Concluding Cohen Week: Homage from Sayan Aich Bhowmik

 

” He does not accept your company, Not at the centre of the world…”

 

            One of the things that almost always amused and fascinated Leonard Cohen was the widespread public opinion and claim that his vinyls were sold accompanied by razor blades. His sepulchral voice, his lyrical meditations on life and death, running like an undercurrent through the majority of his lyrics gave the impression that the records didn’t ooze the musical air of a recording room, but rather the air of a tomb. This common perception of Cohen being the crooner of doom and gloom went with him wherever he would go. And yet, when he was asked about the supposedly prominent streak of pessimism in his worldview, he responded in his characteristic inimitable candour, ” I don’t consider myself a pessimist. Pessimists are waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin.”

            Cohen’s mind was a sharp one, forged in the smithy of discipline and rigour, not without the distractions of life on the road, drugs and women, but despite them. In an interview to Patrick Watson in the early 1980’s, Cohen remarked, ” The regime locates your everyday…(the writing), Involves biting through the mess, but some discomfort is necessary.” The regime found the full flowering in Hydra, where he bought a house with the money he inherited from his grandmother and a while later, he moved in with Marianne Ihlen and her son Axel. That house and the typewriter by the window was what he called his laboratory and this fondness for simplicity stayed with him all life. In a conversation with Jian Ghomeshi, Cohen elaborated on his choice, ” I like to live simply… But that is not a virtue, it is a preference.”

 

Photographs from Ann Shapiro

 

            Cohen would have been 86 this September. In this day and age of digital media and easy availability at the tip of the finger and the click of a mouse, his words burn bright and his voice rings true. Because that voice speaks to us in the dead of night, when one can hear the shadows melting in beat down lives and houses lit up by tungsten bulbs. Long before Cohen had been ordained as a Buddhist Monk during his stay at Mount. Baldy, he had calmed tempests- be it his own heart in turmoil, his listeners listening to his records or a rowdy hostile crowd at the Isle of Wight music festival. Sometimes regarded as one of the most iconic performances by a solo artist, Leonard Cohen tamed a raucous crowd that had previously heckled the likes of Kris Kristofferson off stage.

            One wonders how a man, accused of dipping his pen in morbidity could speak to all of us, in the chaos and the pandemonium of everyday life. As I look back at this puzzle, I am reminded of the words of Jennifer Warnes who talks of Cohen’s lyrics being a reference point and fountainhead of solace to his readers and listeners because. “Leonard would say, Look at the shreds of my heart.” Here is one man, who does not make any bones about the fact that there will be suffering in life and on earth, who does not claim monopoly over the pain one goes through, but helps us negotiate with it. We only have to look at the song Dress Rehearsal Rag to come to terms with a heart in dialogue with suicide, and yet it is not the only heart that is doing so. It is a dialogue with another soul that is in the same trouble. In an interview at the Canadian Embassy Leonard weighs in on this when he says, ” First of all acknowledge the fact that everyone suffers, everyone is engaged in an almighty struggle for self respect, for meaning and significance. The first step would be to recognize that your struggle is the same as everyone else’s struggle, your suffering is the same as everyone else’s suffering. I think that is the beginning of a responsible life. Otherwise we are in a savage battle with each other, unless we recognize that each of us suffers in the same way and there is no possible solution.”

            Cohen’s songs and lyrics are an exploration and an investigation of questions that have plagued human life since time immemorial. He is not providing answers or solutions, but helping us see ourselves for what we are– fragile and vulnerable– and being okay with it. He is not concerned with immortality or the idea of life and legacy going on forever, but rather the idea of an extended life after death. Abbas Kiarostami in The Taste of Cherries, presents the theological and religious conundrums involved in committing suicide, something that is considered against the religious laws and scriptures in his native Iran. Cohen too dabbles with these ideas, but there in his life comes a point where he himself admits that now, ” It is too late to change my name and too late for suicide..” In other words, when many like me, have sat with razor blades and at the edge of an ever diminishing cliff, Cohen has spoken to us, ” At four in the morning, The end of December..”. His legacy will live on, his music lives on, as long as there is suffering in the world and the heart and as long as there is a voice in the midst of that suffering, capable of taming the sea monster on a stormy full moon night.

