Origin in Assamese: Manoj Barpujari
Translation: Bibekananda Choudhury

I wandered in the sea even before I could see it
with my own eyes. The sea too ruffled inside me.
Changed form, size, sign, language, body and soul.
The day I saw the sea from near
that day too, it changed itself. It created waves
inside me – be it in joy or sorrow. I too didn’t wait.
I brought tides in the sea. In the tide of happiness-sorrow
possess-loss teardrops-sweat seen-unseen the sea took ()
the form of a woman. I allowed myself to blend
in the lap of bones of the lady.
Heard in the heaven of the Earth or the Earth of the heaven
the Gods and Goddesses blended with each other
just like this.
The physical soul changed form like the sea.
Many were born amidst one. People became creator of people.
People became offspring of people.

The sea is blue. Like the Shiva from the tales
turning blue on imbibing venom,
I wished to learn whether this lady in the form of sea
also had to bear the atrocities of people. Thirty-three times in the three centuries the bugle of war was blown on the surface of this sea.
Perhaps thirty-three crore Gods were killed there.
Did Columbus have an inkling of this? 
As his three ships dropped anchor on the foothills
of the three mountains, who was there,
did he see the three world on the shore?
Blessed Trinity!

Columbus knew the ships
following his would carry innumerable warriors
and prisoners.
The chain of slavery would make to flow in these islands
Rivers of blood and sweat.
That’s what is flowing at every corner of the world.
Even today like before. But it happened so
That the chain brought us close together.
Struggle is not just a word, not even a slogan,
It is the ultimate identity of our life.
Is your introduction same too, O the resident of Luitpaar1 :
Asked Aleem Ahmed, asked Joan Ramsingh, asked Morgan Job,
Bruce Paddington, Clevon Rafael, Yemet Henessey,
Herbert Volney, Yao Ramesar.
I said it is a relative truth.
Because there is rise and fall of masses through struggle,
As there is rising and ebbing of tide in the sea. The longing and
forbearance of womanhood is flowing in our blood.
It is live or dormant even in the heart of sea.

And what about you, O the representative of
heritage of Trinidad. I too asked the same question.
Everyone of them drew a sign on my palm as they shook hands.
I took the study of that sign very earnestly.
I found there the identity of each of them. So close, inborn, hearty.
Those are just the outer cover though the religious faith, mother tongue,
colour is different. The inside form is similar.
Like the tinge of blood is the same their emotion and feeling
are also same. They are one amidst many through bonding of love.

Which is the place where there is no plurality and singularity?
I asked myself. Perhaps the sea too asked
the question to itself – I thought .
Because whenever the colour of the sea becomes red,
people act not to know each other,
then the sea turns upset.
The sign drawn on the palm
by the people shaking hands daily turn red.
The sign on the palm turn monochromatic
and let everyone know its own only identity.
The sole identity remaining among plurality.
Only red.

Noticing the red colour in many paintings in the museum
of Port of Spain, I thought the history of this colour is like
that of the banks of Luit2, like that of the bank of Thames.
Why there is so much similarity among us?
Along the long road leading to San Fernando
the flowers of sugarcane like that of our reeds. Who knows,
those may have been planted by bonded labourers
brought from the banks of the Ganges, to feed the British Lion,
like the labourers of London or Manchester toiled breaking their back.
As I touched the bitumen floating on the Pitch Lake,
I saw the struggle, clash and prosperity, of white people and black people
in the mine of liquid gold. Blacks and Indians fought shoulder to shoulder
for their rights. Negroes and Coolies
of the bygone era. Hindus and Muslims.

A low wall between a Shiva Temple and a Mosque
in the city of Couva. I also noticed very little space separating
a church and a mosque. One can touch the pillars of the temple
by extending a hand through a window from inside the mosque.
People are staying happily like that.
Do they consider God as an incarnation of human being?
But is it so that on the banks of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra
people are considered to be an incarnation of God? Is it why
there is only one God in the city of Couva
as incarnation of all human beings?
Is it why many Gods of one man all gathered
to fight in Ayodhya and Barpeta? Touching the huge guns
owned by British King on the Macay Hills in Tobago, I asked
the vast sea, why are the people so conceited?
The sky deeply pained in sorrow was sobbing.
On my shoulders all the weight of teardrops shed by the sky.
The sea was blue cowed down under the weight of sorrow
at that moment like a grieving woman.

I looked back at the fort on the Macay Hills
with a heavy heart. Chutney Soca was playing in the stereo of
our modern car. The waves of the Atlantic was lashing
at the sides of the steep hills. The deep green
of Main Ritz forest beckons. Hearing the voice of a rain forest,
a familiar bongeet3 was perturbing. I know what tune is played
in your solitary hut on the green bank.
The spell of the tune of Soca and Calypso
brings back onto lap the distant past.
Can the past turn into past ever?
No no never. Earth forest sea
never become past. The texture of skin – fair dark yellow
never become past. The eternal nature never become past.
The sign made while shaking hands do never change;
the heart of the people and the warmth of the blood
keep it the same.

Speed only brings sensation to past.
Reclining my body on the sea I think,
how nice it would have felt if speed could have saved
the present. An enchanting wealth has been unfurled
to my eyes with extreme generosity. Strange nature.
I tend not to believe my own eyes in astonishment.
The speed boat heading to mid sea stopped suddenly.
A group of comely lasses got down on the sea
and started walking. Is it sea,
or just a patch of tall grassland. The seawater
just reaches to the waist, upto the bosom at the most.
This water is not blue, but green.
Does this sea have no sorrow? Only waves of joy here
like the green woods?

The Nylon Pool welcomed us
turning into a wonder of the world.
I have, of course, never known of such a green sea
before I saw this myself.
Now I see the sea is indeed mysterious :
form, size, sign, language, body, soul, everything
can be changed by this lady. So one feels awe at sea,
one feels pulled by the sea.

Leaving the sea behind,
I reached the banks of Luit long back. Still, the sea waves are
lurching inside me. As if it is a woman
on whose bosom I am creating tides again and again.

1,2 Luitpaar = Banks of Luit; Luit is the other name of the Brahmaputra

3 bongeet = Assamese folk song

About the author: Manoj Barpujari’s poems represent hurt feelings of humanity, foreboding of the tumultuous time and conscience ever since his poems were published, although occasional take on philosophies of life reverberate across his wide experimentations. His first poem in print was in an erstwhile left-wing journal Natun Prithivee in 1980. He has four volumes of poetry and won the Munin Borkotoky Literary Award in 2003 for his collection Amlakhi Gasar Suhuri. His poems are translated to several major Indian languages and included in various anthologies and literary journals. Besides, he is an acclaimed film critic, having been bestowed with Swarna Kamal at the National Film Awards of 2011. By profession he has more than three decades of experience in journalism and received honours including a Caribbean fellowship.

About the translator-author: Bibekananda Choudhury, an electrical engineer by profession, has completed his MS from BITSPilani in Systems and Information. He has also earned a diploma in French language from Gauhati University. He has got published works (both original and translated) in Assamese, Bengali & English in popular periodicals and newspapers. His translated poems has been published in 'Indian Literature', ‘Poets International’, Poetry International’, Rupsi Bangla, etc. 'Suryakatha', the Bengali adaptation done by him of the Assamese novelette in verse in the same title by Prayag Saikia was well accepted. His English translated publications include – one short story collection and four poetry collections and one Information Book on Kaziranga, apart from few others in manuscript form. He hails from Bongaigaon and presently stays at Guwahati.

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