Sholo anai michhey – by Sukumar Ray – translated

Sholo anai michhey – by Sukumar Ray

Biddey bojhai babumoshai chori shokher boatey
Majhire kon, ” Bolte parish sujji keno othey?
Chandta keno barey komey? Joar keno ashey?”
Bridhho majhi obaak hoye phelpheliye hashey.
Babu bolen, “Sara janam morli re tui khati,
jyan bina tor jibonta je chari anai mati.”

A gentleman with loads of knowledge goes for a boat ride.
He asks the boatman, “Can you tell me why the sun rises everyday?
Why does the moon grow and shrink in phases? Why do we have tides?”
The dumbfounded old boatman has a silly smile on his face.
The intellectual states, “You labored throughout your life but
Without knowledge a quarter of your life is futile.”

Khanik badey kohen babu, “Bolto dekhi bhebey
nodir dhara kemoney ashey pahar hotey nebe ?
Bolto keno lobonpora sagar bhora pani?
Majhi shey koy, “Are moshai aoto ki aar jani ?
Babu bolen, ” ei boyoshey janish neo taki
jibonta tor nehat khelo, ashto anai phaki ?”

After  a while the erudite enquires, “Think and answer,
How does the river flow down from the mountains ?
Can you tell me why the oceans are full of salty waters?”
The poor boatman confesses ” O Gentleman, how would I know so much ?”
The learned one states, “Even at this ripe age, you do not know this,
Then is your life indeed so cheap, half of it lost ?”

Abar bhebhey kohen babu, “Bolto orey buro,
Keno emon neel dekha jaye akasher oi churo?
Bolto dekhi surjo chandey grohon laagey keno?”
Bridho boley, “Amaye keno lajja dechhen heno? ”
Babu bolen, “Bolbo ki aar, bolbo torey kita,
Dekhchhi ekhon jibonta tor baro anai britha.”

Thinking again, the gentleman questions, “Here old one can you say
Why does the far heights of of the sky apeear as blue
Why solar and lunar eclipses happen to occur ?
The aged boatman merely protests “Why are you embarassing me so?”
At this the scholar concludes, ” I do not know what to tell you,
But clearly your life is three quarters useless.”

Khanik badhey jhor utheychhey, dhew utheychhey phule,
Babu dekhen, noukakhani dublo bujhi duley.
Majhire kon, “Eki apodh! Ore o bhai majhi,
Dublo naki nouka ebar? morbo naki aaji ?”
Majhi sudhay, “Snatar jaano ?”- matha naren babu,
Murkho majhi boley, “Moshai, ekhon keno kabu ?
Banchle sheshe amar kotha hisheb koro pichhey
tomar dekhi jibon khana sholo anai michhey.”

After a while, there rose a storm, the waves puffed up
The gentleman sensed that the rocking boat could sink any moment.
He adressed the boatman, “What a menace! O brother boatman,
Is the boat about to sink ? Am I going to die ?
The boatman asked , “Do you know how to swim ?” — the man shook his head,
The illiterate boatman told him, “Why are you beaten now?
Verify my words if you finally survive this,
Looks like your life is totally in vain.

In the end the illiterate boatman questions the use of all the knowledge about the Sun, the Moon, tides and the water bodies. Was it sufficient to predict the storm let alone control it ? Did the learned gentleman even have the capacity to deal with the situation?

This is an excellent parable. Sukumar Ray, the master of irony,  brings out the difference between theoritical and real knowledge in a clever setting. (Sukumar Ray is the father of the oscar-winning film maker Satyajit Ray).The words of the dexterous poet are magical in their rhythm and divine in their essence. It throws light upon the pettiness of human ego and the true purpose of life.



O kind one free me
From the shackles of illusion
I am drowning…
The floating images are laughing at me
Showing their teeth twisted and dirty
Let my head rest on your chest.

Mind is caught up in a storm
Clouds of dust, swirling monsters
Stinging the eyes, obscure veil
Where are you, my beautiful?
Cannot wait any longer
Every moment walking on quicksand.

Why did you choose to hide?
Strong bond tugging at my heart.
Where do I look, blind-folded ?
Dark doubts strangle breath
Giving up so impaitently
Looking outside in the wrong direction.

Finding our way

Today a lady colleague was discussing about converting to another religion. Sometimes this changes the whole personality of an individual. Old friends wonder where their familiar buddy has suddenly disappeared!

Do we need to change ourselves to find the true meaning of life ?

Rama Krishna Paramhansa, an Indian ascetic, explained that religions were but separate ways to reach the same ultimate truth. The old Chinese religion of Tao states that the way described in words is not the true way to fathom the infinite. One must explore and discover this path through their own experiences of human lives.

This journey is completed alone. Is self-confidence truly the greatest gift ?

Navarasa – Inside Out

A teenager is off to attend her first prom party. Before she gets in the car, wearing a lovely dress, she takes a moment to look at herself in the mirror.