 

 

 

Sayan Aich Bhowmik is Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Shirakole College, West Bengal. His areas of interest are Postcolonial Literature and Indian Writing in English. He is also an ardent devotee of Cohen and a poet with several national and international publications to his credit.

Celebrating Cohen: Poem and Illustration from Neha Masroor and Reflections by Somudranil Sarkar

Poem on the format of Cohen’s ‘Love Calls you by Your Name’

The sky in all its glory

With its seven floors of chains,

Could not hold you down

When your path led you to the halls of fame

But here, right here,

Between the echo and the wail

Between the ocean and your empty pail

Between her eyes and their veil

Once again, once again

Love calls you by your name

Your laughter wreaked havoc upon

The tiny world that you set out to subjugate

The battles were all won beforehand

But you found the limit of what chaos could create

But here, right here

Between the hammer and the coffin’s nail

Between the storm and the fast disappearing trail

Between the thunder and the song of the nightingale

Once again, once again,

Love calls you by your name

She sat before you talking

But she could not defend her claims

What made you sit and listen?

Her words? Or their inability to maim?

But here, right here

Between the forest and the arms of this dame

Between the snake and its eternal shame

Between the train-tracks and the train

Once again, once again,

Love calls you by your name

I stand corrected every Friday

When the week finds me the very same

I move through time completely undetected

With no memories but many picture-frames

And here, right here,

Between infinity and the number eight

Between my indifference and your love masked as hate

Between the truth and its dense distillate

Once again, once again

Love calls you by your name.

What could we possibly talk about?

Once we found each other at the stake

Were you with me because I was adventurous?

Was it folly? Was it a mistake?

Oh here, right here,

Between us two and the brave,

Between the traitor and his unmarked grave,

Between the master and his quiet slave,

Once again, once again,

Love calls you by your name.


I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within
But born again is born without a skin
The poison enters into everything

 

 

 

Neha Masroor is an engineering student in Pakistan. She loves to read and write. She is humbly indebted to Mr. Leonard Cohen who helped her find her voice in much the same way as Lorca helped him find his own.

 

 

 

MY PROPHET DANCE ME THROUGH THOSE AGEING MELODIES

 

The counter culture of the 60s ousting of the Vietnam War propelled a cult and socio-cultural revolution in the United States of America and elsewhere. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the rising unemployment, political repression and migration the revolution stood in the way of

the typical bourgeoisie milieu of the utilitarian ethos. Leonard Cohen, one of the le coureur de tête (i.e. leader) of his contemporaries wanted to entail on the itinerary of spiritual alley backed by the discordance of the luxurious ethos. He was what his family called him a by-product of Jeux d’esprit. Once he spoke things that have instilled hope, as a resultant situation of his heart being tamed, not belittled.

May the spirit of this song, may it rise up pure and free

May it be a shield for you a shield against the enemy

On the other hand, he fell in between the disillusionment that’d been formulated by Castro’s revolution in Cuba. He wrote,

Leave it all and like a man,

Come back to nothing special,

Such as waiting rooms and ticket lines,

Silver bullet suicides,

And messianic ocean tides,

And racial roller-coaster rides

And other forms of boredom advertised as poetry.

Impelled by the rapid vivacity his visit to ordinariness, he ignited an informal rendezvous with the sense of his mystified self. He saw the clashes between the rich and the poor, between man and woman, between those who exist and those who do not – between the odd and the even.

Why Cohen scrounged love when there was a war waging outside?

He was a slave to love.

A singer must die for the lie in his voice is the accusation. Only acceptance—polite, humble and full – will do.

And I thank you, I thank you for doing your duty

You keepers of truth, you guardians of beauty

Your vision is right, my vision is wrong

I’m sorry for smudging the air with my song

He admits beyond the acceptance (within which the veiled irony lurks: they are doing their ‘duty’; them keeping ‘the truth’; their observance of the ‘vision’) that he took refuge in the love of a woman, and in that of a woman ‘I would like to forgive.’ But is it real, this accusation? Was the vision true? Is it not simply fear about them – the fear of man that operates with a snare – that causes him to confess? Their actions condemn them; as does their unwanted use of violence. The song breaks into a social protest. He betrayed them, not a higher power; their vision not his own. Hence the heavy sarcasm:

In an interview in `1988 in Melody Maker Kris Kirk stated that Leonard Cohen was the first man in popular music to evince a genuinely feminised or perhaps androgynous mentality. From this statement what can commonly be understood is in Jungian terms is the anima – an inherited collective image of the woman is usually projected onto someone’s mother or wife and if of a creative disposition, one’s art.

