukh kā sāgar jhalkegā
jab ambar jhūm ke nāchegā jab dharti naġme gāyegī
wo subah kabhī to āyegi...
jis subah ki khātir jug jug sey hum sab mar mar ke jeeten haiñ
jis subah ke amrit ki dhun mein hum zahar ke pyāle pīte haiñ
in bhūki pyāsi rūhon par ik din to karam farmāyegi
woh subah kabhī to āyegi...
māna ke abhī tere mere armānoñ ki qīmat kuchh bhī nahīñ
mitti kā bhi hai kuchh mol magar insānoñ ki qīmat kuchh bhī nahīñ
Iinsānoñ ki izzat jab jhute sikkoñ mein na toli jāyegī
Wwo subah kabhī to āyegī...
daulat ke liye jab aurat ki ismat ko na bechā jāyegā
chāhat ko na kuchala jayega, izzat ko na becha jayega
apney kaaley kartuton par jab yeh duniya sharmaayegi
wo subah kabhī to āyegi...
Bīteñgey kabhī to din āķhir ye bhūk ke aur bekāri ke
TūTeñge kabhī to but āķhir daulat kī ijarahdāri ke
jab ek anokhī duniyā ki buniyād uThāi jāyegī
woh subah kabhī to āyegi...
majbūr buŗhāpa jab sūni rāhoñ ki dhūl na phāñkegā
māsūm laŗakpan jab gandī galiyoñ mein bhūk na māñgegā
haq māñgne wāloñ ko jis din sūli na dikhāī jāyegī
woh subah kabhī to āyegi...
fāqoñ kī chitāoñ par jis din insāñ na jalāye jayeñge
sīne ke dahaktī dozakh mein armāñ na jalāye jayeñge
ye narak sey bhi gandī duniyā, jab swarg banaī jāyegi
woh subah kabhī to āyegi...



Samir Roychoudhury, co-founder of Hungry Generation, dead
Uttaran Das Gupta

Photo Credits : Subimal Basak

Bengali poet Samir Roychoudhury, one of the four founders of the Hungry Generation literary and artistic movement, died yesterday in Kolkata. He was 86.

The death was confirmed by his brother — and co-founder of the movement — Malay Roychoudhury. Samir was admitted to the Rabindranath Tagore Hospital on 17 June.

In 1961, along with Malay and poets Shakti Chattopadhyay and Haradhan Dhara (who later changed his name to Debi Rai/Roy), Samir published the first Hungry Generation, or Hungryalist, manifesto from Patna.

On one hand, the “hysterical” works of the group attracted the friendship of American poets Allen Ginsberg and Laurence Ferlinghetti as well as Nobel laureate and then Mexican ambassador to India, Octavio Paz. On the other, some Indian intellectuals branded their poetry as “obscene” and “sexist” — a trend that continues to this day, led mostly by those who have read little of Hungry poetry.

In 1964, Malay, Samir and a few others were arrested on charges of obscenity and sedition. They were suspended from their government jobs and some of their writer colleagues, including Shakti, testified against them in court. The trial and suppression of their works made them a sort of cause célèbre. Their poetry and manifestoes were published in a number of American magazines such as City Lights Journal, Kulchur, Salted Feathers, Intrepid and San Francisco Earthquake. The Time magazine published an article on them in their November 1964 edition.

When, I first met Samir in 2012, he lived at Bansdroni, on the southern fringes of Kolkata, with his wife Belarani. Besides writing stories, poems and essays on different subjects, he also edited a magazine, Haowa 49. I was a sub-editor with the Bihar desk of The Telegraph, and researching a piece on Ginsberg’s travels in Patna, about which I had read in Deborah Baker’s A Blue Hand: “before returning to Benaras, he stayed a night at the Patna home of Malay Roy Choudhury, the firebrand of the Hungry Generation.”

