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learning: Haiku in Indian Languages - Bangla

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

HAIKU IN BANGLA editors: Sanjuktaa Asopa and Kashinath Karmakar Almost a century ago, Rabindranath Tagore became acquainted and enchanted with haiku during his stay in Japan. He understood the essence of haiku perfectly, translated some haiku classics in Bangla and even wrote some short haiku-like poems himself. Yet, in the ensuing years, haiku never quite succeeded in carving out a niche for itself in the Bengali literary scene. Although Kalyan Dasgupta compiled and published Jaapani Haiku—A Bengali Anthology of Japanese Haiku in the year 2000 in Calcutta, the reading public remains largely unresponsive to this brief form of poetry and not many Bengali journals and magazines are interested in their publication. Though haiku is generally perceived as a tercet written in seventeen syllables, the handful of poets who write haiku in Bangla approach it in different ways and vary in their choice of subjects, refusing to be limited only to nature-centric haiku. Aju Mukhopadhyay is mainly spiritual and introspective in his approach, while Quamrul Hassan’s deft pen-strokes capture the small vignettes of everyday life. Kashinath Karmakar (who also is an English-language haiku poet) flits between nature and romance and tries to adhere to the 5-7-5 rule—not in syllables, but in Bangla letters and also to matrabritto, 5 wherever possible. Across the border in Bangladesh, haiku cannot be said to be flourishing exactly, but there are definitely more haiku enthusiasts there. For Muzib Mehdy, a noted exponent of this form, haiku is not only born of, but is also inducive to meditation. In his own words: “I abide by the restrictions imposed by kigo and kireji, recognize the distinction between haiku and senryū and prefer to be bound by 5-7-5 and matrabritto. At the same time, I do not consider these restrictions insurmountable, if it could lead me to a new joy, an exploration of greater beauty. Interested as I am in Zen, my primary aim is to test out how far words can take me along this meditative journey.” poila baisakh— first of baisakh—

tomar pat bhanga saarir gondhey the scent of your crisp sari

swapnera ghorey pherey stirring my dreams

—Kashinath Karmakar Translation: Sanjuktaa Asopa

Amar din jai rat-o jai my days and nights pass

nijer prakosthe nijer within my own shell

samay bede jai time expands

—Aju Mukhopadhyay Translation by the author

Jagari-1415 issue, summer 2008 aanginar gandharaaj jhop yard gardenia

barir malik o bhrityer nake for the master and servant

samabhabe gandho pouchhe dichhe equally its scent

—Muzib Mehdy Translation by Sanjuktaa Asopa

chhutir shakal holiday morning

janlar baire outside the window

murgiwallar haank the chicken-seller’s call

—Quamrul Hassan Translation by Sanjuktaa Asopa

brishtibari rainfall

megher anubaad the clouds translated

jalbhashai in water’s tongue

—Muzib Mehdy Translation: Sanjuktaa Asopa

_________________________________________________________________________________ In matrabritto, muktakkhar—that is, words ending with vowel sounds—are always one syllable and boddhakkhar—that is, words ending with consonant sounds—are always two syllables.


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