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A Bilingual Collaboration

Girija Sharma

By Sukrita Translated by Gulzar
HarperCollins India with The India Today Group, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 120, 299

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 12 December 2011

Poems Come Home is an uncommon piece of collaborative labour. Subtle in its nuances, sensitive in its portrayal, rhythmic in its power and stark in its simplicity, this bilingual book has poems originally written in English by the poet-critic Sukrita Paul Kumar, who uses the pen name 'Sukrita'. These have been translated into Hindustani by the famous lyricist Gulzar. In a recent interview Sukrita observed that her poems are born out of 'the everyday turmoil... the intriguing dilemmas, social injustices... the pain of relationships, natural calamities, all this in the face of love, innocence and the beauty of say a sturdy oak in the mountains'. At the same time, however, she believes that one has to 'realize the poetry lying somewhere inside oneself ... a poem may be sitting on a blade of grass outside, in the eyes of a child begging, in the squeaking of the rat in cat's paws or then, in the shadows of the long rain!' The world portrayed in these poems is highly evocative of the many-sidedness of human life-particularly the pain of living on the edge coupled with a resilience that makes such living possible. Many of these are an outcome of Sukrita's 'experience of working with homeless people'. The series of short poems entitled 'We the Homeless' (I, II, III, IV, V), captures the many faces of the bleakness of life: 'Madamji, / Can you get me/My mai?/ My home./ Slapping the dust off himself/ The little boy/queried, his eyes rolling in hope. . . (p. 8)'. The effortless poignancy is carried over in the translation too: 'Gard jhaar ke/aankhon mein ummeed ghuma ke/poochha chhote chhokrey ne. . .' (p. 9). Another poem in the series jolts the reader in the same way: 'When damp blankets and/leaking roofs/provide/shelter to the homeless/Wealthy sinners/Sleep in great comfort' (p. 10). Sensitively translated by Gulzar, 'seele kambal/aur tapakti chhat/ begharon ko panah deti hai/vaseelon vale naseeb ki neend so rahe hain' (p. 11). The last poem in the series is a blend of pathos and spirited optimism: 'Said the rickshaw-puller, the one/with the gaping wound/on his calf: "No, no need for the doctor. This happens so many times madamji,/And Allah heals it very fast"/ With feline alacrity/ My hand moved to cover/my bandaged finger/marking my faithlessness' (p. 16). The sardonic irony is recreated by Gulzar no less strikingly: 'Doctor ...

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