Friday, Dec 01, 2023

The Wound: A Poem by Malay Roychoudhury (1939-2023)

The Wound: A Poem by Malay Roychoudhury (1939-2023)

One of the founding fathers of the Hungry Generation Literature movement and a renowned poet, Malay Roychowdhury, passed away at the age of 84 today. A look at an extract from one of his iconic long poems, 'Jakham', first published in 1965.

A farmer and his oxcart trudge past the girders of the Howrah bridge
A farmer and his oxcart trudge past the girders of the Howrah bridge Getty Image

I lie watching the flying azure
beneath the canopy that I set aflame
I am interrogating all my doubts
Adjourning the hearing of pain and sufferings
I’m running the gramophone pin over the crisscrossing of my palm
To know the future
The armature to the left of my chest burnt long ago
Now, the smoke from Malay’s charred skeleton burns my eyes
A rowdy storm is flying by at 99 kilometres per hour
Herds of two-legged profit-loss-mongering men pass by
Watch ticking on their wrist
A titmouse is flying low to scare me
800,000 open doors are spread across the yonder field
Everything in front of me is mashed up
I’m not fitting in
I’m getting late
My tongue is forgetting my language
16 divisions of crows have been whirling around my hands feet and head
for 25 years
My wounds my flesh and blood are clinging on to skeletal railings
I can see the sentimental frescos of Malay’s innards after skinning him
Ageless sabotages are going on inside the body
The incriminating activities of darkness patrol haemoglobin are going on ceaselessly
Silently, I am thinking of what to do with myself
As an heirloom, I have the 6000-year-old polished cruelty of critical times
I am discarding man’s insensitivity by scooping away the old coating on my skin
The nails washed clean after having rice seem magnanimous
A burning loo is shoving its way through the gaps in my bones
Men are returning home
Giving up their search for a heart in my corpse
Men are teaching men the rules of murder and hospitality
I return home putting together the my disjointed hands and legs
I lie with eyes closed in the crimson wind of the afternoon
The odour of raw coal is spiralling up the eighteenth cartridge 
of the unyielding immoderate vein
I don’t know whether my parents’ chromosome
is dragging me toward my directionless trap
Vibrant nitrocellulose is dripping on my retina from furious brain pulp vapour
Letters of condolence are piling up against half-closed futureless doors
My tired muscles are rusting
The corpses of the learned and the ignorant are turning to dust at once
Every woman is lurking, ready with a conversion chart
Caught in the snags of her womb
Gandhi and Attila’s equi-chemical blood
Is flowing through my same vein
I have achieved nothing nor will the world achieve anything till the end

(An extract from the iconic long poem, 'Jakham', first published in 1965)
(Translated by Sreemanti Sengupta)