Under The Magnifying Glass: Who is Arjun Choudhuri?
(Television. Social. Blogs. Words. Sounds. Images.
The reader could be forgiven for feeling drowned in this vast Media-Ocean, the bearer of both poisons and panaceas, even as he tries to assimilate the sensations and information that assail him. Through the quarterly series, “Under The Magnifying Glass”, I intend to churn this Ocean and bring forth to you, in their entirety (as much as is possible) some gems that rise to the surface, those magicians who lure us inside the irresistible webs they weave with their art and their craft, be it with words, sounds or images.
Presenting to you, then, the first in the series):
Who is Arjun Choudhuri?
ON ANOTHER MEETING WITH MYSELF
This is a poem that once was my body
or thought or remembering.
Recesses of uncertainty, like spiders,
like roaches, like never blossomed flowers,
hid these lines from blackened eyes.
This was once the poem I was.
Now, it is not much of a disorder,
not even a careful song dissipated
into the heart of a nightly mist.
Now it is just another bit of word.
Word is that we were all poems once.
Now that the new science of forgetting has come,
we are no longer those, poems, or disorders.
Now there are only recesses with roaches in them.
No word has yet arrived as to when
we might just be poems again.
(By Arjun Choudhuri. Private Collection, September 2013)
Dipping into his mother’s memories of his childhood, Arjun Choudhuri tells of his very first book of ‘writing’ in which his four-year-old self wrote his very first ‘poem’: “Shillong is beautiful./ Silchar is not./ Silchar is my home./ Shillong is not.”
That infant verse has today blossomed into a poetic voice that is fresh and bright, evocative and sensuous, unique and contemporary. Into poetry that draws you again and again, vivifying, even as you try to cajole out its meaning, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not.
Twenty-five years after that first verse, this prolific poet/writer/translator/researcher is no stranger to awards, whether it is as a topper in the University exams or receiving the Kavyanandan Award by Suranandan Bharati in December 2010, for his contribution to poetry and translation from Northeast India or even the Nirnawye Medal in 2012, for contributions to Literature, from the Nirnawye Shilpigosthhi.
Northeast India is where Arjun Choudhuri lives, specifically in Silchar, which is part of the Barak Valley which has been witness to a turbulent, strife-filled history.
The Bawrobawkro River, that runs through the Barak valley is as dear to Arjun as is the Moon, and the trees and the rain and Equality. And so he says in ‘METROPHOBIA’ (April 2012): My eyes bathe you, engendered river,/ in showers of knowing created for you/ with the minute seas of known bodies./ I am – Bawrobawkro – I am you.
‘Home’ which is yet another recurrent theme in Arjun Choudhuri’s poems is further epitomized in “BORDERING POETRY” which is perhaps the first anthology of translations of the poetry written originally in Bengali by poets from Barak region.
THE BARAK VALLEY EXPRESS
That train which never left, I had been a passenger on it.
Those kisses at departure were re-birthed as legend
like the great hearth-snake beneath the homestead.
Those rapt waitings invoked the cow-dust hour
with the incessant clatter of their hooves on the highway.
Many a train arrived and left after that. Many a slumbering eye
in innumerable compartments opened at the silent station.
Yet that dream devoid shadow that never leaves, and
the departing after that, were delayed, and delayed still.
All my departing, burdened by that sole non-departing,
become ceaseless returns through the period of a lifetime.
All our sayings, burdened by that sole non-departing,
search for small, cheap hotels on the dismal roadsides
and for succor, for life’s main, for the fates that be.
Between departing and non-departing, there are unmoving bridges
that sooner or later, and quite gradually, turn into confining prisons.
That train which shall never leave, I had been a passenger on it.
(By Amitabha Dev Choudhury. Translation by Arjun Choudhuri, Bordering Poetry).
Coming Next: Arjun Choudhuri ko gussa kyon aata hain?
(What makes Arjun Choudhuri so angry?)
(P.S.: I’d love it if you shared this blogpost – everyblogger’s dream – but please remember the copyright to the poems rest with the poets).