In a fine state of flux
We swirl away, as
Tradition / avant-garde,
Conventional / contemporary
Rub shoulders and
Vie for space, time, space...space...
Making ours such a confusing, challenging
Extraordinary moment of existence!
Four creative artistes
Got together to tell us their stories
Which are ours really
And we listened rapt,
Demolishing some stereotypes
Seeing them transform before our eyes!
It's time to explore and realise
How things are slowly changing with time...
The demure ghunghat-clad 'Bahu'
In the heart of small town India
Slapping rotis on her palms with
Her Ma-inlaw, has an apparel startup
In her small room. She plans to go big.
A young girl surreptitiously learns to drive
Against her family's wishes and her skill
Saves her father-in-law's life one day!
Scenes one may recognise from Saba Mumtaz’s TV serial Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai....
She says it struck a chord with viewers because it was their story too,
The incremental changes towards progressive outlooks building up
One small step at a time, no big slogans or flags, just plain peaceful,
Carry-along-everyone with you, kind of a real lasting change.
The poem is inspired by a panel discussion under the Story Project 9 themed on Dandakaranya:
The Cultural Shock : Clash between Traditional and Modern
Original inhabitants being remote tribals, Dandakaranya today has the presence of refugees and visitors who cause clashes between the traditional dwellers and the modern influx. That brings us to this panel discussion where we generalise the cultural clash between the traditional and contemporary from three different perspectives. (1) the remake or adaptation of films. (2) translation of regional books for global audience (3) the evolving women’s world.
Speakers: Charudutt Acharya Saba Mumtaz Somrita Urni Ganguly
Context of the poem: Words from the Poet
And then there are gems of wisdom and perception in our regional literary shelves waiting to be carried into more hearts, and it is a translator's exquisite understanding and vision that makes this happen. Award winning scholar Somrita Urni Ganguly, who has translated three important stories by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, says that his works are held in reverence by adoring readers because his writing awakens a deep humanity, shedding light on vulnerable lives in a simple, accessible, lucid manner, focusing on outliers like an impoverished Muslim labourer, an orphaned girl-child, a widow...
Somrita says that the challenge is to keep the idioms contemporary while translating, so it's not a literal, word for word exact reproduction into another language (which Google may do), but a heartfelt understanding and appreciation that's able to use contemporary idioms while remaining true to the source text. She prefers the word 'source' to 'original', as writers and artists invariably carry forward ideas of predecessors.
Context is very important, of course, as both Somrita Ganguly and filmmaker Charudutt Acharya have pointed out. Responding to Mohana Chatterjee's question, Charudutt Acharya says that the film Devdas by Sanjay Leela Bhansali is not the Devdas of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay at all, it is just another love story, because here, the context is key. The story and its setting in the book speaks of a Bengal of a very specific era depicting the sensibilities and customs of its time, in the absence of which, the character falls flat.
Charudutt's narration of the backstory of an OTT film ‘Aranyak’ he has made, is heartwarming, hilarious and quite extraordinary! It is the description of a family outing on horseback in the hills gone bad, thanks to some recalcitrant guides; followed by what happens in a little flower bedecked police chowky that he visits to sort the issue.
They see the little chowki, covered in flowers and go inside. There's no one there, just some clothes hanging on a chair. Then in a corner on a charpoy, they see a woman, who asks his wife to come and sit with her. She's friendly and inquisitive and asks about the children's ages, striking up a conversation with Charu's wife. The topic naturally veers round to their recent expedition in the hills and their grievance against the guides. The woman is sympathetic and says this is too bad. She offers tea, hands it around, and as they sip, she moves to the desk, puts on the jacket of the uniform and turns to Charu. Even as he stares wide-eyed, she takes down his statement and calls out to some assistants to fetch the guides.
Charu says the guides appear soon enough and then she goes to work. Before saying anything she lashes out at one and then another and another, as they cower and try to get a word in! She's mouthing the choicest words in the dialect to express her opinion of them and one cannot reconcile her with the woman on the charpoy of a few minutes ago, such is the transformation!
Who would have thought!
Times are a-changing and there's no denying the slow turn of the wheels of progress...
Poet: Smeetha Bhoumik
Smeetha is a poet, artist, founding editor - Yugen Quest Review, and founder of the WE literary community (2016). She is Chief Editor of Equiverse Space - A Sound Home in Words (a WE anthology, Notion, 2018). Her art, mainly the 'Universe Series' has shown in exhibitions in India and abroad. Her favourite poetic form is the sestina. She facilitates poetry at #CeWoPoWriMoWE. As Founder – WE, she has helped establish several awards, including the WE Kamala Das Poetry Award. Her poems feature in national/ international journals, anthologies including Oxygen - Parables of the Pandemic 2022, Quesadilla & Other Adventures 2019, Muse India 2017, 2018, Life and Legends 2018, Modern Indian Poetry – Sahitya Akademi, 2019, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Open Your Eyes - A Climate Change Anthology, Freedom Raga, Poetry & Covid project - Universities of Plymouth, and Nottingham Trent, Writing Language, Culture - Asia vs Africa, Mwanaka, among others.