Yes, and long live the state by whoever it’s made

Sir, I didn’t see anything, I was just getting home late

 

Leonard was listed as one of President Nixon’s enemies in his Nixon Enemies list that passed in the year 1971. This eventually paved the way for the cult proforma amidst the disarrayed mayhem and the tumultuous suppression of psyche.

Probably, for me the words will sing to the graves who have been wronged, unloved, unwanted. Leaving the graveyard, as soon as I stroll through the blind alleys I can hear Cohen whispering, “And a partner in the yard/In the prison of the gifted,” amidst the monotony of the humdrum passive life. When I stand by the Ganges I feel lovers can weave the morning Azaan with the Bhatiyali tune and spend the rest of their lives, amidst the mayhem. When you get trampled down by the protests, a myriad of fireflies clings to your heart. O My Field Commander, my Prophet — You have given me memories. Memories of the sooty buildings, dead trees, wet by lanes, mangy dogs, fly-infested beef shops, and the marijuana seller. You have shown me a beautiful window, like a rose on its ladder of thorns. My Cohen is like a candle flame swaying in the currents of the air.

 

Somudranil Sarkar is an editor and a translator based in Kolkata. A postgraduate in English language and literature. He tends to meddle in between the esoteric and the unexplored itinerary. Apart from writing, he has been trained in theatre and has been a practitioner himself for over 18 years.

Tributes to Leonard Cohen: Poems by Susmita Paul with Artwork from Anwesha Das Gupta

Erasure Poetry by Susmita Paul

 

According to the Academy of American Poets Glossary, 

“Erasure poetry, also known as blackout poetry, is a form of found poetry wherein a poet takes an existing text and erases, blacks out, or otherwise obscures a large portion of the text, creating a wholly new work from what remains.

Erasure poetry may be used as a means of collaboration, creating a new text from an old one and thereby starting a dialogue between the two, or as a means of confrontation, a challenge to a pre-existing text.”

https://poets.org/glossary/erasure

At the personal level, erasures are my way of connecting with a tradition that is beyond my physical reach. The philosophy of the poets from whom I do erasures are important to me. The erasures are my perceptions arising from the ocean of eternal creation, like the amrit.

While reading the creations of Leonard Cohen, it occurred to me that some words are emerging as more powerful than others. Being a person who has experienced mental health challenges, I found Cohen speaking to me. These emerging words arise defiantly and lead me on. Such is the story of these erasures created from Cohen’s songs.

winter lady

who by fire

 

 

you want it darker

 

Susmita Paul is an emerging writer in English with a couple of English poems and creative non-fiction recently published and/or upcoming in Poets of the Pandemic section of ‘Headline Poetry and Press’ blog, ‘Plato’s Caves Online’, ‘Montauk’ and ON-Zine blog. ‘ Himabaho Kotha Bole’ (When Glaciers Speak) (Kaurab, 2019) is her only book of Bengali poetry. She is a Zentangle-inspired artist and an independent researcher. She is  mother to a curious five year old. She lives in Graz, Austria.

 

 

Anwesha Cohen

 

 

 

Anwesha Das Gupta is a 3rd year undergraduate student of St Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata, pursuing the field of Multimedia and Animation. She has varied spheres of interest and likes experimenting with new things

Welcome to Cohen Week!

Things We Can’t Untie: Leonard Cohen In My Life

“Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld/ So I can sigh eternally.”

– Kurt Cobain

Sometime back in 2011, an office colleague of my mother came to know that I am interested in music from all over the world. It began a few years before and I was gradually discovering more and more of the nuances of different genres and cultures through my aimless voyage on the musical ocean. The colleague sent me some of his collection from which I discovered many musical greats, 1930 onwards. I discovered Perry Como, Engelbert Humperdinck, Patsy Cline, Pete Seeger, and many more. The collection was huge and it took me till 2012 to discover one particular singer, who would enthral me forever.

