Aamra je jyotsna ke eto bhalobasi – ei garho roopkatha
chand nije janey na trailer
(The moon is unaware of the deep fairy tale of our love by moonlight)
It is said that the moon has driven many people crazy for centuries, without having the slightest idea of its own charm and influences. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak served as the moon for the poet Binoy Majumdar in Calcutta in the early 1960s, resulting in a series of poems that would launch him as one of the most important poets in post-independence Bengali literature.
“Sokol phuler kachhe eto modomoy dinero jaoar poreo / Manush kintu mangshorondhonkaleen ghraan sobcheye beshi bhalobasey (Even after being bewitched by flowers, man still loves the aroma of cooked meat, the best)”, he wrote in one of the poems, and in another, “Manush nikotey ele prokrito saros urey jay (The real storks take flight when approaching the man)”.
The lines quoted above are from Phirey Eso, Chaka (Come back, oh wheel), his book of 77 poems published in September 1962. It was dedicated to Gayatri Chakravorty. Soon this book became a sensation, though primarily among people with an advanced literary interest: poets, writers, critics, and scholars. The Malay poet and novelist Roy Choudhury later compared the book’s publication to the ‘Cambrian explosion’ in Bengali literature. The poet and novelist Joy Goswami described him as a man devastated by his dreams.
Jenechhi nikotoborti ebong ujjwolotomo taraguli prakrito prostabe /
sob groho, tara noy, taap-heen, alo-heen groho.
(I have learned that our closest and brightest stars are nothing more than planets, not stars, planets without light and without heat).
His poetry has been widely discussed and analyzed for the next six decades, not only in West Bengal but also in Bangladesh. In fact, one of the most comprehensive collections of his poetry, essays, interviews, and writings about him has been published in Bangladesh. Some of his poems have been described as bordering on eroticism, while others are overtly erotic. Some have called his poems ‘serene mathematical beauty’ for his experiments in mixing poetry with mathematics; that is, to seek to solve mathematical questions through poetry, seeing them as a reflection of the same eternal truths.
But it is probably his one-sided and failed love, or rather his obsession, with Gayatri that has taken most of the talk about him. Perhaps because this obsession gave rise to poetry collections full of quotable quotations.
Bhalobasa ditey pari, tomra ki grohone sokshom?
Leelamoyee koroputey tomader sob-e jhorey jay –
Hasi, jyotsna, byatha, smriti, oboshishto kichhui thake na.
(I can offer my love, (but) will you be able to receive it?
Everything spills out of your playful hands –
Smiles, moonlight, pain, memories, nothing remains.)
Tobu sob brikkho ar pushpokunjo je jar bhumite durey-durey
Chirokal theke bhabe miloner shwasrodhi kotha
(And yet all the flowering trees and bushes separated from each other,
rooted to their own soil, still breathless thinking of their union)
Often described as a mad genius, Majumdar was born in present-day Myanmar in 1934 and grew up in Faridpur, Bangladesh, and Calcutta in a lower-middle-class family. He passed his graduate degree in mechanical engineering from BE college at Shibpur in 1957, ranking first in first class, and his first book of poems, Nakshatrer Aloy (By Starlight), was published in 1958. He became closely associated with members of the Krittibas group of poets and writers, who were the talk of Bengali poetry in the 1950s.
During 1958-61, he worked briefly at the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, then as a development engineer at the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta, and taught at the Government College of Engineering at Tripura, before take a full time job. at the Durgapur steel plant. He even received an offer from an institute in Berlin to teach mathematics, but passed it up after his parents objected to his going abroad. He also translated five books on science and general knowledge from Russian and a book on the theory of relativity from English.
Then, to the surprise and dismay of her parents and siblings, she decided to quit her fourth job to pursue poetry full time.
