To Have Loved and Lost: Words of the Bard

Image

 

A continuation of one of my previous posts, a song of Rabindranath Tagore in translation, in this post, I will yet again attempt to translate the lyrics of a song by the bard. As in my previous post, ‘Tobu Mone Rekho (And, still, remember me)’, I would like to add that the inspiration behind this translation came from reading the works of numerous scholars and exponents, who have taken painstaking efforts to dissect, analyze and reanalyze Tagore’s treasure trove of songs, poems and prose and spread it to the rest of the world. This particular song, written in 1883, is about losing a loved one, the austerity and the sudden cessation that are part of it. It is a widely known fact that Tagore’s sister-in-law, Kadambari Devi, whom he lost very untimely, had been a silent anchor behind his literary works, and her death, plagued him with the burden of grief and loss, yet also showered his path with light, meaning and bliss. The lyrics of this song are said to be the poet’s solemn, subtle and spontaneous reaction to losing a person so dear to his soul. The song, a melodious rendition, is based on the theme of death and mourning, and the poet’s world of consciousness centered on the domain of death. It can also be described as a wistful refrain on the death of a loved one and the poet pining, lamenting the loss with his ardent, loving soul.

 

আমার    প্রাণের ‘পরেচলেগেলকে

বসন্তের   বাতাসটুকুরমতো।

সেযে    ছুঁয়েগেল, নুয়ে গেল রে–

ফুল      ফুটিয়ে গেল শত শত।

সে       চলে গেল, বলে গেল না– সে   কোথায় গেল ফিরে এল না।

সে       যেতে যেতে চেয়ে গেল    কী যেন গেয়ে গেল–

তাই     আপন-মনে বসে আছি কুসুমবনেতে।

সে       ঢেউয়ের মতন ভেসে গেছে,   চাঁদের আলোর দেশে গেছে,

যেখান দিয়ে হেসে গেছে,  হাসি তার    রেখে গেছে রে–

মনে হল আঁখির কোণে    আমায় যেন ডেকে গেছে সে।

আমি     কোথায় যাব, কোথায় যাব, ভাবতেছি তাই একলা বসে।

সে       চাঁদের চোখে বুলিয়ে গেল ঘুমের ঘোর।

সে       প্রাণের কোথায় দুলিয়ে গেল ফুলের ডোর।

কুসুমবনের উপর দিয়ে কী কথা সে বলে গেল,

ফুলের গন্ধ পাগল হয়ে সঙ্গে তারি চলে গেল।

হৃদয় আমার আকুল হল,    নয়ন আমার মুদে এলে রে–

কোথা দিয়ে কোথায় গেল সে॥ ((The lyrics in original Bengali, courtesy: Geetabitan.com)

 

Who is it that touched my heart, trampled my soul

And went away, like the intoxicating breeze of spring?

Is it she who touched and bent me,

Blooming a hundred flowers while leaving?

 

She went away, wordless, to a distant land and never came back.

Looking at her path as she went, singing a nameless melody.

I am seated, forlorn, with myself, in the garden of love.

 

She has floated in waves, rippled in the sky,

Went away to an ethereal kingdom of the moonlight.

She has left her untainted smile on her way.

I felt as if she reckoned me, with the corner of her wistful eyes.

Sitting alone, I am lost in thoughts: where do I go from here?

 

She waved her wand and the eyes of the moon closed in slumber.

She dangled a bunch of flowers deep within me.

Her words were like whispered love in the ears of the wild flowers

The heady fragrance of the flowers followed her, became one with her.

With a heaving heart, with fervent eyes, I sit and think,

Which path did she take, which place did she go!

 

P.S. I would like to add here that with this translation, I hope to pay a small homage to the loving memory of my mother who has been a keen devotee of the songs, poems and literary works of Tagore. Since she has transferred this unquestioned devotion to me in my childhood, I had to come back to none other than the bard himself to reiterate my thoughts on what our relationship had been about, and how the memory of her love would keep me going for the rest of my life. This one is also for you, Ma!

Listen to Sagar Sen’s soulful rendition at Youtube.com:

 

‘Tobu, Mone Rekho (And Still, Remember Me)’

 

My mother has passed over to another domain, the ever elusive domain of death, and the much talked about, yet unsettling, mysterious domain of the after-life nine months back. I flew back to India to see if I could at all save her fledgling life, lying in deep coma in a small, almost unknown hospital in the outskirts of Kolkata. All I could see after I reached in the wee hours of the night was her corpse lying over heaps of ice, waiting for me to see her for one last time before being cremated. This was a sudden, unexpected blow to me and I have written about the experience at length in my full-length memoir, after the closure had come to a full circle. I have been witnessing the event of death in my family ever since I was five years old, the austerity, the sudden cessation and the rituals that have been a part of it, but this event has actually been the dawning of an entirely new realization, a new epiphany for me. As much as I have written about my mother in poetry and prose following her sudden death, all of it has stemmed from the fact that she had been and will be a secret, silent anchor, plaguing me with the burden of grief and loss with her death, yet showering my path with light, meaning and bliss.

On that note, I would love to share a small homage to the loving memory of my mother on the International Mother’s day. Since all her life, she has been a keen devotee of the songs, poems and literary works of Rabindranath Tagore, since she has transferred this unquestioned devotion to me in my childhood, I had to come back to none other than the bard himself to reiterate my thoughts on what our relationship had been about, and how the memory of her love would keep me going for the rest of my life.

তবু মনে রেখো যদি দূরে যাই চলে।
যদি পুরাতন প্রেম ঢাকা পড়ে যায় নবপ্রেমজালে।
যদি থাকি কাছাকাছি,
দেখিতে না পাও ছায়ার মতন আছি না আছি–
তবু মনে রেখো।
যদি জল আসে আঁখিপাতে,
এক দিন যদি খেলা থেমে যায় মধুরাতে,
তবু মনে রেখো।
এক দিন যদি বাধা পড়ে কাজে শারদ প্রাতে– মনে রেখো।
যদি পড়িয়া মনে
ছলোছলো জল নাই দেখা দেয় নয়নকোণে–
তবু মনে রেখো। (The lyrics in original Bengali, courtesy: Geetabitan.com)

There have been several translations of this song that speaks of physical separation, the pain and the inevitability of death, and the spiritual proximity of love, the gift of memory and reminiscence that transcends the physical spheres. I have been inspired by all these translations, but was tempted to write down my own version, which goes like this:

And, still remember me, if I go far, far away, remember me.
Even if the trappings of a new love shroud old ties of love and attachment, remember me.
If I remain close, yet distant from you, lonely and unrecognizable,
Like a shadow, remember me; still, remember me.
If tears drench your eyelashes, remember me.
One day, if the journey of this life ends at the stroke of night, still remember me.
One day, if my absence interrupts your chores on an autumn morning, remember me.
If, recalling my memory, tears do not moist the corner of your eyes,
Still remember me.

‘Sneher folgudhara’ (coining your own expressions in Bengali), the never-ending cascade of love that will bind us, forever, even after the body turns to ashes, and returns to the earth after death. Love–Your daughter, Papai, who will always remain a daughter, carry your bloodline forward and pass on your legacy of words, thoughts and unconditional love to my daughters, irrespective of your physical absence.

My favorite rendition of the song by Kanika Bandyopadhyay:

The bard singing the song himself (a rare treasure):

Image

Rest in peace forever, my beloved Ma. Only know that the candle of your love will forever be lit in my heart, Amen!