Sunday, February 3, 2008

Stories from Vibhuti

By Shivapujan Sahay
Translated into English by Mangal Murty

The Key

Had the taxi not been available at the last moment, I would have missed the train. Charging me an exorbitant fare, it did reach me to the Howrah station right on time, but now the porters started higgling with me. At first they fell upon each other for the luggage, and then started bidding – a rupee, a rupee and half, almost like the priests in a temple.

Meanwhile, a monk appeared and lifted my suitcase, saying – “Take your bedding and hurry up before you miss the train”. He led me hurriedly, and I ran after him with my bedding, leaving the porters totally flabbergasted.

The moment I got in with the monk into an Inter class compartment, the train chugged off. The monk now said – “ A young man like you should be self-reliant. Why should you go for a porter ? Can happiness be yours if you depend on others ? Or is it a sign of being rich ? In fact, you should be ready to help others like a volunteer. But if you yourself need help, how can you help others ?”

“My luggage was heavy and the train was about to leave.That’s how I got entangled with the porters. By God’s grace, if you hadn’t come to my help, I’d still be sulking in the waiting room at Howrah.”

“But where are you going ?”

“To Kashi. One of my relations is ill. He’s in Kashi to die. I’ve got his telegram only today. Had I missed this train, I’d have been ruined.”

“Really, but how ?”

“One who is dying is a big merchant of Bombay. I’m his accountant. If I reach before his death, I might get part of his riches.”

“And how much that’d be ?”

“Even if it comes to the worst, at least two lacs”.

“Oh, then you’re going for two lacs; not for your master.”

“For both, if you please.”

“But mainly for the two lacs, isn’t it ?”

“ You’re an ascetic, a monk, but we’re worldly creatures. For us filthy lucre is like God.”

My words made the monk serious and brooding. Drawing a deep breath, he said – “Bhaj Govindam Bhaj Govindam, Govindam Bhaj Moodhmate” (Glory be to God, O foolish being!).”

He looked up into space, and with closed eyes and folded hands, bowed his head; then looked at me again. I asked him – “ Maharaj, what wre you doing ?”

“I was praying to the Almighty, who does all this rigmarole.”

“What rigmarole ?”

“What could be a funnier rigmarole in this world than this show of unabashed selfishness ?”

“But is there nothing else in the world except selfishness ?”

“Why not; but is selfishness not the most palpable ? The rest is only vast vacant space. That invisible divine rigmarole cannot be seen with these mortal eyes.”

“But for seeing that, has God given us any third eye besides these two ?”

“Yes, the eye of wisdom which opens when these two close”.

“Then does man become blind ?”

“No, after sunrise the lamp becomes useless”.

“Well, but when does that eye of wisdom open ?”

“When God showers his mercy”.

“When had the first shower of God’s mercy fallen on you ?”

This again made the monk silent and pensive. After a short spell of meditation, he looked at me again and said – “The God Who made the swan white, the parrot green, the kokil black, the koknad orange, the chamka yellow and the rainbow many-hued, and painted the peacock’s tail with resplendent colours, the same God overspread a thick layer of selfishness on this world. Just as we cannot take away the heat from fire, light from the sun, moonlight from the moon, fragrance from the earth, coldness from water, flash from the lightning, darkness from the cloud and fragility from the flower, similarly we cannot separate selfishness from this world.

“Just as penury and pain are inseparable, the world and selfishness have a similar inseparability. Just as sloth is the cause of all diseases, similarly this world is the play-field of all selfishness. If this world was not scorched by the raging fire of the conflict of self-interests, it would be far cooler and lovelier than paradise itself. Every single atom of this wondrous world is full of the might of selfishness. If selfishness were to go from this world, all its marvels will lose their mystery.

“One who breaks the shackles of selfishness, can get freedom from this world-prison. He defeats the world. The world bows in his feet and he puts his blessing hand on its head, making it free from all fear. But selfishness like a rootless creeper engulfs the world-tree completely. It’s not easy to slash this tangled mesh”.

“Then how did you slash it ?”

