Sarwate and Banerjee – hardly your typical tail enders!

249 runs scored by a couple of Indian tail end batsmen against a team abroad – something unusual even by today’s standards. And yet two Indian batsmen did just that on this day way back in 1946.

Wisden said about the Indian team that year, ‘By their cricket they won the hearts of the English public; by their modesty and bearing they earned the respect and admiration of everyone with whom they came into close contact.’

Had the weather been better that summer, the cricket might have been even better from our viewpoint; the team had 11 wins and 4 losses from 29 games.

When the score stood at 205 for 9 after CS Nayudu was out, Shute Banerjee joined No 10 Sarwate. The British bowlers probably felt it was all over for the visitors but the two Indians had different ideas. They were not strangers to high scores, both having scored well in Ranji Trophy matches. They found the gaps, played carefully and thanks to a botched stumping finished the day with 193 runs added in the last couple of hours. There was no play on the next day as it was a Sunday. By the time they finished on Monday, Banerjee had scored 121 and Sarwate was not out on 124. This is still the only time that a No 10 and a No 11 scored centuries in the same innings.

Cricinfo

Sarwate and Banerjee (espn.cricinfo)

Posted in A Good Thing, Indian Sports, Photographs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Translated poetry: তোমার চিবুক ছোঁবো, কালিমা ছোঁবো না/I will touch you but not the sadness within, Abul Hasan

তোমার চিবুক ছোঁবো, কালিমা ছোঁবো না
~ আবুল হাসান

এ ভ্রমণ আর কিছু নয়, কেবল তোমার কাছে যাওয়া
তোমার ওখানে যাবো, তোমার ভিতরে এক অসম্পূর্ণ যাতনা আছেন,
তিনি যদি আমাকে বলেন, তুই শুদ্ধ হ’ শুদ্ধ হবো
কালিমা রাখবো না!
এ ভ্রমণ আর কিছু নয়, কেবল তোমার কাছে যাওয়া
তোমার ওখানে যাবো; তোমার পায়ের নীচে পাহাড় আছেন
তিনি যদি আমাকে বলেন, তুই স্নান কর
পাথর সরিয়ে আমি ঝর্ণার প্রথম জলে স্নান করবো
কালিমা রাখবো না!
এ ভ্রমণ আর কিছু নয়, কেবল তোমার কাছে যাওয়া
এখন তোমার কাছে যাবো
তোমার ভিতরে এক সাবলীল শুশ্রূষা আছে
তিনি যদি আমাকে বলেন, তুই ক্ষত মোছ আকাশে তাকা–
আমি ক্ষত মুছে ফেলবো আকাশে তাকাবো
আমি আঁধার রাখবো না!
এ ভ্রমণ আর কিছু নয়, কেবল তোমার কাছে যাওয়া
যে সকল মৌমাছি, নেবুফুল গাভীর দুধের সাদা
হেলেঞ্চা শাকের ক্ষেত
যে রাখাল আমি আজ কোথাও দেখি না– তোমার চিবুকে
তারা নিশ্চয়ই আছেন!
তোমার চিবুকে সেই গাভীর দুধের শাদা, সুবর্ণ রাখাল
তিনি যদি আমাকে বলেন, তুই কাছে আয় তৃণভূমি
কাছে আয় পুরনো রাখাল!
আমি কাছে যাবো আমি তোমার চিবুক ছোঁবো, কালিমা ছোঁবো না!
***

I will touch you but not the sadness within

~This journey is nothing but returning to you
I will go to where you are, to that incomplete pain within
That lives in you,
If it says to me, purify yourself, I will
Leaving no trace of sadness.
This journey is nothing but returning to you
I will go to where you are, where mountains grow about your feet
If it says to me, bathe
I will move the rocks aside and bathe in the first rush of those waterfalls
Leaving no trace of darkness.
This journey is nothing but going to you
Now I will go to where you are
Within you lies a power for easy healing
If it says to me, wash your wounds, look at the skies
I will do just that and look at the skies
I will not hold the night close
This journey is nothing but returning to you
Those bees, lemon blossom, white milk,
Those fields of crops
The shepherds I no longer see – in the dip of your chin
They must still live.
In the dip of your chin, the pure white of milk, the golden shepherd
If it says to me, come nearer meadows of grass,
Come to me, old shepherd!
I will go to you, touch that dip in your chin but not the sadness within.