It was a hot summer afternoon. I was alone in the house and I played a track, the name of which attracted my attention, “Last Year’s Man”. And came rain, on a cloudless summer afternoon, pouring through my eyes. It is difficult to recall, after all these years, what my exact thoughts were; but I remember, the feeling. As if, I could see my loneliness, as a person, and he is singing the song, which is blaring through my soul, which has become a megaphone.

2012 was a year of multiple heartbreaks, in personal relationship terms, as well as career wise, which lead to an existential audit. I was discovering things inside me and outside, which I was constantly reconciling, desperately trying to make sense of things happening and not happening. As the bold voice sang, “The rain falls down on last year’s man,/ An hour has gone by/ And he hasn’t moved his hand.”, it felt like he knows of my paralysed mind. As if he knows that since I gave up on my dreams of pursuing a career in fine arts, I now find it difficult to pick up a brush. It was a hidden trauma. “And the skylight is like skin for a drum I’ll never mend/ And the rain falls down amen/ On the works of last year’s man” – it still reminds me of those words of Van Gough, “The sadness will last forever.” Each line, each word of that song carved into my heart.

One by one, I listened to, not necessarily in this exact order perhaps, “Famous Blue Raincoat”, “Bird On The Wire”, “Suzanne”, “So Long, Marianne”, “One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong”, and so on. Gradually, the CDs were not sufficient. I could care less about the internet bill, I was drunk in and I was meditating on Cohen. Suddenly I found newer expressions, I found songs/poems that echo my soul and give voice to the feelings I did not know how to express previously. I had taken up writing when I gave up on fine arts. I needed an outlet which had to be liberating, creatively challenging. When I began, Pink Floyd, Dave Matthews were my influence but slowly, with newer complexities and demands of life, loss of friends and trying to adjust with newer people, I found more and more solace in Cohen. My way of writing became more allegorical and my tendencies became such that I was searching the outside world inside me and I was searching myself in the outside world. I was looking for answers before I listened to Cohen, I was still searching after I listened to him, but the lack of or the complexities of the answer did not bother me anymore; I had started enjoying the questions.

I listened to Cohen because his songs felt relatable, especially at the lowest moments and moods. But his dark lyrics hardly ever made the depression worse; they rather became a coping mechanism. But I gradually discovered that there is more to Cohen than just talks of lust, longing, devotion, and depression. In his songs, “One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong”, or “So Long, Marianne”, I discovered that this man is full of humour. This understanding was reaffirmed by many of his works I discovered later on, such as in “Going Home”, he self-deprecates while asserting that he feels God has not set as his purpose to just write love songs or suffer all along. A strong sense of eudaimonia, achieved through reconciliation with himself is reflected in this song. In another poem, “The Only Tourist In Havana Turns His Thoughts Homeward”, he skims various social and political issues, which is bound to make you think while bringing a smile to your face.

The deeper I went into Cohen, the more shades I found of him. Everything about his writing was subtle, thought provoking, simple and never very imposing, except his political writings, most of which are unequivocal in nature. In songs like “First We Take Manhattan”, I discovered this side of his for the first time. In an interview, Cohen once said, “I think it means exactly what it says. It is a terrorist song. I think it’s a response to terrorism. There’s something about terrorism that I’ve always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don’t like it when it’s manifested on the physical plane – I don’t really enjoy the terrorist activities – but Psychic Terrorism.” He continued, quoting a poem of his former professor and friend, Irving Layton, “I once read; I’ll give you a paraphrase of it. It was ‘well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there’, he says. ‘But our terrorists, Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein. The whole world is still quaking.'” In a Rolling Stones interview, he said, the premise of “Joan Of Arc” is that, “there can be no free men unless there are free women.” In yet another song, which may easily be mistaken for discord between lovers, “If It Be Your Will”, he talks of violence and oppression. The lyrics of “Everybody Knows” leave no space for ambiguity: “Everybody knows that the war is over. Everybody knows the good guys lost. Everybody knows the fight was fixed. The poor stay poor, the rich get rich. That’s how it goes. Everybody knows.”. If one takes a look at his political works in a chronological manner, it becomes apparent that in his later works, he has expressed an increased sense of horror.