  • Eyeliner – check
  • Eyeshadow – check
  • Lipstick – check
  • Blush – check
  • Makeup – check
  • The perfect smile – check

It is interesting how expressions enhance our appearance , sometimes even more than cosmetic makeup. All the varied emotions a person reflects on his face make up his personality- the perceived character of an individual. This simple idea forms the foundation of the movie Inside Out.

Did you know that it takes less than half the muscles to smile than to frown? A person uses her facial muscles to portray her feelings, spontaneous or artificial. The latter is used in entertainment and arts like acting, dancing, and mime, to name a few. Many Indian classical dance forms use different expressions to communicate to the audience. This medium of communication is language independent and understood by all. This body language is missing when we use verbal or written communication. Each person’s brain fills up these gaps in their own way.  In the dance terminology these are called the Navarasa or nine moods:

  1. Shantarasa – equanimity
  2. Hasyarasa – mirth
  3. Adbhutrasa – wonder
  4. Karunarasa – sadness
  5. Bhayanakrasa – fear
  6. Rudrarasa – anger
  7. Vibhatsyarasa – disgust
  8. Virrasa – pride
  9. Shringarrasa – love

In the movie, Inside Out, we see a similar though slightly different categorization.  Five feelings are identified : Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. They color all our experiences and long-term memories. Among them, Joy and Sadness were the predominant emotions. When under stressful situations, these emotions are not freely expressed, then other emotions like fear, anger, and disgust come to the forefront. Interestingly, they did not include Love and Curiosity in the group of emotions. Anger was red while fear was purple. Disgust was green in color. Looking closely, it combined Vibhatsyarasa (disgust) and Virrasa (pride).

The only way to stop the negative feelings from taking control of her life was to express the true feelings or let the tears flow. Towards the end of the movie, we see mixed memories that were colored with joy and sadness simultaneously. This could be thought of as Shantarasa or a balanced emotion which is indeed part of maturing.

Joy was the dominant feeling for the growing child. As they said “a little baby is but a bundle of joy!” If we tried to find a parallel for Joy, we see not only Hasyarasa but also Shringarrasa with bits of Shantarasa and Adbhutrasa. Only here Shringarrasa was more of family love than romantic love. Since the protagonist was a child , growing into a pre-teen,  higher emotions like romantic love may not have formed in her brain in a well-defined way. That could be one of the reasons why Love was not depicted as a separate emotion in the movie.  In entertaining arts, however, Shringarrasa is the single most important mood. It is a complex emotion that includes many variations like jealousy, compassion, admiration and even erotic love. Some classical art forms often compare this love to spiritual or devotional love.

Remembering “Dadur Dastana” (Grandpa’s mitten)

This morning my mother reminded me about a story we read in our childhood. The literal translation of the title was “Grandpa’s mitten”. Turns out that it is originally a Ukrainian folktale.

An old man had gone for his walk one wintry morning wearing his long overcoat, brown cap and matching mittens. On his way back, he stopped at the tea shop to grab a cup of tea. In order to count the right change, he took off his right mitten and put it in his other pocket . He continued his onward journey sipping on his tea. The mitten moved in the small pocket and soon fell out on the soft snow by the sidewalk.

A little mouse scurrying by got curious. When he entered the mitten, it was warm inside. The mouse decided to stay. After a while a bunny rabbit hopping about in the cold saw the brown mitten. “Is anybody home? May I come inside?”  The mouse saw a pair of big feet from the narrow opening and felt scared. “Oh sure, come in,” he said. So the rabbit  settled in front part. The mouse moved to the back. The north wind blew outside and they felt comfortable inside. Soon after a porcupine looking for things to eat on the ground, found the mitten and decided to explore inside.  “Is anybody home? May I come inside?” Though there was not enough room, the mouse and the rabbit did not want to argue with someone covered with spines. “Oh sure, come in,” they said. They moved further to make space and the porcupine wriggled in.

Attracted by the movements in the snow, an owl flew down from a nearby tree and alighted in front of the mitten. “Hoot hoot! Who is inside? May I join you ?” The mouse the rabbit and the porcupine were snug and warm inside. However, they were scared of the sharp talons of the owl.  “Oh sure, come in,” they relented.  The woolen mitten stretched and expanded when the owl pushed her way in.

It started to snow outside. Inside the bulging mitten, the animals were warm from the proximity and each other’s body heat.  A fox was walking by in the snow storm, shivering all over. He suddenly saw the whiff of steamy breath arising from the mitten and decided to take shelter inside.  “Is anybody home? May I come inside?”  His sharp teeth glistened in the gloomy afternoon. It scared all the animals and they agreed to his request without any protest. All the animals moved around to make space for the fox. The mitten now seemed to burst at the seams. The mouse had moved to the top of the fox’s nose. As he turned a little this way and that, his long whiskers tickled the fox’s nose. “Aaaachoooh!!!”

There came a huge sneeze from the fox. The force of it sent all the animals outside the mitten and it flew up in the air. Almost at the same time, the old man, missing his mitten, had retraced his path looking in the snow. Luckily, the empty mitten landed right in front of him. He happily picked it up and put it on. It felt a little loose in his hand.  But he did not give it another thought and was well on his way towards home….