Abul Hasan

Posted in Modern Bengali Poetry, Translated Poetry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, I wait in the waiting room at the Flinders Medical Centre Eye Clinic for my mother to come out of cataract surgery. Most of the people waiting for relatives are women, ranging from one who might be a granddaughter to one daughter and possibly a couple of wives and/or sisters. Some of them have certainly had to take time off to do this for their loved ones. On the television in front of me I hear of hundreds of Australian childcare workers who will walk off their jobs today in a token strike to ask for their occupation to be valued with better wages and superannuation. They are nearly all women without exception and are asking for pay commensurate with the hours they put in. One woman being interviewed said, ‘We are not simply nose wipers.’ They get twenty dollars an hour in some cases (a little more than a teenager at McDonalds) and as another said, ‘.. live pay check to pay check and will never own a house as no bank will entertain a loan application’ in others.
Then I looked closely at a line travelling along the bottom of the screen.

LESS WOMEN HEAD TOP LEVEL COMPANIES IN AUSTRALIA THAN MEN NAMED JOHN.

That is not less women CEOs than men in general. But less women CEOs than men with one specific, slightly old fashioned name. Incidentally the highest paid public servant in Australia is Ahmed Fahour who will finish off in July. Another man. He gets paid ten times more than the prime ministerial $500,000. Another man.

We need more than one day. In the meantime, if you identify as a woman, then go bold, rise like the air, live like no one owns you and hold up your half of the sky with the intelligence, strength, discipline, self esteem, passion and grace that you were born with. I am in your corner.

Posted in Feminism, Women of substance | Tagged | Leave a comment

ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি: সুনীল গঙ্গোপাধ্যায় Bhalobashi, bhalobashi/ I love you, I do: Sunil Gangopadhyay

ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি
—সুনীল গঙ্গোপাধ্যায়

ধরো কাল তোমার পরীক্ষা,রাত জেগে পড়ার
টেবিলে বসে আছ,
ঘুম আসছে না তোমার
হঠাত করে ভয়ার্ত কন্ঠে উঠে আমি বললাম-
ভালবাস? তুমি কি রাগ করবে?
নাকি উঠে এসে জড়িয়ে ধরে বলবে,
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
ধরো ক্লান্ত তুমি, অফিস থেকে সবে ফিরেছ,
ক্ষুধার্ত তৃষ্ণার্ত পীড়িত..
খাওয়ার টেবিলে কিছুই তৈরি নেই,
রান্নাঘর থেকে বেরিয়ে ঘর্মাক্ত আমি তোমার
হাত ধরে যদি বলি- ভালবাস?
তুমি কি বিরক্ত হবে?
নাকি আমার হাতে আরেকটু
চাপ দিয়ে বলবে
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
ধরো দুজনে শুয়ে আছি পাশাপাশি,
সবেমাত্র ঘুমিয়েছ তুমি
দুঃস্বপ্ন দেখে আমি জেগে উঠলাম শশব্যস্ত
হয়ে তোমাকে ডাক দিয়ে যদি বলি-ভালবাস?
তুমি কি পাশ ফিরে শুয়ে থাকবে?
নাকি হেসে উঠে বলবে
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
ধরো রাস্তা দিয়ে হেঁটে যাচ্ছি দুজনে,মাথার উপর
তপ্ত রোদ,বাহন
পাওয়া যাচ্ছেনা এমন সময় হঠাত দাঁড়িয়ে পথ
রোধ করে যদি বলি-ভালবাস?
তুমি কি হাত সরিয়ে দেবে?
নাকি রাস্তার সবার দিকে তাকিয়ে কাঁধে হাত
দিয়ে বলবে
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
ধরো শেভ করছ তুমি,গাল কেটে রক্ত পড়ছে,এমন সময়
তোমার এক ফোঁটা রক্ত হাতে নিয়ে যদি বলি-
ভালবাস?
তুমি কি বকা দেবে?
নাকি জড়িয়ে তোমার গালের রক্ত আমার
গালে লাগিয়ে দিয়ে খুশিয়াল
গলায় বলবে
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
ধরো খুব অসুস্থ তুমি,জ্বরে কপাল পুড়ে যায়,
মুখে নেই রুচি, নেই কথা বলার
অনুভুতি,
এমন সময় মাথায় পানি দিতে দিতে তোমার
মুখের
দিকে তাকিয়ে যদি বলি-ভালবাস?
তুমি কি চুপ করে থাকবে?নাকি তোমার গরম
শ্বাস আমার
শ্বাসে বইয়ে দিয়ে বলবে ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
ধরো যুদ্ধের দামামা বাজছে ঘরে ঘরে,প্রচন্ড
যুদ্ধে তুমিও অঃশীদার,
শত্রুবাহিনী ঘিরে ফেলেছে ঘর
এমন সময় পাশে বসে পাগলিনী আমি তোমায়
জিজ্ঞেস করলাম-
ভালবাস? ক্রুদ্ধস্বরে তুমি কি বলবে যাও?
নাকি চিন্তিত আমায় আশ্বাস
দেবে,বলবে
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
ধরো দূরে কোথাও যাচ্ছ
তুমি,দেরি হয়ে যাচ্ছে,বেরুতে যাবে,হঠাত
বাধা দিয়ে বললাম-ভালবাস? কটাক্ষ করবে?
নাকি সুটকেস ফেলে চুলে হাত
বুলাতে বুলাতে বলবে
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি
ধরো প্রচন্ড ঝড়,উড়ে গেছে ঘরবাড়ি,আশ্রয় নেই
বিধাতার দান এই
পৃথিবীতে,বাস করছি দুজনে চিন্তিত তুমি
এমন সময় তোমার
বুকে মাথা রেখে যদি বলি ভালবাস?
তুমি কি সরিয়ে দেবে?
নাকি আমার মাথায় হাত রেখে বলবে
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
ধরো সব ছেড়ে চলে গেছ কত দুরে,
আড়াই হাত মাটির নিচে শুয়ে আছ
হতভম্ব আমি যদি চিতকার করে বলি-ভালবাস?
চুপ করে থাকবে?নাকি সেখান থেকেই
আমাকে বলবে ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
যেখানেই যাও,যেভাবেই থাক,না থাকলেও দূর
থেকে ধ্বনি তুলো
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি..
দূর থেকে শুনব তোমার কন্ঠস্বর,বুঝব
তুমি আছ,তুমি আছ
ভালবাসি, ভালবাসি….
 