It was a wet September morning when I arrived at Samir’s house in a cycle rickshaw. The house had a large garden in front and a soothing pond adjacent to it. Ramrod straight, Samir had an impeccable memory from which he fished out anecdotes of Ginsberg’s visit.
“Ginsberg stayed at the house of my parents in Dariyapur. One morning, my mother (Amita Roychowdhury) discovered him bathing in the nude at a tank in the courtyard of our house. ‘What’s he doing? Why is he naked?’ she asked me. ‘That’s how they bathe in their country,’ I replied. ‘But that’s not how they bathe in our country,’ she declared. Then, from the first-floor balcony she dropped two towels and told Ginsberg: ‘My boy, cover yourself with one and use the other to dry your body.’”

Ginsberg and he had met earlier at Chaibhasa, a small tribal village in West Singbhum district of Jharkhand, where he was posted as an employee of the fisheries department.
“A friend of mine, Kamal Chakraborty, the editor of Kourab magazine, brought Ginsberg to Chaibhasa,” recalled Samir. “In my room, the American poet spotted a copy of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West. He asked me: ‘Have you read this book?’ I said: ‘Of course, I have. My brother, Malay, gave it to me. You see the margin notes in pencil? Malay made those. The ones in ballpoint pen are mine.’”

He was also not too happy with Baker’s book, where Malay was pointedly referred to as a bank clerk. The book has only passing references to the Hungry Generation and almost all of them are supercilious in tone: “Patna bank clerk Malay Roy Choudhury, whose intense grievances against the establishment were only partially masked by his grandiose estimation of his own genius.”

He blamed Sunil Gangopadhyay for influencing Baker. Sunil and Samir were great friends as young men. Samir had edited an edition of Krittibas — the legendary little magazine published by the young poets of the 1950s — on Phaneshwarnath Renu, and had also helped publish Gangopadhyay’s first book of poems, Eka Ebonj Koyekjon.

Acknowledging it in his autobiography, Ardhek Jibon, Gangopadhyay wrote: “Samir was my friend from City College (in Kolkata), he met Shakti through me… After graduating, I remained unemployed for many days; then, Samir suggested a business. We would be partners; Samir would provide the capital and I would take care of the work. As I had already learnt to operate a press, we decided to publish books. We opened an office at my house on Shyampukur Street, and gave it an easy name: ‘Sahitya Prakashak’. Samir enthusiastically published my first book, Eka Ebonj Koyekjon.”

They also published two of Samir’s poetry collections: Jhornar Paashey Shuye Achi and Aamar Vietnam.

The endeavour didn’t last too long; nor the friendship. During the obscenity trial against the Hungry Generation poets, Gangopadhyay had testified in their favour in court, but both Malay and Samir told me that the Krittibas gang had plotted against their Hungry counterparts.

Gangopadhyay died that October (2012). Samir called me up to ask if I would be interested to publish letters they had written each other. But, I did not take him up on the offer, and soon after, I moved to New Delhi, and lost all contact with him.

Note: Translations from Bengali are all by the author.


Poems| Bhaskar Chakraborty ( Translated by Brinda Bose) 1/3

Photo Credits : Lee La

এই দেখো...
তুমিও বদলে গেছ
আমিও পাল্টে ফেলেছি নামের বানান

oh look…
you too have changed
and so have I altered the spelling of my name

বাদামী রঙের কবিতা

কী হবে এখন যদি তুমি ফিরে আসো---
দিন সরে গেছে, আলো নিভেছে হঠাৎ
চাদর শীতের রোদ, ছিলো বটে
রেস্তোরাঁর দিনে---
আজ তাকে মোহ মনে হয়
কী হবে এখন যদি তুমি আলো জ্বালো---
আমি সব ভুলে গেছি
হয়তো তোমাকে আজ চিনতেই পারবো না

Walnut-Coloured Poem

Wonder what would happen now should you come back ---
the day has slipped away, the light suddenly dimmed.
Shawl-warm winter sunshine, it was indeed
that day at the restaurant ---
Now it seems all a mirage.
What would happen now should you turn on the light ---
I have forgotten everything
Perhaps I will not even know you today.