“I haven’t been able as yet. But I hope I will.. And the flame of that hope was ignited by the fire of my father’s blazing pyre”.

“You make me so curious to hear your whole story. Could you please tell me that story ?”

“If it does you any good, I can tell you in brief.”

“But I’m sure your inspiring life-story will be beneficial for me. Nothing is more valuable than the company of saints. Your story will quench my curiosity and also bring me valuable counsel.”

“So be it. I was the son of a very rich Zamindar of Madhya Pradesh. He had four brothers. When my father was on his death bed, counting days, I was passion-blind; no worldly worries ever came to me. Often I would sit by my father’s death bed and wipe the tears trickling down his cheeks. He would time and again kiss my hands. When I saw the final surges of his love, my heart would churn. The pious stream of his filial love still fills my heart and flows through my eyes.”

As he said this his eyes filled with tears. Tears came to my eyes, too. Impatiently I asked – “Why did you become a monk ?”

He said – “That’s the story. The day my father died, he was in full consciousness. He was staring at the charming picture of Shri Radhakrishna hung on the wall before his eyes. Moments later his eyes froze in death. The whole house was filled with crying and wailing. My harmonious world turned into chaos.

“My mother consoled herself looking at my face. Taking me into her lap she forgot her grief. My wife, too, shedding some false tears, said – “ Please take care of yourself. Don’t grieve too much.”

“That sounded the alarm for me. When my mother affectionately wiped my tears with her sari and, lifting my chin, said – ‘I, too, am living only for you, otherwise what’s the point of my life now’ – I felt a kick in my heart, but even that kick couldn’t break the pitcher of my delusion.

“Even earlier when my uncle sat beside my father’s death bed asking him in whispers about various money transactions, and I saw my father unable in great pain to answer his queries, I became extremely upset. But even that turmoil of the heart couldn’t break the spell of delusive slumber.”

I said – “ Then did you flee from home because of the iniquities of your uncle ?”

Cutting in sharply, he said – “ Why do you interrupt me ? Listen patiently to whatever I say. When my father’s bamboo bier reached the burning ghat, I had to help his body on to the pyre and perform the final fire ritual. My heart felt like a stone as I did so. Soon the pyre burst into a blaze.

“ Suddenly my elder uncle shouted – Oh, God, the string round the waist wasn’t broken. The key to the safe is still tied in it. Alas, we are ruined !”

“At once, on hearing this, my younger uncle hastily scattered the logs of the burning pyre. My father’s half-naked body slipped from the pyre. The string round his waist was already burnt, and the red-hot key was lying in the smouldering fire. Picking it up quickly, my younger uncle covered it with ash.

“That key, that same key, yes, that very key was able to open the lock of my ignorance. It was there that I saw the true reality of this world. There it was that my third eye opened up. There and then light entered into my life.”

Saying this, the monk at once lapsed into meditation; and I, too, sank into a strange and intense stream of thought.

‘Kunji’, a short story by Shivpujan Sahay translated into English by Mangal Murty

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hindi poems translated by me

Hindi Translated Poems
The Boat
O Brother, I must return home,
Please take me on your boat.

I got delayed in the market,
In all that haggling and purchase;
It was a luminous mirror
Which caught me in its spell:
But ,poor me, its price I could not pay.

Was it not sheer craziness on my part,
With just a cowrie in my purse,
To hang around near shops
Selling the finest cosmetic fripperies!
Who’d care for a pauper like me?
I suffered silently the salt on my wound.

I won’t be much of a burden for your boat,
Poor I am but I’ll give you all my love,
Will sing you the songs of Meera and Soor,
And pay you the few coins that I get.
I put my head on your feet; have mercy.
O Brother, I must return home,
Please take me on your boat.

The Etcher
My fame was your love,
I thought it was my due.
You came down on your own,
I thought I had summoned you!

Electric light took me across
The darkness that was doomed.
The light drew me into the forest
To the den of the dacoits.

Moonlight must have writhed in pain! –
As clouds had hemmed in the moon.
Even your dream had cheated me,
What to do, it was already morn.