***
 
I love you, I do
 
Imagine you have an exam tomorrow,
At your desk studying late at night,
You cannot sleep
Suddenly I cry out in fear –
Do you love me?
Will you be angry?
Or will you come over to hold me and say,
I love you, I do…
Suppose you are exhausted, just back from work,
Hungry, thirsty, worn out by the day..
I have put nothing on the table yet,
And what if I should come out of the kitchen sheened with sweat
Grab your hand and say –
Do you love me?
Would you be annoyed?
Or would you press back on my fingers and say
I love you, I do…
Just suppose we are lying side by side,
You have just fallen asleep
I wake anxious from a nightmare
And call you to ask –
Do you love me?
Would you stay turned away from me?
Or would you laugh aloud and say
I love you, I do…
Suppose we are walking under a burning sun, not a ride in sight
Suddenly I stop you in your tracks and say –
Do you love me?
Would you push my arm away?
Or would you look everyone on the street in the eye
Wrap your arm about my shoulder and say
I love you, I do…
Suppose you cut yourself shaving, bloodying your cheek
If I should touch a finger tip to that and say –
Do you love me?
Will you scold me?
Or would you rub your blood against my cheek
Colour me red and happily say
I love you, I do…
Suppose you are very ill, your forehead burning up with fever,
You do not want to eat, nor speak
Suddenly while I am sponging your brow I look at you and say –
Do you love me?
Would you say nothing or would you mix your heated breath with mine and say
I love you, I do…
Suppose the drums of war are beating in every home
You too ready yourself for war,
The enemy is baying at the door
When I suddenly ask
Do you love me?
Will you angrily ask me to be gone? 
Or will you reassure my broken heart
Will you say
I love you, I do…
Suppose you are going far away
Already late, you are hurrying every step
Suddenly I bar the way and ask –
Do you love me?
Will you frown?
Or will you drop everything and pull me close
Touch my hair and say
I love you, I do…
Suppose a great storm has taken everything away
The two of us are all we have left in this world
You are worried about what may come next
When I rest my head against your chest and say
Do you love me?
Will you push me far?
Or will you stroke my head and say
I love you, I do…
Suppose you have gone even further away,
Now you sleep under two and half feet of earth
In horror I call out aloud –
Do you love me?
Will you hold your tongue? Or will I hear you say from all the way over there
I love you, I do…
Wherever you go, however you are, even if you aren’t
Remember to always answer me back
I love you, I do love you, I do…
I will always hear your voice no matter how faint
You are here, you are with me
I love you, I do…
 
I love you, I do…,
Sunil Gangopadhyay
(Translation, mine)
Posted in Modern Bengali Poetry, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Translated Poetry | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Out of the mouths of babes (or those who teach them) – a life lesson from kindergarten

Tidy up time! Tidy up time!

When the children were in kindergarten and preschool their teachers used to call this out about fifteen minutes before home time. The quick ones put their own toys, glue, soft edged scissors, books etc. away before the teacher had finished the sentence. Some walked to the shelves and put things away when the teacher had spoken. Some, a very small number of boys usually, managed to confuse these instructions and made a mad rush for the door and earned the teacher’s glares. Then there was mat time for what must have felt like hours to both the teacher and these more hyperactive little ones. Then, it was home time and out of the door to whoever waited outside.

The reason behind this story coming to mind is not completely clear to me. But I find myself tidying or attempting to tidy up my life lately. Sorting through drawers, getting rid of receipts, tearing up business cards, oohing and aahing over glass beads or shells caught in the corners. The culling instinct is weak but I make myself strong. I don’t want to be caught with too many forgotten corners when it is time to sit down on the mat.

Posted in Time | Tagged | Leave a comment

Work in progress: how writing can calm my mind.

This is on my mind:

“Today was going to be different in the house on the corner of the crossroads opposite the markets and a few feet away from one of South Calcutta’s busiest nursing homes.

