Archive | August 2014

পত্রলেখা/Pawtrawlekha/Letters

পত্রলেখা

দিলে তুমি সোনা-মোড়া ফাউণ্টেন পেন,

           কতমতো লেখার আসবাব।

               ছোটো ডেস্‌কোখানি।

                   আখরোট কাঠ দিয়ে গড়া।

        ছাপ-মারা চিঠির কাগজ

           নানা বহরের।

রুপোর কাগজ-কাটা এনামেল-করা।

        কাঁচি ছুরি গালা লাল-ফিতে।

           কাঁচের কাগজ-চাপা,

        লাল নীল সবুজ পেন্সিল।

    বলে গিয়েছিলে তুমি চিঠি লেখা চাই

           একদিন পরে পরে।

লিখতে বসেছি চিঠি,

           সকালেই স্নান হয়ে গেছে।

লিখি যে কী কথা নিয়ে কিছুতেই ভেবে পাই নে তো।

           একটি খবর আছে শুধু–

               তুমি চলে গেছ।

        সে খবর তোমারো তো জানা।

               তবু মনে হয়,

        ভালো করে তুমি সে জান না।

               তাই ভাবি এ কথাটি জানাই তোমাকে–

                   তুমি চলে গেছ।

               যতবার লেখা শুরু করি

        ততবার ধরা পড়ে এ খবর সহজ তো নয়।

               আমি নই কবি–

ভাষার ভিতরে আমি কণ্ঠস্বর পারি নে তো দিতে;

        না থাকে চোখের চাওয়া।

           যত লিখি তত ছিঁড়ে ফেলি।

দশটা তো বেজে গেল।

    তোমার ভাইপো বকু যাবে ইস্‌কুলে,

           যাই তারে খাইয়ে আসিগে।

               শেষবার এই লিখে যাই–

                   তুমি চলে গেছ।

               বাকি আর যতকিছু

           হিজিবিজি আঁকাজোকা ব্লটিঙের ‘পরে।

রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর, পত্রলেখা

*

The Letter

You gave me a golden fountain pen,

and so many other things to write with.

A little desk,

made of walnut wood.

Monogrammed paper

of various weights and shades.

A silver letter opener, chased with enamel.

Scissors, a pen knife, sealing wax, red ribbon.

A glass paper weight,

red, blue and green pencils.

You told me that I was to write you

every other day.

I have to write a letter,
I already had my bath this morning.
But I cannot think of what to write about;
there is but one incident worth talking about –
You have left.
Of course, you know this as well.
But I still feel,
Perhaps you do not really know it.
That is why I think, I should let you know –
You have left.
Every time I begin to write
I realise that this is not easily received.
I am not a poet –
I cannot imbue words with voice;
nor use the language my eyes would speak.
And so, I keep writing a letter, only to tear it up.

 

It is already past ten.

Your nephew Boku has to go to school,

let me go and help feed him.

For the last time –

You have left.

Everything else that remains,

mere scribbles on a blotting pad.

*

Tagore, Patralekha from his collection of poems known as Punashcha
(Translation, mine)

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মৃত্যু/Mrityu/ Death

                মৃত্যু    

           মরণের ছবি মনে আনি।

ভেবে দেখি শেষ দিন ঠেকেছে শেষের শীর্ণক্ষণে।

        আছে ব’লে যত কিছু

    রয়েছে দেশে কালে–

যত বস্তু, যত জীব, যত ইচ্ছা, যত চেষ্টা,

     যত আশানৈরাশ্যের ঘাতপ্রতিঘাত

        দেশে দেশে ঘরে ঘরে চিত্তে চিত্তে,

যত গ্রহনক্ষত্রের

    দূর হতে দূরতর ঘূর্ণ্যমান স্তরে স্তরে

        অগণিত অজ্ঞাত শক্তির

           আলোড়ন আবর্তন

        মহাকালসমুদ্রের কূলহীন বক্ষতলে,

           সমস্তই আমার এ চৈতন্যের

    শেষ সূক্ষ্ম আকম্পিত রেখার এ ধারে।

           এক পা তখনো আছে সেই প্রান্তসীমায়,

               অন্য পা আমার

           বাড়িয়েছি রেখার ও ধারে,

    সেখানে অপেক্ষা করে অলক্ষিত ভবিষ্যৎ

        লয়ে দিনরজনীর অন্তহীন অক্ষমালা

               আলো-অন্ধকারে-গাঁথা।

    অসীমের অসংখ্য যা-কিছু

           সত্তায় সত্তায় গাঁথা

               প্রসারিত অতীতে ও অনাগতে।

নিবিড় সে সমস্তের মাঝে

        অকস্মাৎ আমি নেই।

 

               একি সত্য হতে পারে।

উদ্ধত এ নাস্তিত্ব যে পাবে স্থান

    এমন কি অণুমাত্র ছিদ্র আছে কোনোখানে।

        সে ছিদ্র কি এতদিনে

           ডুবাতো না নিখিলতরণী

               মৃত্যু যদি শূন্য হত,

                   যদি হত মহাসমগ্রের

                          রূঢ় প্রতিবাদ।

 

 

  ২৬ ভাদ্র, ১৩৩৯
 
G_Tagore_Tagore
 
 
 

                   Death

           I think of death,

 Of when the final day will pause at that diminished ultimate moment.