Colours of your picture didn’t fade
You’d lovingly painted on my heart.
Even sculptors of tomorrow would say
That ‘Rudra’ was an etcher, not a poet.

These are two poems by Late Shri Ramgopal Sharma ‘Rudra’ (1 Nov 1912 – 19 Aug 1991), a lesser known poet from Bihar, who had taught me as a Hindi teacher in a Patna school. Here are two of his poems, translated by me, submitted as a tribute to his memory.
Shri ‘Rudra’ worked as a translator in the State Rajbhasha Department. He was better known in the literary circle in Bihar and as one who could draw tears by singing his poems in public poetic meets, in a melodious voice. His poetry is rich in textural quality, and marked by an intense lyricality. He died a tragic death by getting entangled in a roadside live electric wire as he was returning home on his bicycle on a dark night.

The Joohi Bud
By Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’
Indolent, on a lonesome woodland bine
Lay lapped in leafy bowers – in wedded bliss –
lost in dreams of love-
A snow-fresh, soft, sweet maid – the Joohi bud:
Its eyelids sealed.

‘Twas vernal night time.
Loitering in some land remote
Was the lonely Breeze, love-lorn, forlorn
- the Breeze they call the Malaya.
Memories surged up,
Of that sweet murmur in reunion,
Of the moon-laved midnight,
Of the tremulous, lovely limbs of his love.

And lo, the Breeze – over lakes and groves and brooks
And sylvan mounts and tangles of vines and bushes,
- He came bouncing, and made love to the blossomed bud.
And she lay slumbering, unaware, naturally, of her lover’s breath.
He pressed a kiss on her cheek
And the whole bine-curl swung and quivered,
Still she awoke not nor sought excuse
Nor oped her sleep-flushed eyes.
An air of indolence and languor…!
Drugged - was she? – with the wine of youth.

Wantonly unkind, he was hard, oh, too hard on her –
Shook up amain with fitful gusts
The dainty petite frame,
Pinched, too, her plump cheeks.

Startled, the maid rolled her bewildered eyes
And espying her spouse in bed (or hard by)
She chuckled, her chin dipped and nestled,
And bloomed afresh in hue of love.

Nirala (1899-1961) is perhaps the greatest among modern Hindi poets, the leading light of the “Chhayavad school “ of modern Hindi poetry. ”Joohi ki kali” , written in 1918, is his earliest poem, embodying the true romantic spirit of the resurgent poetic mode. It was published in his second volume of poems Parimal (1929).
Translated from Hindi by B.S.M.Murty
Nalin Vilochan Sharma
Dunes of sand like cats curled asleep,
The waves lapping-playing on their paws.
Cloudlambs grazing sun’s greensward
Dauntless, unamazed.

I walking in an infinite void –
A vagrant point on the yellow sands –
Across the eternal triangle
Of sky, earth, and the shoreless sea.

As the backwash of my voyage
Are visible only : cigarette-smoke
Trailing on the wind; on the sands,
A number of footprints
To be full when the waves will sweep them over.

Nalin Vilochan Sharma (1916-1961) was Professor of Hindi at Patna University and a renowned Hindi poet and critic.He led a small group of poets, during the 1960s, who professed a manifesto of a new strain of experimental poetry called “Nakenvad” formed from the initial letters of their names: Nalin, Kesari and Naresh, during the 1960s. This poem is a typical example of that school of poetry.
Translated from Hindi by B.S.M.Murty

The Last Song
Let’s, go Love,
Beyond the Moon.
Oh, let’s Love!

Let’s hide among the stars,
And flee from this earth, this world.
Hold me fast,
I’m in a swirl of intoxication.
Wake me up
From this shadowy sleep.

Life, even if it ends,
Let not love’s journey end.
Oh, let’s go Love!

Pain raced through your veins,
As I listened to the song,
As if in a dream,
Wandering among the stars,
Holding your hand,
Sharing your pain.

It was a dark sky,
Splashed with glittering stars,
And the plaintive song
Echoed through them.

But I sensed a dark shadow,
Following up close behind.
I wouldn’t look back,
But rather hold your hand
Evermore tightly.

You gave me a faint smile
On your pallid lips.
My hand shook nervously
And the dream melted
Into tears.

On Lakshmi Narayan Mishra, Dramatist

Remembering Lakshminarayan Mishra
By Dr Mangal Murty

Kashi has been the very heart of Hindu spirituality and the centre of Hindu religious pilgrimage. It has also been the sacred seat of Indian classical scholarship and the fountainhead of Hindi literary tradition. Right from Kabir and Tulsi through Bharatendu, Prasad and Premchand down to Trilochan it has had a glorious and unbroken line of immortal creative geniuses, a line for which it is impossible to find a parallel in any single city of the world.
But Kashi (now Varanasi) is also the temple city of Lord Shiva, the Natraj. It must be His Tandava Dance in which lies the origin of drama. And Tulsi’s Ramcharitmanas has been the source of Hindi drama in the form of the Ramleela. Kashi has had a long tradition of religious drama culminating in the birth of modern Hindi drama in Bharatendu and the modern Hindi theatre in the shape of the Nagari Natak Mandali. Bharatendu himself records that the first Hindi play Janaki Mangal written by Sheetala Prasad Tripathi was staged in 1868 in the Benares Cantonment area. Unfortunately the advent of the Cinema greatly undermined the development of the theatre which in its turn had its debilitating influence on Hindi drama.
Drama is a unique literary genre. It had its origins in dance and song. No other art form organically necessitates a live performance for its full effect. From its earliest religious poetic origins to its modern secular prose form it is vitally linked to the stage. Delinked from the theatre, drama is like the soul without a body, invisible and abstract. The bane of Hindi drama has been the discontinuous and dispirited development of its theatre, in stark contrast to the Western dramatic tradition where theatre has had a continuous coexistence with drama.
Notwithstanding this serious impediment, modern Hindi drama in Kashi has had two great dramatists adorning its glorious dramatic heritage : Jayashankar Prasad and Lakshminarayan Mishra. In modern dramatic criticism they have often been presented as a study in contrast, though there are striking similarities at least in the development of their art. Both began as poets of the Chhayavad school and moved into the realm of prose drama. In age Prasad was 14 years older, but his first celebrated poetic volume Ansoo was published in the same year (1925) as Mishra’s first poetic creation Antarjagat. All important plays (about a dozen) of Prasad were published between 1921 and 1936., most of them on historical or mythological themes, and the two best of the group being Skandagupta(1928) and Chandragupta(1931). His magnum opus, the poetic epic Kamayani was published in 1936, a year before his death. Mishra ,too, published in 1956, an incomplete epical composition Kaljayee on which he had been working for more than a decade. But Mishra virtually relinquished his poetic pursuits in favour of drama of social realism in an overt reaction to Prasad’s historical and mythological plays. His most famous play in the genre of social realism is Sindoor ki Holi (1933) which deals with the contemporary psycho-moral predicaments of pre-Independence Indian society.
Lakshminarayan Mishra was a prolific writer and produced more than two dozen full length plays and an equal number of one-act plays. He brought the modern Western format of realism in drama to bear upon his plays, which he called ‘Problem Plays’, with Ibsen and Shaw as his models. He also translated Ibsen’s realistic plays Doll’s House and Enemy of the People into Hindi. All his plays have long prefaces like Shaw’s and the general structure of scenes and stagecraft also has obvious resemblance to plays by Ibsen and Shaw. But he refutes any charges of direct influence of modern Western drama, particularly of Bernard Shaw, when he says : “Shaw is impossible to imitate in the Indian context. His dry argumentative philosophy does not coalesce well with the spirituality of the Indian ethos”.
Mishra had strong views about contemporary Hindi drama, and was particularly critical of Prasad’s plays which he found to be far removed from the realities of life and reveling in sheer emotionalism. As he said : “ The realism of life has far more dramatic content in it than the impossible elements obtained in imagination”. About the characters in his plays, he asserts : “We need characters whose hearts pulsate in unison with ours, in whose joy and sorrow, grief and happiness, we may get what we want to or what we crave for and do not get anywhere….I put my characters on the road of life. They move forward through the labyrinth of their tendencies and circumstances, halting, stumbling, tired, yet forging their way ahead. I merely keep following them inquisitively”. But as one drama critic, Birendra Narayan, has observed in his book Hindi Drama and Stage (1981), Mishra, in his realistic plays, creates “certain pegs of characters on which [he] hangs his thoughts”. The famous critic, Dr Nagendra, commenting on the intellectual content of his prefaces and plays, observes: “Ibsen, Shaw, Romain Rolland, Virginia Woolf of Europe and the Upanishad, Gandhi and Sarat of India appear to be packed pell-mell in one mind”.
However, the sheer amplitude of Mishra’s dramatic oeuvre, the contemporaneity and topicality of his themes, the experimentality of his stagecraft, all taken together make him the progenitor of serious realistic drama in Hindi creating footprints followed by subsequent dramatists like Uday Shankar Bhatt, Ramkumar Verma, Jagdish Chandra Mathur and Upendranath Ashq.
Lakshminarayan Mishra died in Varanasi on 19 August,1987. Paying tributes then to his memory, Dr Machwe said : “ Mishraji provided a turning-point to Hindi drama. He may have owed his craft to Western drama, but his themes were taken from the storehouse of classical wisdom of India. He laid the foundation stone of modern Hindi drama; regrettably we tend to forget this fact”.

Shivpujan Sahay

Acharya Shivpujan Sahay is an eminent Hindi litterateur, a novelist (Dehati Duniya 1926), a short story writer (Vibhuti 1935),highly regarded editor (Matwala 1923,Madhuri 1924,Ganga 1931,Jagaran 1932,Himalaya 1946, Sahitya 1950- )is famous as a master prose writer. He was born in a middle class Kayastha land-owning family in a village(Unwans)near Buxar on 9 August 1893.After his early education and a short stint as a Hindi teacher at Ara (1903-1921)he went to Calcutta and joined 'Matwala' as an editor. He went to Lucknow in 1924 in the editorial department of Madhuri where he worked with Premchand and edited his 'Rangbhumi' and some of his stories also.After a year he returned to Calcutta editing short-lived journals like Samanway', 'Mauji', 'Golmal','Upanyas Tarang',etc. finally moving to Kashi (Varanasi)to work as a freelance editor. For a short period he went to Sultanganj near Bhagalpur to edit 'Ganga' but returned to Kashi where he was asked to edit 'Jagaran', a literary fortnightly brought out by Jayashankar Prasad and his circle of friends.There he also worked with Premchand and was a respected member of the town's literary circle,and the Nagari Pracharini Sabha.In 1935 he moved to Laheria Sarai(Darbhanga)to work as editor of 'Balak' and other publications of Pustak Bhandar owned by Ramlochan Sharan.In 1939 he joined Rajendra College,Chhapra as Professor of Hindi.In 1946, on a year's leave, he moved to Patna to edit 'Himalaya', a landmark literary monthly.In 1949 he finally came to Patna to work as Secretary of Bihar Rashtra Bhasha Parished, a government academy where he edited and published more than 50 precious volumes of Hindi reference works.Later he became Director of the Parishad and compiled and edited "Hindi Sahitya Aur Bihar' a monumental literary history. His own works were compiled and published in 4 volumes of 'Shipujan Rachanavali'(1956). Shivpujan Sahay is also remembered for his editing of several literary commemoration volumes, chiefly 'Dwivedi Abhinandan Granth'(1933),'Rajendra Abhinandan Granth'(1950)and 'Jayanti Smarak Granth'(1942).He also edited Dr Rajendra Prasad's 'Atmakatha'.He died in Patna on 21 January, 1963. His posthmously published books are 'Wey Din Wey Loug'(1965), 'Mera Jeevan'(1985),'Smritishesh'(1994),'Hindi Bhasha Aur Sahitya'(1996),"Gram Sudhar' (2007).He was awarded 'Padmabhushan' in 1960. Source:'Shivpujan Sahay' by Mangal Murty,Published by Sahitya Academy, 35 Phirozshah Marg, New Delhi,India