It had held on to its original form from the mid fifties. Cement down pipes climbed up, down and sideways all over the side walls. A raised band curved around the tops of each of the rounded balconies and wrapped around the house underneath them as well. It was echoed by raised circles around the port hole shaped windows along the stairwells on each floor and the windows that allowed air and light into the rooms. These windows had rounded corners as well, true to the spirit of the Art Deco style of architecture that had once been so popular across the world. A lot of local people called the house Jahaj bari or Ship House. Strangler fig seedlings had sprouted in the corners of some of the down pipes. These opportunistic inhabitants grew a few feet each year during the rainy season, making the house look more ship wreck than ocean liner, until it was autumn and the real owners of the house got busy with preparing for the arrival of guests from other parts of the country and overseas. The man who cleaned the wet areas of the house all year was then commissioned to clamber up the pipes with a chopper tucked into his waist band and a bottle of muriatic acid. He did what he could, reaching across from the chajjas, cutting the wild figs down but never quite removing them. Various family members stood on the receding ground and shouted instructions at him, all of which urged him to do his job properly. He ignored the cacophony and concentrated on not falling. Once the greenery had been hacked back to the satisfaction of those on the ground, he was then guided by their voices in the pouring of acid on the stumps in a mistaken belief that this would kill the plants for good. As he did this, he silently cursed the advisers and hoped that the tables would turn on them one day. Once the bottle was empty and most of the acid was dribbling down the white washed walls, he had to hold it out overturned in his hand before everyone was satisfied. The children watched, fascinated as the last drop of acid fell interminably slowly, down to the ground where it sat till it evaporated. The excitement was over for another year as far as they were concerned. One or two of the more adventurous among them always secretly hoped for Vishnu to lose his footing or at least find an anaconda curled up in the lush jungles of the serpentine sewerage bends. But that had not happened yet. As they went inside, Vishnu climbed back to terra firma and said to the maids who were frisking the cut branches for green figs to take home and cook for their families, ‘I wish the paunchy eldest brother would do this once. They would never dare to ask me again. I have never seen such a miserly bunch of people!’ But they never took their eyes from their task. He would grunt at the injustice of it all and retie his short checked loincloth, pick up his enormous spiky broom and wash his hands and legs before putting the glass bottle into an old stained bucket under the back steps to be sold at the end of the month to the kagojwalla or paper collector along with old papers, cardboard boxes and other oddments.

But as I said, today was going to be different from those days.”

Posted in Calcutta | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Aranyak: Jugal Prasad, the plantsman

I came across an unusual person one afternoon by the banks of the lake known as Saraswati Kundi.
I was riding slowly past its edge on my way back from the survey camp one day when I saw a man digging in the ground in the midst of the forest. At first I thought that he had come to dig up the tubers of ground pumpkins (literal translation; in the absence of any detailed description, I have come to the conclusion that this was Pueraria tuberosa or kudzu. This is known as Bhumikushmaand, Swadukanda, Ikshugandha and Kandapalaash in Hindi. It is indigenous to India and Pakistan.) It is a kind of vine with a large gourd shaped tuber that grows underground and cannot be seen from above. They are sold at a reasonable price for use in Ayurvedic medicine. Curious about his actions, I dismounted from the horse and went closer to him. I then saw that he was not digging anything up at all but planting some seeds. Startled by my presence he looked at me quite hesitantly. He was old enough to have greying hair. He had a hessian sack with him from which peeped the end of a short spade. A shovel lay beside him and a few paper packets were scattered about the place.
I asked: Who are you? What are you doing here? He answered: Are you the estate manager, Sir? I said: Yes, who are you? He: Greetings. My name is Jugal Prasad. I am Banwarilal’s cousin.
I then remembered that our estate employee Banwarilal had once mentioned this cousin. The reason his name had cropped up was that there was an opening for a Muhuri at Ajmabad Estate offices where I lived. I had asked Banwarilal to find a good person for the position. Banwari had said with some regret that he already knew the most suitable person for the position; his cousin. But even though there were not many people in the region who had such perfect handwriting or such education, the fellow was slightly strange and could be whimsical.
I had asked Banwarilal: Why? What does he do exactly? Banwarilal: He has many foibles. One of these involve wandering from place to place. He does not do a single thing, he is married and has a family but he does not look after them. He wanders about in the forest. He is not really a recluse; he is just strange like that.
So this was that cousin of Banwarilal’s?
My curiosity whetted, I asked: What are you planting there? I think the man had been trying to work in secret and he now sounded both a little ashamed and a little apologetic as he said: Nothing, nothing. Just these seeds here.
I was astonished: What kind of seed was he talking about? It wasn’t even his own land but part of a dense forest. Why was he scattering seeds there anyway? How would he benefit from this? He answered: I have many kinds of seed. I once saw a very beautiful flowering vine in a rich man’s house in Purnea. It had lovely red flowers. I have those and many other kinds of seeds of plants that do not grow in the forests here. I have collected them from far away. That is why I am planting them; they will grow and fill out into shrubs in a couple of years and it will look beautiful.
Once I had grasped his purpose my heart filled with respect for the man. He was spending his time and money on beautifying this vast forest with no hope of profiting in any manner. He had no claim to the land whatsoever. What an unusual fellow!
I called on him to come and sit with me under a tree.

