Pijush Dhar doesn’t live in Shillong anymore

Pijush Dhar was born in 1941 in Siliguri, West Bengal. In 1964, his job at the Accountant General’s Office brought him to Shillong, whose pine and mist-clad hills animate his poetry still. In 1969, he jointly edited a journal of Bengali poetry, Shillonger Kobita (Poems from Shillong), and went on to become a vital figure in Shillong’s literary circle. However, it was in 1973, that he first published his own little Bengali poetry magazine, Pahariya (Of Hills), which over many years, remained as the most enduring token of his contribution to poetry in Shillong and the Northeast. He was the first to organize a Northeast Poetry Festival in 1986 in Shillong. Pijush Dhar has published seven collections of poetry, Neel Sagarer Paare, Alinde Shurjer Hawaa, Paharer Alpath, Jabotiyo Gopon Shommoti, Shorode-Shetaare, Nihshorger Shwed Rokto, and Shondha Naame. Each of these collections is an expression of the “calm, mesmerized, and endless joy” of an ordinary man’s fellowship with the world and Shillong. In 2009 he left Shillong for Kolkata. Robin S Ngangom on Pijush Da, the key poet of our Hills.   

Pijush Dhar 2
Pijush Dhar at Shadowland, Don Bosco Square, Shillong 2002

What becomes of an apolitical poet, who never claimed a piece of land, who doesn’t believe that history is unique, who prefers solitude rather than any expression of solidarity with causes, who keeps his faith to himself, and who, having spurned venal opportunities as a youth, found himself, at a simple turn in the road, in the hills in the 60s? Smitten by Shillong’s pines and rain and mist, and surging humanity, Pijush Dhar often recites to me:

Learn to hold a hand
It is love, not possessiveness
A benediction, in effect

No one threatened him to leave in 2009, but he realized that he perhaps overstayed his welcome in the hills, the hills which unbeknownst to him, have become the raison d’etre of his poetry

Meghalaya

The waves roll on.
The sky’s fraction of water
and Cherrapunjee goes splashing.

Meghalaya walks with liquid winds
on the longitude of the East.

The girl’s wet hair… dishevelled,
thirsts for fires
from the red teeth of coals.
The evening approaches in the orange trees.
A written day’s yellow house
permeates completion.
The figurine’s fair skin
and Christ tied on her back
when nature’s adorable festival
crosses the nightly jungle
to return the woman to completeness and safety.

Upon the cock’s routine cry,
the crested wonder of a dawn.

II

The frothing exultation with which, from the seas,
you see waters playing,
is the measured distance
where the tribal woman’s shadow
falls on your hearth and home.

Green emerald,
she clasps you with her stony lips.

Even here, there’s a mysterious indulgence,
a foamy joy of journeying among clouds,
the entranced steps walking Nongkrem,
the talk of Behdienkhlam
or the Wangala dance.

Translated by Bhaskar Gupta & Nabanita Kanungo

He might have been confined to an inconspicuous table in a large hall of the Accountant General’s office in Shillong, but saw as only a poet of his sensibility could

A Black and White Picture

I had wanted to elicit some memories
from a non-governmental file
so I asked Malati
of an injured hill,
its dew-wet grounds,
the life history
of it’s sad leaf-laden story.

And how candidly she reproduced that tale by rote!
A witness of rape
walking the masked yet naked street of protest,
forced outside the torn curtain of shame.

How incredible it is to go back to primitivism!
Archaeology’s perverted, modern language
reads the traditional trance of a kirtan;
the numbers of a people written in blood.

Translated by Nabanita Kanungo

poster poetry copy

A poet who is wary of the allure of the false lyric, Pijush Dhar never allows “the mutilated world”, to use Zagajewski’s phrase, to destroy his faith

A Penchant for Beauty

My insides have been touched
by old flowers of the pine,
the ambience of the flowing prayers of a stream
dwells within me.

But there are wretches
who mistake this infinite home of clocks
for the charitable alms of gun-powder.
They store in the dingy corners of their homes,
the rotten blood of sins, a withered heart.

They do not know, my penchant for beauty
exiles them forever in a notebook.

Translated by Nabanita Kanungo

So he returns home every day as

Dusk Descends

You know that when birds fly home
dusk descends along
a day’s chanachur-munching road.

It carries on its shoulders
a bag full of heavy darkness,
the staircase of a body
some rustle from pines
a pair of spectacles
extending from one hill to another
topped with winter’s icing;
all coalesce into
your yellow feet’s railway station.

Still you divide episodes
hoping to last till you
get to sleep in these hills
as if on a cake;
you, the wind of a duitara
and all throughout, you know
that when the birds fly home
dusk descends
along a day’s chanachur-munching road.

Translated by Nabanita Kanungo

Pijush Dhar’s poems would testify to his power as a poet of a ruminative lyricism, he remains a consummate “poet of the hills”

Everyday Shillong

At the Umsning river
you sieve and strain some sand
in routine heaps.

I’ll extract from her eyes, her face,
from her shimmering lips
every bit of the toil
of this girl
still as midnight.

From among the pines
I’ll extract,
from the ready yield
of your jhum fields
drenched in dew,
each crumb of your inviolate happiness.

This way, I’ll track down
the path cleansed by your tears.

You will yield to me each day
like a dear companion
your blue third world
your vitality
unprotesting.

Translated by Pradip Acharya

Pijush Dhar 1
Pijush Dhar at Shadowland reading, 2002

He has, after all, a

Baul’s Heart

I watch you grow in a machan
And I don’t know why
I wish
To be a one-stringed Baul
Body smeared with red earth
The dreamy fragrant robe
Wandering with the daring of muddy fields.
I know his being
And I know
How humble
It must be
To sing of joy
In exchange for his grief
The notes of…
The breeze written by pride
Of the Jarul tree
Fill the paths, fields and the afternoons
The long forgotten aquatic sounds
Of the Ektara
Bring back
With the kissing waves
The once lost notes
Now no longer
Enchanted by alien tongues.

Translated by Chandrajit Bose

Pijush Suruchi
Pijush Dhar, on his recent visit to Shillong

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Robin Ngangom Written by:

Robin Singh Ngangom was born in Imphal, Manipur. He is a bilingual poet who writes in English and Manipuri. He studied literature at St Edmund's College and the North Eastern Hill University Shillong, and teaches in the Dept. of English at NEHU. He is the Editor of New Frontiers, journal of the Northeast Writers' Forum, Guwahati, and is Nominating Editor for Manipuri for Katha Translation Awards, New Delhi. He was conferred with Katha Award for Translation in 1999. His significant publications are The Desire of Roots (2006); Time's Crossroads (1994); Words and the Silence, (1988). He is a co-editor (with Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih) of two significant anthologies of Poetry from North East India. He lives in Shillong

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