“I paint the words as water in my mind”
-Abhijeet Barman (1979-2008)
Wordsworth of Rajbangshi/Kamatapuri literature, Abhijeet Barman, bade adieu to life at 29, leaving behind a trail of memories buried in Jorpokhri, North Bengal University, Bombay Tata Cancer hospital. Those memories now await its’ complete resurgence before our eyes, to be pressed close to our hearts. Prashanta Kumar Roy, the editor of Dotrar Dang, a biannual magazine in Rajbangshi/Kamatapuri, has in his way celebrated his beloved poet Abhijeet Barman, by dedicating the second edition of 2016 to him. The work allows us to see through the poet as a common man with a persevering vision and extraordinary will dedicated to life and Rajbangshi literature.
When asked why he wished to dedicate his entire magazine to him, he said,
“Reading his works I fell in love with him and felt a strong sense of kinship. I was stimulated by the angst, pain as I read and knew more about him. And his unsung greatness propelled my urge to write on him. Secondly, you will not find many Rajbangshi magazines dedicating an edition to one person in entirety, neither many celebrate poets earnestly. So this is a new venture to commemorate the lesser known poets and a new perspective to approach Rajbangshi magazines.”
The edition begins with two essays by Partho Pratim Roy and Pronob Roy, who plunge deep into the river of memories (Fomer Nodi), draining with Abhijeet’s presence for 15 long years. Partho Pratim Roy as a junior recollects the day of his first confrontation with ‘Faustas da’-
“I saw a very lean and thin figure, standing straight at the door. He had few scratches of beard in his chin, with a bright confident face seeing which I almost shook my head down in veneration.”
While in ABN Seal College Coochbehar, the poet was afflicted with Cancer which drastically broke down his figure. His mother Shantimoyee Roy, went against his father’ will and dared to enroll him in University, while he was simultaneously undergoing treatment in Tata Cancer Hospital, Bombay.
Poet’s senior, Pronab Roy remembers this genius man who could successfully pass the SSC examination, in spite of “being engrossed in writing a novel, and not knowing the syllabus until three days prior to the exam”, a not too difficult task for a child prodigy, who could read almost every book at the young age of three. He was actively involved in creating the cultural milieu in the University Campus reverberating with Bhawaiya, English compositions sung with Dotara*; “Everyone avoided Rajbangshi/Kamatapuri language except for Abhijeet, myself (Pronob Roy), Noyon, Porimol, Prashanto. We did not pay heed to their crooked gazes directed towards us.”
The next few pages comprise the poet’s unpublished works, mostly untitled. The section opens with a picture of the poet, followed by a poem in English, which evaluates his position as an artist and how “she”, the ink pot, is his lover and Muse. Reading which I dare to call him the Keats of Rajbangshi/Kamatapuri literature, with a similar bent of mind in his attitude towards life, his use of Nature’s imageries, personification, his early tragic death and a world of possibilities he pledged to us, as a great poet. He acknowledges his fading away in the theater of life-
Because I will fade away…
In skies, I travel skies
In air, I travel Africa-blue-Amazon
With a courtyard of aspiration
With a heart filled with passion
In ashes to the Kashiya Moina Moti’s bank.
The next section consists one of poet’s published short stories, ‘Kanduri’ (Crying girl). A piece of art which sharpens our observations towards life’ randomness-a rural woman’s fate and her stinging tongue, a daughter’s innocent youth filled with curses, a drunken father’s rage, a story culminating the sense of Greek fatalism. With a fine ubiquitous grandeur; Rajbangshi life, language enmeshes with the universal conundrum of human existence. Selecting it for this edition was naturally the editor’s shared genius with his poet kin.
The next section captures the hidden nostalgias for him, grafted in poetry by-Aminur Rahman, Ajit Kumar Barma, Santosh Singha, and Shibprasad Roy- all, harmoniously breathing the sigh of his early departure.
“Abhijeet, walk on
Fasten your walking feet
Let those unconscious bodies sleep
Let them hype and run…”
-Ajit Kumar Barma(translated)
The final section consists five critical reviews on his three published poetry anthologies published in his lifetime and one posthumously published novel. Bhagirath Das reviews his first work ‘Ghanti Fuler Kotob’, published in the year 2007 by Rajbangshi Academy. Regarding this composition, he confides,
“To acquaint oneself with Rajbangshi life of rural Bengal, their past, and present, this book is a must.” His second work ‘Dhyasha Dhaaner Shomai’, published in June of 2008 is reviewed by Jayanta Kumar Roy. This collection too paints the rural Rajbangsi life, perceived through the “emotions of his childhood, youth, and practical experiences.” Poet Pijush Sarkar reviews, ‘Shak Tulinu Bechhi Kuchhi’, the final collection published in July 2008, the last month of the poet’ life, and confesses,
“While attempting to review his work, his poems reviewed me.”
The collection traces those personal moments of his intimate sensation of death while looking back and reviewing his years of emotional transactions and tumultuous battling against the gnawing cancerous cells. For him, the poem ‘Nobar Katha’ (Talks to stay) is the climax of the poet’s emotional upheaval, resignation, and hope.
“Everyone asks me to stay
Twisting my legs they hold me back…
However, I left my land of pleasure,
Mother’s talk, river’s talk, fireflies moonlight
I walked the path of empty country road
Where peace resides and can love right.”
Editor Prashanta Kumar Roy and Dr. Suryanarayan Roy in the guest language section reviews his only novel ‘Batthan’, written during his stay in Bombay Cancer Hospital, and published posthumously. The novel features the life of Moina, the protagonist on one hand; how her dreams “to taste freedom in real life was shattered”. On the other side, it is a tale of the lost world of batthan, a shelter for buffaloes caressed by the herdsman, Moishal. This world was an intricate part of Rajbangshi tradition and a pervading cultural symbol in many folklores and songs, what Prasanta Roy claims to be a life “inside which lives life, youth, and restlessness, a road leading opposite to speeded civilization, and thus a primeval world .” He captivates the cultural imagination of the readers by breathing life into it, through the tragedy of Moina, that the novel Batthan seizes to be a thing of past and transcends into a theater of performances, the world in its own right.
Until read and explored, Abhijeet Barman will haunt us like a specter. To set him free from the claustrophobic existence in dust and dirt, grab his book, or a Dotrar Dang.
*Dotara or Dotra is a handmade string instrument, traditional to the Koch Rajbangshi and Rajbangshi community.
-Written and translated by Noya
Editor Prashanta Roy works from his hometown Chhat Notafela, Coochbehar
Call him on +918116633901
mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
don’t forget to visit his page Dotrar dang