He said: I have done this in the past as well. I planted all the flowering trees and vines that you see today in the forests of Lobtuliya about ten or twelve years ago from seed that I gathered in the forests of Purnea and from the hilly wooded tracts of Lachmipur Estate in southern Bhagalpur. They are a forest in themselves today. Do you like doing this very much? The jungle in Lobtuliya Baihar is very beautiful. It has been my wish for a long time that I would fill the low hillsides and the groves with new flower species. What flowers did you introduce? Let me first tell you how I was drawn towards doing this. I come from Dharampur. There were hardly any wild Bhandi flowers (Mimosa) in our area. I used to herd our buffalo along the banks of the Kushi as a boy, ten or fifteen krosh (1 krosh=2.25 mile) from my village on occasion. There I noticed the beauty of wild Bhandi flowers in the fields and wooded regions. I took seeds from those plants and planted them at home. Today you will see forests of Bhandi flowers all over my area, by the roadside, behind people’s houses and on fallow land. I have been doing this since that time. My hobby is to plant new flowers and seeds in various places. I have been all over the place in the pursuit of my passion. Now I am an expert at this.

I found that Jugal Prasad knew a lot about the forest flowers and rich plant life of the region. I had little doubt that he was an authority on these matters.
I said: Do you know the Aristolochia vine? As soon as I described the shape of the flower to him, he replied: The swan vine? The one with flowers shaped like little swans? Those do not come from around here. I have seen them in gardens in Patna.

One had to marvel at the depth of his knowledge. How many people had I seen who were simply worshippers of nature’s beauty? He had no interest in spreading seeds of flowers and plants across forests nor did he make any money from this. He was extremely poor and yet he devoted endless time and effort to increasing the flora of the forests.
He said: There is no woodland in this region which is quite as pleasant as the one on the banks of Saraswati Kundi. There are so many different plant species and the beauty of the water views are unmatched. Do you feel that water lilies would do well there? There are lilies in the village ponds of Dharampur. I was thinking I might bring some lily corms and plant them here.

I resolved to help him in whatever way I could. I was gripped with a desire to help Jugal Prasad adorn the forests with new species of plants, flowers and vines. I knew that he was so poor that he often did not have enough to feed his family with. I wrote to the main office and secured him a clerk’s position in Ajmabad at ten rupees a month.

That year I sent to Sutton Nurseries in Calcutta for seeds of exotic flowers and to the forests of the Dooars for cuttings of wild jasmine. These were planted in sufficient numbers in the forests around Saraswati Kundi. Jugal Prasad was ecstatic. I told him not to share this excitement with the others in the office. They would think him mad and also include me with that. When the rains came the following year, the plants all grew very fast. The lakeside soil was very fertile and the plants were all well suited to the climate. The only problem was with the seeds from Suttons. Each of those packets had pictures of the flower and a short description on it. I had selected them on the basis of colour and appearance; the seeds of white beam, red campion and stitchwort did really well. Foxgloves and wood anemones did not do badly either. But we could not save the dog rose and the honeysuckle cuttings.

~ Aranyak, translation mine

Posted in A Good Thing, Bengal, Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay, Books, Calcutta, Garden, Translated Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment