Poems from the heart of the city, written in a language that doesn’t get translated nearly often enough, Bengali. Bhaskar Chakrabarti writes about the ordinary life he sees from his window in Kolkata, and Arunava Sinha’s is the first major translation into English. In sixty years and a dozen poetry collections, he saw a lot:
Chakrabarti always wanted to be a poet, though is initial reasoning was quite prosaic at first – he thought if he wrote poetry, he could get a good job, “with a newspaper, at least”. He came from very humble origins.
Things that Happen spans the decades from the 1960s to the 2000s, showing that some things we thought were finally over are coming right back at us:
After reading his poems, I felt I had begun to get to know a man who wasn’t afraid to write his own feelings, state of mind, friends he’d lost as he got older.
Chakrabarti lived through a great deal – not least Indian and Bangladeshi independence, bringing war right to his doorstep. This year India is sixty, Bangladesh is 46, and if he was still alive, Chakrabarti would be 72. His generation changed Bengali and Indian poetry completely. Listen to more of his poems being read and a discussion with the translator and publisher, Seagull Books, as part of the Indian Languages Festival Samanvay Translations Series.
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