Indigenous poet and Sahitya Academy winner Chandra Kanta Murasingh's translated english poems come out in a sleek volume

Sekhar Datta

He represents in his persona and poetry the socio-economic and political evolution of Tripura from  a pristinely idyllic and self-sustaining land of indigenous people into a composite state of heterogenous culture. Tripura's eminent poet Chandra Kanta Murasingh continues to be fascinated by the hills, vales and transparent waterscape that dot the vicinity of his pastoral home and life in Tuibandal village. As a boy he had participated in 'Jhum' (shifting) cultivation along with his parents and siblings and the rhythmic melodies of  the 'jhum' songs still resonate in his ears as does the quiet gliding noise of hilly springs in which he loved to have a midday bath. Chandra Kanta's hill-top village had been scandalized when his non-agenarian century old father Shyamapada Murasingh had sent him to school , fearing a removal from the roots. But amidst all round changes marked by too much history happening in too short a time, reflected in growing demographic imbalance , Chandra Kanta found himself all alone seeking solace in his poetic soul.
Initially as an employee in the now-abolished  post and telegraph department in Manipur, Chandra Kanta embarked on his poetic journey, penning poems in his mother tongue 'Kokborok' (tribal language) . This gained momentum as he returned to Tripura to join Tripura Gramin Bank (TGB) as books of poems in 'Kokborok' reeled off his soul , portraying a nostalgic agony of his heart over a pristinely pure and simple world that is lost for ever. He has been a multiple award winner poet including the Sahitya Academy's prestigious 'Bhasa Samman'  conferred in 1996 as the fist winner from northeast. Besides his seven books of original poems Chandra Kanta has also translated Rabindra Nath Tagore's 'Gitanjali' in 'Kokborok' which was published by the 'Viswa Bharati' while a Hindi version of his selected poems has been published by Calcutta’s premier Presidency University.

But the crowning glory is  his latest publication : an English translation of his poems titled ‘Memoirs of the Woods’ , put in fine print by the Bhubaneshwar based 'Dhauli Books'. This anthology , translated by professor (retired)  Saroj Chowdhury, thematically reveals is a sensitive soul's creative expression of a nostalgic agony of heart over a world beyond restoration. Chandra Kanta's soul pines for the original indigenous names that have undergone a transformation with the demographic imbalance . " When I try to look at my face –I get confused …. they have changed my name –and call me river 'Hawrah'; O alas , I am Saidra-the Saidra stream' says the poem titled 'Give me back my name'. This is followed by another dirge-like poem 'Hard Times' that pours out the agony still more intensely : ' The silent forest languishes on top of the hill , Looks indifferently below; its broken reflection float on the stream". A sharp symbolism also marks his poetic creation as the short poem ‘The Full Moon’ conveys a tortured soul’s anguish : " Now is the full moon. The crown jewel radiates light….the invaders, progeny of Clive, step in and howl in joy 'Wow". Chandra Kanta's pining for the lost sylvan nature finds expression in the following lines : " I can't go to the forest now , For I miss the cock's crow at dawn ,and the deer's bark in the dusk'.  A natural love for nature , embittered at times by the changing landscape and demographic profile , casts a spell of haunting beauty in Chandra Kanta's lyricism. Agony over the 1980 ethnic riots in the state is poetized by the lines that follow : " a crowd of mongrels , in the riots of 80;they had a free supply of human flesh , and they multiplied horribly" . A minuscule replication of nobel laureate Albert Camus's celebrated symbolic novel "The Plague' on second world war !

Chandra Kanta is a much-decorated and recognized indigenous poet of Tripura but in his poetic soul he still remains close to the soil and realities around him including the pristine nature he grew up in. Celebrated Ao Naga poetess Temsula Ao who is also a retired professor of english in Northeast Hill University (NEHU) has penned a perceptive ‘Foreword’ for Chandra Kanta's 'Memoirs of the Woods', incisively analyzing the underlying truth of the contents. The Bhubaneshwar based 'Dhauli Books' has also enriched the presentation by producing a sleek  72-page paperback volume containing altogether  56 lyrical poems.

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