My Soul Has Become a Sky
My soul was flowing like a river since long. The waves of the sea were beckoning my soul day and night. Now my soul has become the sky – which I now fold and keep in my pocket as I roam. Sometimes, I spread it like a green bed sheet or a part of blue sky – sometimes I make it fly like a kite or a skylark —
The event had no link to flood
It happened during the time of flood.
A snake bit me…..a result of
Accidental treading upon a coil
It struck me effectively
Pumping poison with fangs
It seized the opportunity of dappled invisibility
Perhaps it waited for me to strike
Or looked for some fault in me
It needed only the slightest reason for action-
One false move
Or a weak moment
I heard a faint sound when it struck me
But did not know whether it was
In my mind or in the air
It did so in no time
It was so sudden
Before I could realize…
Was the snake terrible or beautiful?
And the death …..? Was it like the snake?
Dark, cold and fearful
That slithered fast in smooth movement…?
With my untimely death
Thus ended a path called life
And my existence… forever…
It was a matter of venomous strike
Doctor, ojha – no one could save me
I was dead…
I was dressed like a bride, caressed
And was cast adrift on a plantain raft
All alone down the stream of a swelled river…
Yes, it was so! …all have to travel alone
Down the thistle road to death …!
No one was with me
No life, no companion and dear ones
The shehnai did not play the mourning note
Neither did the quivering note of flute…
…〖haba jinglab aywi…haba jinglab〗^1…
Look at the stricken faces clothed with life
Pale, tired, defeated, reticent, helpless
As if they never had seen freedom.
When the departure came
My suami^2 performed every rite
He looked pale as he bid me farewell…
The last one
May be it is the difference
Between the dead and the living –
The living observe all the rites – sensible and insensible
And the dead…
They are utterly set free from all illusions,
Chains, rites, fears and faith….
A simmering oil flame burnt on the raft
And the oarless raft was carried through lands and rivers…
What a turbulent surge of the river
Oh! What a form of existence or non-existence
Of death or after death
Of faith or faithlessness…?
A question arises in my mind
(Which is not an illegitimate one!)
What would Lakhinder do in this condition?
I mean, Lakhinder, the husband of Behula?
Would the story of faithful women
Put the question at rest?
From the bridge the crowd watched
A live drama performed on the evening river
As if they were gazing at the flood water
(Some might have an interest in it too!)
1. Marriage Song
2. Husband (Swami)
The Moon, the River and I
The moon had spread a silky bed sheet
The river knows the moon will descend to its bosom
And will ask to see its crystal heart.
The river has sorrows too
As I have, and the moon has.
But the river washes it away,
As water hyacinths flow away.
So its heart remains crystal clear.
The river and the moon have secrets to share
As the moon and I have
And as the river and I share.
The moon sees the blossom of its face
In the pure and profound heart of the river.
The river discerns its soul flowing clear
In which darling moon was basking.
The river spreads a breezy bed for me
The moon sprays its nightly beams on it.
I don’t mind that I don’t flow like the river
There is a river flowing in my soul.
I don’t mind that I don’t nestle in the moon’s bosom,
The moon has already embraced my soul.
The moon has filled the soul with its beams.
The moon, the river and I
The moon, the river and I …
A ladder descended
From heaven to earth
The king and the subjects were in commotion
They all ran to the field
A ladder! A golden ladder!
In no time the news spread—God would come down.
All awaited—all of them
To welcome, worship and observe.
A shiver of anticipation went through them
No one knew why the loving God would come
Won’t He burn us, the sinful soul
With his anger?
(Because, the world is filled with sins!)
The priests had arranged the sacrificial platters
The female oracles tied their loins
The bwirathi^3ready to make luli sound
The vermilion on their forehead shone like the sun
With a lota of holy water in hand
A pair of sacred alari^4 blazing in tranquility
And the motherly women seated
To sing prayer songs.
The first man in the queue was the king
He was surrounded by the soldiers
All were alert
It was the affair of God’s descent
Worshiping shouldn’t suffer indifference
No one knew why this sudden visit of God
They must propitiate his fury.
At a distance
Some pretty girls were ready
Beautiful maidens held dishes of sweetmeats
A few chaperon-like ladies
Supervising the maidens.