আমার স্মৃতি ছিল জটিল ফলে ডাক্তারবাবু কিছুটা ছেঁটে দিয়েছিলেন
কিন্তু এখনো স্পষ্ট মনে পড়ে সেই দিন
হাঁটু পর্যন্ত মোজা, আর সকালবেলা চুল ছড়িয়ে পড়েছে পিঠে!
অথবা, কিছুই ঘটেনি হয়তো কোনোদিন-
আমিই হয়তো স্বপ্নে দেখেছিলাম পুরো ব্যাপারটা
একটা কাঠবেড়ালী আমার জন্যে একটা বাদাম নিয়ে ছুটে আসছে


My memories were labyrinthine so the good doctor had trimmed them.
But I can still recall clearly that day
Socks up to the knees, and morning hair all over your back!
Or, perhaps nothing had happened at all on any day –
Perhaps it was only me who had dreamt the whole thing up
A squirrel bearing a nut for me racing in my direction.


মৃত্যুর পরেও, আমি কবিতা লিখে
পাঠিয়ে দেব তোমাদের
সারাজীবন অদ্ভুত একটা মেয়ের কাছে
তোমরা চিঠির পর চিঠি লিখবে
আর ঘুষোঘুষি করবে
আর হাওয়া এসে
ধাক্কা মারবে তোমাদের ফাঁকা জীবনে
তোমরা ভালোবাসার কথা কিছুই জানোনা
তোমরা আনন্দের কথা কিছুই জানোনা
সারা সকাল আমি
কবিতা লিখবোসারা দুপুর আমি
কবিতা লিখবোআর সারাদিন
নীল একটা
হাওয়া বইবে আমার জন্যেআর পাখিরা
আমার জন্যে উড়তে উড়তে
নিয়ে আসবে কলকাতার খবর। 


Even after death, I will write poems
and send them to you all.
All your lives to a strange girl
you will all write letters after letters.
And fall to fisticuffs.
And the wind will come
and ambush your empty lives.
You all know nothing at all about love.
You all know nothing at all about joy.
All morning I
will write poems. All afternoon I
will write poems. And all day
a blue zephyr will waft for me. And birds
winging winging
will bring me news of Calcutta. 

Lost Poets Series | Phalguni Ray (translated by Souradeep Roy)

  Artwork : Anil Karanjai, The Competition, 1968

nonchalant charminar

       ma, i can’t smile well-scrubbed twisted-smirks in your noble society anymore
in the godly dense ocean of kindness with krishna’s duffed up white teeth      with studious eyes of the devil      i can’t
anymore    in a ramakrishnian posture     use my wife according to the matriarchal customs
       substitute sugar for saccharine and dread diabetes no more   i can’t no more with my unhappy
organ do a devdas again in khalashitola on the registry day of a former fling.
       my liver is getting rancid by the day   my grandfather had cirrhosis   don’t understand
heredity    i drink alcohol  read poetry   my father for the sake of puja etc used to fast   venerable dadas in our para
swearing by dharma gently press ripe breasts of sisters-born-of-the-locality on holi
       on the day ma left for trips abroad many in your noble society had vodka   i will
nonchalantly    from your funeral pyre    light up a charminar    thinking of your death my eyes tear
up    then i don’t think of earthquakes by the banks or of floodwater   didn’t put my hand on the string of the petticoat of an unmarried lover and didn’t think of baishnab padavali ma, even i’ll die one day.
       at belur mandir on seeing foreign woman pray with her international python-bum veiled in a skirt
my limitless libido rose up   ma because your libido will be tied up to father’s memories even beyond death      i    this fucked up drunk am    
 envying you   carrying dirt of the humblest kind looking at my organ
i feel as if i’m an organism from another planet   now the rays of the setting sun is touching my face on a tangent
and after mixing the colour of the setting sun on their wings a flock of non-family-planning birds is going back towards bonolata sen’s
eyes peaceful as a nest – it’s time for them to warm the eggs –


a personal neon

i am completely talentless so i touch the tip of the nose with my tongue
to prove my talent
sometimes while walking in front of manik bandyopadyay’s house
i wonder – the same street through which manik bandyopadyay
walked, i worthless, phalguni roy, am walking, inside the second class
of a tram sometimes i wonder – was it this tram that had once
trampled upon jibanananda’s body –
i have been moving on in this way – in this way my earth sun stars have been moving
at that moment when my foetus was formed another death had fallen upon the solar family
a friend of mine sits in a bar and drinks alcohol from far-off regions of the world quite often –
one day he became very angry and called me a toddy-addicted
ganja-addicted fucker
i consider dronacharya a murderer
for snatching away eklavya’s thumb

