From Sampurna: II

I begin 1.1.11 by chatting about the word ‘hawk’ with Joy Goswami. শ্যেনপক্ষী (shyenpokkhi) is the word I’d used in the version I took with me to Adishakti. When reading it aloud at one of the events (Stella Maris, Chennai) I found myself faltering a little—it didn’t have the sharp, keen clarity of the word ‘hawk’ in English. Joy-da has the perfect word for me—বাজপাখি (baajpakhi). He quotes the opening line of his poem লোহার বাজপাখি, তোমাকে (‘To you, iron hawk’) in which he uses the word: এতে আমার ঘোর ভাঙবে না লোহার বাজপাখি (This will not break my dark trance, iron hawk).

Not only is বাজ the word that means hawk (or falcon), it also means thunderbolt, or bolt of lightning. (The poem Joy-da quotes from is in his 1995 collection বজ্রবিদ্যুত-ভর্তি খাতা  ‘Notebook Full of Thunder and Lightning’.) The hawk falling like a bolt of lightning out of the sky as it pounces on its prey, how perfect. Sharp, clean, fatal. Thank you, Joy-da. Not just for the word, but for taking me back to a poem in which I can already see traces of সূর্য-পোড়া ছাই ‘Ashes, burnt by the sun’, the book that you would write in 1999, and that I would translate in entirety. And thank you, Bill for being the instigator!

Bill Herbert’s poem in English, followed by my new version in Bengali.


The hawk that shears the hedge then steadies, held

above the verge by urgent need, he is

old Egypt’s silhouette, the pictogram

for ‘kill’. There is a lock to which he is

continually the key that must release

a narrow death from everywhere in air.

He is the tender axe that has to fall.


যে বাজপাখি ঝোপ-ঝাড় ছাটে তারপর থামে, সীমানার
ওপরে কোনো এক জরুরি প্রয়োজনে ধরা, সে
প্রাচীন মিশরের ছায়া-নকশা, চিত্রলিপিতে
সে বোঝায় ‘ধংশ’। এমন একটি তালা আছে
যার অবিরাম চাবি সে, ঘোরালেই
সংকীর্ণ মৃত্যু ছাড়া পাবে আকাশের চারিদিক থেকে।
সে নরম কুড়ুল যাকে নামতেই হবে।

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7 Responses to From Sampurna: II

  1. Bill Herbert says:

    My server isn’t reading the Bengali script, Sampurna — don’t know why.

    • Sampurna Chattarji says:

      Oh alas. Shall I post it as a photo, then?

      • Bill Herbert says:

        It might just be Safari: I’ll try Explorer. Yes, reads fine in Explorer. Meena’s Tamil was OK in Safari, so don’t know what the problem is (or rather don’t know how to fix this). No need for you to post a pic, tho.

    • arjun says:

      ditto. strange, i can read hindi, gujarati, tamil no punjabi or bengali. i called the apple helpdesk: he said it has to do with some settings for indic languages. something in the OS needs to be activated. i do have a solution: sampurna, robin, meena save the translation as a jpeg (it offers that when you save it as a word document) and then load the picture.

      • Sampurna Chattarji says:

        Arjun, can you read the Bengali pdf? I don’t seem to have the option of saving word docs as jpeg. If you can read the pdfs, I’ll make that the back-up, for those who are not viewing it in Mozilla or Explorer, both of which are reading the script.

      • arjun says:

        sampurna, posted it as a jpeg and i think i deleted the pdf by mistake.

  2. sampurnachattarji says:

    Yes, mine is Explorer too. I shall check with Meena, maybe she will know what the problem might be. Meanwhile, have anyway posted the pdf. file for good measure.

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