They waited and waited
But nobody descended down the ladder
The sun had set
But nobody came down the ladder
Perhaps it was for ascent
Nobody was ready
To climb up the ladder
3. Bwirathi – respectable women for welcoming the guest
4. Alari – decorated Diya
5. Aronai – A Bodo scarf presented as mark of respect
The Epitaph of Stump
The stumps of this destroyed forest
Stand like martyr tombs
Of the war〖 cemetary〗^6
But do not bear the famous epitaph:
“When you go home
Tell them of us
For their tomorrow
We gave our today.”
The lifeless stumps
Stand rooted to the earth
To express this wordless epitaph:
“We have become martyrs
For trifle reasons
Will not the future generations
Save this beautiful earth?”
6. Kohima war cemetary
*** All the poems are translated by Dr. Sikhwna John Wary, Associate Professor, Dept. of English, Kokrajhar Govt. College.
About the Poet
Anjalee Basmataray – Life and Works
Bodo is a language that has been recognized as a national language of the country according to the IV th Schedule of the Indian Constitution in 2003. Much before that, it has been the mother tongue of the Bodo people in the Northeast. It has a vibrant literature, with the SahityaAkademi awarding its creative writers and critics for more than a decade now. AnjaleeBasmataray (AnjuNarzari)is one of the finest Bodo poets we have today.
Anjalee has five poetry collections, Nwngni Jiu: Angni Bibungthi (1982), Fasini Doulengao Okhafwr (1995), Gwrbwni Radab (2002), Gwrbwni Khonthaini (2005), Angmabwrwi Dong Daswng (2014).
For her contribution to Bodo literature, she was nominated member of University Court by the Governor of Assam for 3 years from 2013. She has received prestigious awards such as
“Rangsar” award of Bodo Sahitya Sabha for the book Fasini Doulengao Okkhafwr in 2002.
In a comparative study of the poetry of Anjalee and Sujata Bhat, “Anguish and Exile,” Dr.Pradip Kumar Patra makes interesting observations as to how the images employed by her do not act as agents of her artistic expression, but ‘fend for themselves’, or, have their own life. ‘Water’ is such an image, which, in her poems, ‘stands as a primordial life force, memory, as storehouse of Bodo cultural ethos and rejuvenation.’ She creates modern life through her poems, with the beauty of the past acting as a vibrant background, as he further observes. Anjalee is conscious that she is an artist who uses words. Although she doesn’t have any political affiliation, she takes bold stands on issues like terrorism, or any kind of violence that destroys human lives. She celebrates her motherhood, and her rational individual self and her status as a homemaker as well. She is woman-oriented, but does not identify herself as a feminist in the modern, western sense.
Dr.Patra further describes Anjalee’s poems as centering around her localised experiences of violence, bloodshed, demographic changes brought on by immigration. The disappearance of the charming past andthe loss of innocence and love and respect for each other are themes central to her oeuvre. The centuries old pain of women, perpetuated by patriarchy, finds her sympathetic acknowledgement.
In her poems which I published in Indian Literature of September-October 2007, titled, “While Crossing a River” and “Ask Me not How I am,” translated into English by S.J.Wary, these themes become manifest. They seem to bring about a cathartic effect to the violence-induced aversion of the public domain by sensitive souls. Like I said, the image of water, in its mass-body in a river or a lake, becomes pithy with meanings and associations in Anjalee’s poems. To quote Dr.Patra once more, “The river and the lake are a repertoire of their (Anjalee and Sujata Bhatt) imagination and thought. By making ‘water’ a symbol of virtue, energy and ecstasy, they remind the reader of his/her natural bonding with each and every object of nature….The world we live in is worn out. In water, life is full of joy and enlightenment, which are missing in our world.”
Like all newly developed literatures, Bodo is also vibrant with experimentation by creative writers. Both loss and achievements become the themes for young Bodo poets. Themes of despair are naturally balanced by themes exuding optimism. Integrating tradition with modern vision is what most of them are doing. Anjalee is in the vanguard of this movement.
Poet Bio by A.J.Thomas, Poetry Editor, Y Blog