       Of all the things that remain

   Across nations and across time – 

All that exists, all that lives, all the wishes, every effort,

     All the blows rendered in the conflict between hope and despair

        In every land, in each home and each heart,

All the planets and stars

    That revolve near and far, releasing

        Layer upon layer of infinite, unknown energy

          That moves and spins

        In the shore-less depths of the sea of Time

           All these are held by my consciousness

    at a final, delicate, unwavering thread

           One foot is still upon that edge,

               While the other I have placed

           Ready to cross that line,

   Where waits an unseen future

        With all the stars of day and night 

              Strung like pearls in darkness and light

    All the infinite that fills eternity

          Linked through souls

               From distant past to a future that is yet to arrive

And suddenly in midst of all

        there shall be no one that is me

For I will have gone.

 

               Can this be true?

Where will this proud non-existence find its place,

    Is there even the smallest space for it to hide any where?

        Would that empty space not have sunk then by now

           The great ship of existence 

               If death was an absence

                   If it was a rude protest,

                          Against the great collective wealth of the world.

 

 

  26th Bhadra, 1339

Tagore cartoon in the Oregonian, January 1, 1917

This newspaper comic strip was published in the U.S. during Tagore’s 1916-17 tour (Oregonian, January 1, 1917)

Here, we see Tagore staring at Americans who stare back at him with barely disguised curiosity. Any mutual interest implied is marred by the cartoon itself. Scenes show Tagore’s interactions with different American types with the poet dressed in stereotypical ‘holy man’ clothing, a caricature of himself .

 

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A Poet’s School: A Visit to Santiniketan

As my daughter, Tess, and I walked through the grounds of Patha Bhavana, the primary and secondary school of Tagore’s university, Visva Bharati, I felt very much at home. The atmosphere of quietness and the friendly interaction between teachers and students was very familiar. Like other areas we went to in India, the older buildings seemed rather run down, but in Tagore’s school, where ninety per cent of the classes are held outdoors, it didn’t seem to matter too much. The many evergreen trees were constantly drop­ping leaves, and the ground was covered with them, providing a beautiful environment for lessons. The children in their yellow and white uniforms were bright-eyed and confident, and our guides, three boys from Year 9, were friendly and, like students anywhere, were happy to have some time off from their studies. It was great to see a school so similar in spirit and intent to SOTE.

Tagore’s idea for his School, established at Santiniketan in West Bengal in 1901, was to get away from the stifling atmosphere of the traditional nineteenth century classroom in which he was trained, with its drills and mindless rote-learning intended to prepare young Indians for the British colonial service. Tagore, born in 1861 in Kolkata, wanted a school with a more traditional Indian structure that would embrace Bengali language and culture and be based on a more intimate personal relationship between teacher and student. Cultural pursuits were to be given emphasis along with the physical sciences and humanities — a place where all cultures of the world could be represented and celebrated.

We spoke to the Acting-Principal, Sm Bijaya Bhattacharya, as well as the art teacher and the Director of the Kindergarten, and they left us with an impression of a dedicated teaching staff who highly value the student-teacher relation­ship. The Science Co-ordinator gave an insight into the school’s approach to education when he explained that he believed encouraging children’s creativity was one of the main purposes of all subject areas. Later that evening we attended one of the weekly literary meetings which were full of creative writing, recitation, songs and dances.

While at Santiniketan I had the opportunity to visit Rabindranath Tagore’s nephew, Supriyo Tagore, who had been the principal of the school for over 30 years. I asked him what were the essentials of Tagore’s approach. He explained that Tagore had emphasized that children need to be nurtured in three important relationships:

  • Relationship with Nature
  • Relationship with Other People; and
  • Relationship with the Higher Truth.

He said it was from these fundamental bases that the children’s education should be built. He was concerned that recent trends towards education for success and competition with external exams could undermine Tagore’s great experiment.

India’s Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, is the university’s Chancellor, and this gives some idea of the high esteem in which this institution is held in India. However, Visva Bharati is now a Central University and this brings with it the requirement to fit in with the overall education system.

Starting as a primary school at the beginning of the twentieth century, it gradually grew and developed so there are now a number of tertiary departments including: Humanities & Social Science, Science, Dance, Drama & Music, Fine Art, Education, and Tagore Studies & Research. Visva Bharati also has a twin campus a few kilometres away at Sriniketan which is dedicated to Agricultural Science and Rural Reconstruction, with a view to assisting the local villages in a practical way with sustaining their livelihood.

We visited the Institute of Fine Arts under the guidance of the head of the sculpture faculty and saw the students working away at a great variety of pieces for their imminent annual exhibition. There was even one student from Ferny Grove in Brisbane! We walked past students being tutored under the trees and saw evidence of the creative spirit being nurtured in a very individual way.

Unfortunately, our stay was too brief to gain more than an impression of Visva Bharati but it left a desire to understand more about it and to perhaps set up some on-going communication for the mutual benefit of our like-minded schools.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Waters has been principal of the School of Total Education since 1978. He has taught at both primary and secondary levels and has a particular interest in parent education and the training of teachers. He is also a teacher of senior Study of Society and History.