As recounted in the accounts of Majumdar’s friends and contemporaries, including Shakti Chattopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Sandipan Chattopadhyay, and Malay Roy Choudhury, among others, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, now a world-renowned post-colonial theorist, was studying at Presidency College to get your bachelor’s degree. in English during 1960-61 when Majumdar briefly saw her. She was friends with some of his friends.
Although the accounts are not exactly clear, they possibly never exchanged words with each other. Perhaps fear of Majumdar’s rejection prevented him from initiating any conversation with her. But his correspondences with Shakti Chattopadhyay reveal that he desperately searched for Chakraborty’s postal address and asked many of his friends for it. She even tracked down one of her relatives and wrote to him, but advised him to stay away from her.
His obsession with her resulted in his second book of poems, a slim collection of just 14 poems, titled gayatri-ke (To Gayatri), published in March 1961. It was dedicated to “Amar Ishwari”, that is, my goddess. The following year, he expanded it to a book of 77 poems, Phirey That, Chaka.
However, it was in 1961, in the time between the publication of gayatri-ke Y Phirey Eso, Chaka, who had to be hospitalized for six months due to mental health problems. At that time, Chakravorty had left for the US to continue his studies.
Ishwari, however, continued to dominate his writing. He published a third version of the book in June 1964, with 79 poems, and called it Amar Ishwari-ke (To my goddess). In the introduction he added to this version, Majumdar expressed his hope that although the poems dealt especially with his sorrows, they would have universal appeal. “From my perspective, this book of poems is about the pain of love,” he wrote. “Centered on a friend, this set of poems just about the pain of love is a fitting journal.”
Three months later, he published another book of poems, entitled ishwari-r (La Diosa’), in September 1964. It included all the poems contained in Ishwari-ke, the following year he published Ishwari-r Kobitaboli (Poems of the Goddess).
Much later, he wrote to Tarun Bandyopadhay, who edited Majumdar’s poetry anthology in 1993, about the title of his second book as gayatri-ke: “Gayatri Chakraborty studied at Presidency College. Passed bachelor’s degree first class from Calcutta University in 1960 or 1961. I wrote the book gayatri-ke, addressing her, with the understanding that only she will understand my poems”.
During 1963-1964, he was also associated with the writers of the Hungry Generation, the second major literary movement in post-independence Bengali literature after the Krittibas movement. However, he was not an active part of either group.
Since the 1960s, he has been in and out of mental hospitals countless times. Majumdar left Kolkata in 1967 and returned to live with his parents in Thakurnagar, near India’s border with Bangladesh. In his time, he even crossed the border into India, went to Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), and according to his interview with Jogsutra magazine in 1993, he voluntarily turned himself in to the police and begged them not to send him back to India. He was expatriated after six months in jail, after which he lived in Thakurnagar.
He became a recluse. He never took a job. He did not marry or have any romantic relationship. He lived with his parents until their deaths in the 1980s and only from then until his death in 2006. He would often stop writing, for months, even years. But the editors of various literary publications from different parts of Bengal continued to persuade him to write. His 1974 poetry collection, Awghraner Onubhutimala (Feelings in November) became another book of legendary status.
In the last 10 to 12 years of his life, the state government paid him a monthly pension and some Kolkata writers and poets made arrangements with the residents of the Majumdar neighborhood to take care of him. He received the West Bengal government’s highest literary award, Rabindra Smriti Purashkar, and Sahitya Akademi Award, both in 2005.
However, it seems that Gayatri remained his eternal muse. Still in 2003, he wrote a poem, titled “Aamra Dujoney Miley Jitey Gechhi Bohudin Holo, “ that critics considered to be none other than Chakravorty. Translated into English, it says:
we both have
We’ve both won a long time ago
Your complexion remains unchanged, but the faith has changed from Hinduism to Christianity.
you and I have grown old
I saw in photographs published in newspapers that you have
cut your hair short
Like me; Did we know that we will grow old?
when we were young?
I hope you have children and grandchildren now,
you have my address
and I have yours
We will not write letters.
We live together on the pages of the book.