My entry into adult life; my experiences of heartbreak, loneliness, longing; my political views – everything has a patina of Cohen. His Jewish biblical references mix with present day situations to create a sense of magic realism in a five minute song. It is through his work that I figured how political and devotional love is and how to be poetic about all the problems of life. He turned heartbreaks and disappointments, and every other flaw and mistake, whether his own or of the society, into art: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in” (Anthem). It is said, even in his final days, he was very active and full of creative ideas. His voice used to sound deeper than ever. The lyrics of “You Want It Darker”, tracks of “Old Ideas”, and his posthumously published works perhaps put forth the understanding that he was playful with the idea of departure while weighing his own deeds against what God put him through. The rebel young poet, who once declared himself a soldier against the malfeasance of humanity, was unapologetically honest in his conversation with the lord. “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” – Leonard continues to burn inside me, an eternal flame.

 

 

Deeptendu Chandra is a graduate in commerce (Hons. in Accountancy) from the University of Calcutta and is currently pursuing a degree in Cost and Management Accountancy (CMA) from The Institute of Cost Accountants of India. He also has two diplomas in fine arts. Despite being a student of commerce, he has moved beyond the traditional stream based education and keeps himself enthusiastically engaged in various fields of studies.

Artwork by Agnibha Maity

A sketch of Cohen by Agnibha Maity

Cohen‟s name does not simply invoke an image of a sage who is standing tall in the Mount Sinai with a dim candle in his hand and singing “Suzanne‟. His eyes are not only filled with sorrow. His deep melancholic voice and poetry not only transcend and trans-infuse the border and give us a sense of belonging but also uncover the meaning to us or crudely speaking, provide the essence behind a “meaning”. So the expression, “Hallelujah‟ is not necessarily biblical to us anymore instead a part of our existence; to follow Cohen‟s own words “deeper and bigger than ourselves”. Our Dasein or “being-in-the-world” in this techno-scientific episteme is deeply shaped and harmonized by our perceived truth (aletheia or unconcealment) of his oeuvre. He stood still and firm like the Greek Temple in the middle of a barren valley uniting the pilgrims in their “birth and death, disaster and blessing, victory and disgrace.” On the eve of this holy moment, thus I pay my homage and rent to the tower of his song.

Agnibha

Agnibha Maity is a PhD research scholar at the University of North Bengal.

“The Road” – A Photo Essay from Siddhartha Biswas

The road has been much romanticized in literature. Literary texts like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road speak of a neo-romantic identity crisis that plagued not only the youth of United States of America, but a whole generation of postcolonial and post-imperial people who had to negotiate with a world shifting through value systems as fast as technological advances allowed. The road signifies journey and the quest for location. International or intra-national migration was, and still is, the core concern of postmodern existence.

But along with the idea of migration there are basic movements and journeys that signify the location of dislocation. Roads and roadways offer a representation of the daily struggle, the banality, and often the ennui of a lived experience that goes beyond the philosophy of home as high culture knows it. The road often allows the gaze to discover other lives and other quests for living. The images offered to us in passing are but passing glimpses of myriad existential struggles which neither theory nor fantasy can adequately address. These images are at the same time momentary and eternal and they indicate that life on this planet remains deeply divided and that the postcolonial merely becomes the neo-colonial. The struggle against colonization never ends. Photographs often develop into silent, yet eloquent, witnesses to certain uncertain individual struggles and they manage to preserve moments that indicate a larger personal – sometimes communal – narrative.

 

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The familiar Indian rural landscape often brings one to strange encounters. Bovine political issues become irrelevant when such on-road encounters offer a glimpse of a life that can be serene.

 

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Another familiar image becomes far less serene with the epiphany that this pastoral scene ultimately points to the dispossession of the tribal community. The women who are so romantically presented in popular cultural narratives are ultimately the poorest of poor and the completely otherized. They have little of their own, and they must survive by engaging in hard labour. The idiotic idyllic ideas survive only on the blood and sweat of such marginalized existences.