বেক্তিগত নিয়ন

আমি পুরোপুরি প্রতিভাহীন তাই নাকে জিভ ঠেকিয়ে
প্রমাণ করি প্রতিভা
কখনও মানিক বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়ের বাড়ির সাম্নে দিয়ে হাঁটতে
হাঁটতে ভাবি - একদিন মানিক বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায় যে-রাস্তা দিয়ে হেঁটেছিলেন
সে-রাস্তায় আমি, অপদার্থ, ফালগুনী রায় হেঁটে যাচ্ছি, কখনও ট্রামের
সেকেন্ড ক্লাসে উঠে ভাবি - এই ট্রামটাই কি জীবনানন্দের
শরীর থেঁতলে দিয়েছিল
এইভাবেই আমি চলেছি – চলেছে পৃথিবী সূর্য নক্ষত্র আমার
আমার ভ্রূণমুহূর্তে আরেক মৃত্যু নেমে এসেছিল সৌরসংসারে
আমার এক বন্ধু বারে বসে দূর-দেশের দামি মদ খায় প্রায়ই –
সে খুব রেগেমেগে শালা তাড়িখোর গাঁজাখোর বলেছিল
একদিন আমায়
একলব্যর বুড়ো আঙুল কেড়ে নেবার জন্যে
আমি দ্রোণাচার্যকে হত্যাকারী মনে করি –

manik bandyopadyay’s specs

your paddy ridden field in baishak is my soul’s stamp – not the heart’s
in the winter fog i exhale smoke - not a cigarette's
in bed bereft of a woman i masturbate early in the morning
in whose tummy will my child arrive
one for which i will provide two morsels of rice?
                        without a party flag i have been surviving     without
                        the love of a woman i have been surviving    in order to listen to
rabindranath’s songs  at twelve thirty in the afternoon sun i have been surviving
no i never wanted to be rabindranath never ever     i have never wanted to love
sumita never ever    had never wanted her body   have never wanted mita’s
body      had only wanted her love but nothing happened to me
but of course the khan army in bangladesh     the US mines from the coast of tonkin
and the CRPF hiding behind the sand bags in kolkata      have left
the china nixon treaty has been signed    white black America has sent
a jeep to the moon     some grains in bharat     some armymen in vietnam
and some athletes for the Olympics
                        hindu bengalis
                        have killed
                        hindu bengalis
                        in kolkata – then under
                                                lenin and
                                                gandhi’s statues
the wellwishers of shahid minar have called a public meeting – hence –
a lot of things have happened but i’ve still not got a job
                                                   and so haven’t got a wife
the prostitute’s pimp and the bride’s parents never let their women
in our hands if we don’t show them some money
but will we all keep our organs settled inside a loincloth
and become sanyasis?
tear up for martyrs and become ministers?
once on my way to vote i saw a hungry person die
in the voting line their name was called as a proxy    and their ration card
confiscated     my father died even after receiving good dietary
medication and even His ration was confiscated – i have finally seen
death makes no difference between the rich and the poor or between the bourgeois and the                                                                                                                                                                   communist                                                                                                                                                                    
                        yet some deaths are lighter than a bird
                        yet some deaths are heavier than the mountain
hai bharatbarsha! will my death be heavy or light
hai bharatbarsha! will i be a dead body or a martyr – or will i die the way buddhadev
died when he tried to find a reason behind death?
death – are you just extinction or are you a passport to reincarnation?
who will tell me where is my real path?
who has provided me with life inside my heart – who will tell me what price is my heart?
who will provide me with pen and paper to write poems?
if i’m sick who will provide me with dietary medication?
who will provide for my food if i’m hungry?
who’ll provide me with a woman if i long for love?
                        can the state provide for everything?
                        can communism make the last boy first?
                        can socialism make a bad poet into a good one?
yet the vedic song of praise songhocchodhong songbaddhong etc means
                        our paths become one
                        our languages become one
                        our thoughts become one . . . this higher communism
was constructed by indians four thousand years before marx was born
                        our meals become one
                        our clothes become one . . . magical magical
but if after listening to this someone gets up and says our wives become one then
i mean i mean i’ll run away because i cannot i cannot think of sex with a woman and
sucking up to the guru as one and the same thing
so even after sucking our mother’s milk we can’t ever think of sucking our mother’s flesh
but after sucking the milk out of the cow we've had the cow’s flesh.


Translator's Note : Manik bandyopadyay's specs" and "nonchalant charminar" have been translated from Phalguni Roy's poems published in Khudartho Sonkolon (Hungry Anthology) (Ed. Saileswar Ghosh; published by Dey's Publishing). "বেক্তিগত নিয়ন" has been translated from the online magazine of Bengali poetry Journey90s. I am thankful to Mantra Mukim and Sneha Chowdury for their comments on earlier drafts of the translations. 


Poems | Trivarna Hariharan

Photo : Lee La

(Poems after Jelaluddin Muhammad Rumi)

These are not poems,
just sounds tattered by memory.

Eyes full of dust, wind and weeping.
Hearts borrowed from unfulfilled pilgrimages.

Letters etched in the sky’s calligraphy,
music knit into the air.

Sun washing a pair of feet in shredded snow.
Seas growing the distance between lands.

These are not poems,
they are hiding places.

What is memory to someone
who has surrendered his light to the moon and can
no longer differentiate the earth from the sea?

Your shadow hangs upon my walls
like lanes of Rabat inundated with sunlight.

Once I wrote in their reflection,
and the sea splayed the wind into two.

The heart is a tricky place to hide in.
The more you try to conceal yourself,
the more it bares you to the world.

Defending nomads comes naturally to me.
I find it difficult to remain unaffected by the necessity of geography. Guard my heart against a shelter. Keep moving around. Find a home in timelessness, in homelessness.

Language is a pair of syllables strung together.

Art is what is left of them when unmasked.

Absence is an ointment.
That explains why I never heal.

How can you accuse nomads of infidelity
when your own feet won’t stay
in one place?

This is the silhouette of a poem that is yet to arrive.
This is a morning written in the jagged letters of your name.

Your eyes are full of empty rooms and old longings.
Let me take your hands, and hold them for a while.
For once. Please.

The sound of your name is my Azaan.
I keep coming to worship it.

This is how it happens:

you enter a rhyme
and leave a

If you want to go home,
start from the wind.

The brave walk through the fire,
but the fearless move through the wind.

Once I wrote from your hands,
and the poems were no different.

Poem | Yash Pandit

Photo : Lee La


From a worn photo taken when
Trams tore the newly born streets
Of Bombay, my grandmothers eyes

Speak of youth. Her hair bound
Tightly, like an interwoven jute
Rope hangs at her waist, a petal

Or two clinging onto each knot.
"No one now remembers," she says,
"The grace of women in polka dots,

And men in bell bottoms, or
The feel of leather on the seat
Of an Impala, and technicolor portraits

Of Bachchan hanging outside
Minerva." Her memory mocks
Her perception, as she

Leafs through photos of her lost city;
The sea banging its bangles on
The shore like a widow.

But in Girgaon, should one choose
To stroll through those meticulous
Lanes can one find remnants,

Of this city she polishes in memory,
With its soul in gaudy cotton sarees
Clinging onto wooden chawls;

Bickering women and angry men,
Who contemplate cricket behind veils
Of beedi smoke. And so she slips,

Into the hourglass, draped in sand,
Hallucinating evenings when she waltzed
Between the raindrops to stay dry,

And only the sky filled her lungs.