 

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No one knows hardship as these hill people. The photograph amply represents the daily toil of villagers who must climb every mountain because they are there and must be scaled not for achievement or conquest, but for daily sustenance. Their presence in the glitzy world of digital existence proves how nothing has changed for the marginalized in the age of eroded democracy.

 

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The labour of millions of such people who live with one single goal – to keep on living – end up in disappointment and deprivation. The daily here is often romanticized, but the toil remains unacknowledged and conveniently overlooked.

 

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Poverty is global. But poverty in this part of the country, along with its own political intricacy, turns the road into a path to unknown ends. This is a province which has a very different tale of colonialism.

 

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Tourists and their cameras look for memories. Sometimes they get intertwined with other memories which they can never be a participant in. But these memories go on; they look at tourists as a monotypical presence. Their lives, with their monotonies, become harder as the demands of the urban and the privileged grow into appropriation of their basic livelihoods. Industry, even the tourism based ones, often play villain in the lives of the local.

 

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Rs. 100 per ride; perhaps three to four rides per day in full season; and barely any income for the rest of the year. A large number of citizens still have such demons to face. And when tourism is tortured, even the hope of survival starts to dwindle. Colonials often come in the guise of saviours and take away all livelihoods.

 

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This is the image of a slightly privileged existence – a cycle is luxury when we are talking about the sun-scorched world of North India. A daily journey of many miles is something most of these men, many of them in the profession of the holy, must undertake to earn their dal and roti.

 

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As Yeats had said aged men are always paltry things. The journey ends in ruins and what is left behind weighs heavily. Introspection is fine, but only when sprinkled with insight. Age often only brings rigidity of belief. But looking forward is positive only when no misconception is overlooked.

 

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Aged women have a very different existence. Their irrelevance is magnified by the gender defined roles set in social discourse. In this photograph the lady is paying respect not to any divinity even though she is in a religious space, but to a number of village elders (unseen here like patriarchy was for most of history). Her body language clearly indicates the kindness she needs for survival. Such is the story in much of our little corner of the world.

 

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The gentleman in the photograph was suffering from excruciating toothache. The other side of his face was badly swollen. But he did not stop from his duties for one moment. No available medicines worked and in that part of the world dentistry was limited to the capital of the province – which was two days away. He did not complain. It was not merely a sense of duty. But also a fear that he might lose his livelihood. Drivers are plenty, demand is not. Workers are plenty, work is not. And still we celebrate development.

 

 

 

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Those who build roads do so with borrowed colours. Their lives are usually as gray as the materials they work with. This is perhaps the greatest gift of capital-centric ideologies that those who build and grow are skilfully relegated to the background; invisible but for the colours given to them by others. They merge with the roads, while roads emerge from their sweat and destitution. They belong neither to the road, nor to the people who map them.

 

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One of the strangest phenomena about corporate colonialism is that it does not hide itself. It remains clearly visible, but just outside the reach of those who serve it. The luxury constructs the other side of the divide and the colonized remain firmly located in their impoverishment. The only advantages given are tools for service. In this case the footwear of the woman is a necessary tool as she must walk miles to reach her place of service.

 

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The myth of the mendicant monk is rampant in all cultures. But in colonial cultures these acquire a significance far beyond the average. These men, sincere or delusional, exist in the periphery of the perceived normative life. They are venerated by some, and must face extreme hardships, unless celebrated by the powers-that-be. Perhaps they do reach some kind of sublime, or remain enmeshed in spiritual discontent. It is very easy to discard or dismiss them adopting a quasi-rational political stance, but they are, and will remain, an integral part of the hegemonic need of diversion.

 

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Art in our part of the world is never free of religion. A beggar must also have help from religious icons. The flute rarely will be enough. The other end of the artistic spectrum is also not independent of this notion. We may look down upon the so-called superstitions, but their presence has an immense impact on the lives of most. And that itself is a value that demands analysis. Life must be understood first, only then can one grasp how the neo-imperial powers grasp not only politics, but the ethno-cultural life of an entire people.

 

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The joy of false privilege motivates a very large number of people all over the world. Denial, and the delusion that one belongs to the core power paradigm, are integral for any joyous participation in any display of faith.

 

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But religio-ethnic privilege has its own power structure. There are many who are discarded not having the glamour and sacred glitz and quietly spend their days by the road watching, perhaps reading life that flows by. They survive barely, they pretend little and having no artificially added aura, they are ignored by most. There are many of them who dot the landscape and the gaze of power happily ignores them.

 

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Even those who are somewhat privileged have many gazes upon them. Within the urban sphere the paradigm of the red riding hood becomes quite powerful. The gendered hunger spares none and quite often, even in the heartland, there has to be enough sartorial armour that can protect the prey from the eyes of the privileged predator.

 

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The world of want has rarely raised its voice. For ages this world of the under-privileged and the marginalized has stood quietly by the road, watching and perhaps yearning for something better. This voicelessness has been conditioned by handsome sprinklings of false promises – both worldly and other-worldly. But generations have come and gone, generations will come and go. Everything will remain the same.

 

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The Road remains amongst the best metaphors that can completely encompass the movement of humanity in time. The Road is made by human hands. But how one travels keep on defining our state of civilization. The Road through unspoiled nature only serves to remind us what we ultimately are. A sense of that is necessary to have perspective. One should not be blinded by whatever level of privilege one is located in. One should walk with wonder and understanding.

 

 

 

Dr. Siddhartha Biswas is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of English, University of Calcutta. His doctoral work was on the screenplays of Harold Pinter. He has written a number of articles in reputed journals in India and abroad. His books include Theatre: Theory and Performance (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK) and Looking for Home: Journey and Boundary in Postmodern Texts (Atlantic, New Delhi) among others. His areas of interest include Postmodern Theatre, Translation Studies and Popular Culture.

Poems by Jharna Sanyal

আজি এ বসন্তে ১৪২৬

                

বাড়ির দাওয়ায় হলদে পলাশ গাছ,
মুখপোড়া কোকিলটা পাগলের মতো ডাকছে।

ও আহমদের মা, ছেলেটা ফিরলো নাকি…

ছেলেটা ফিরলো নাকি…ও আহমদের মা…

আহমদের মা ,
টিভির ট্রাকউপচানো
ভিড়ে খুঁজছে ছেলেকে…

কৃষ্ণচূড়া গাছ লালে লাল।
তবু বসন্ত এলো কই!

 

 

 

সামাজিক দূরত্ব

হাতে হাত ধরো – মনে মনে।

এত কাল তো হাতে হাত

দিয়েই …

এত কাল তো হাতে হাত

দিয়েই …

ছল করেছি মিথ্যে হেসে,

আজকে –

আজকে না হয়

হাত সরিয়ে

হাত সরিয়ে

সত্যি দেখি

তোমার আমার ব্যবধানে!

 

 

 

Fashion Statement

Now a days I have grown so brazen that I flaunt my shamelessness like a costly Abu Jani-Sandip Khosla costume.

The storm -ravaged dilapidated mansion looks like a signature Satyajit Ray setting!

How perfect!

On a riverine street of Kolkata

the black and white reflection of a tree is excitingly a Cartier Bresson shot! কত মৃত, কত ভাসমান – সে তো সংখ্যার সাংখ্য দর্শন, –

মিডিয়ার ফ্রেমে সুন্দর! রঙিন।উফ!আহা! On the newspaper, the picture of a minibus halved by a crashing tree, –any less than an Anish Kapoor installation!

I surf the channels on my handheld canoe.

From one uninhibited mobile phone to another the virus spreads like the dank stench of the flood-molested harvest rotting on the fields.

I try to keep up with the beat of the super cyclone.

I write poems.

জানি তার একটা অর্থ আছে।

এ ও জানি, সে অর্থ দিয়ে একটা আধখানা হলদে -শাড়ি পরা মেয়ের বানে ভেসে যাওয়া একমাত্র তোবড়ানো হাঁড়ির দামটাও হবে না। So, I can’t help but turn my shamelessness to my fashion statement, and, – applying a dab of self-adulation on my face, I say, Here you go! This is my poem! Have a look! Please read it!

And please don’t forget

to Like it! Please Share it,

if you want to –

I am sure you will.

 

 

 

Jharna Sanyal is a retired Professor and former Head of the Department of English, University of Calcutta. A beloved teacher and scholar of vast erudition, she is also a versatile poet and acclaimed painter.