Tomar nistabdhata, a book of poetry by Ritam Sen

Translation: Three Poems by Ritam Sen

I keep translating Ritam’s poetry, and there are several reasons for that. The most obvious is that I love him; so much so that I decided to marry him. But also because his poetry always manages to evoke the exact shade of muted grief and doom that I feel all the time. And also because he is better known as a songwriter these days and his poems rarely get the attention they (I think) deserve. Here are translations of three of my favorite poems from the slender volume Tomar Nistabdhata, published by Tritiyo Porisar in 2016.


Ritam Sen poetry Haridwar
“Haridwar” by Ritam Sen. The heading contains a typo in Bengali; it should read হরিদ্বার and not হরিদ্বাব.

There is no greater poetry than living on despite unbearable pain. I have seen people fall asleep on a riverbank, with nothing but a thin cloth underneath, and the monsoon forecast between them and the sky. They have nothing to hope for, and therefore nothing to lose. Mother herself took my hand and gently dragged me across the threshold, to go sit beside them. On the other side of me, a big family eats out of expensive lunchboxes and plays with a dog that looks more like a cat. Soon they will glide onto airconditioned bedrooms and fall asleep. They are Indians too, and I sit beside them with equal wonder and awe. Unnumbered bodies wet their limbs and bathe, defecate and scatter earthen lamps in this river of unnumbered tears. None of them are filthy in their faith. Darkness gathers, I can no longer spot the house where Mother looks out for me across the vast broiling water.

The Caretaker’s Wife

Ritam Sen poetry Caretaker-er Bou
“Caretaker-er Bou” by Ritam Sen

Wasted longings fill my empty rented room. The caretaker’s wife used to live here shortly before me. Sometimes I discover her bindis – tiny red bindis dotted over places, on the cupboard, the bathroom mirror, left leg of the iron cot. Sometimes I place them between my brows, glance at the mirror. As I try to identify myself, the deer-head sitting on the tree trunk outside the balcony laughs. It keeps looking, and I am visited by the necessity of shame even though I am human and it is not. Thus, the caretaker’s wife explodes within my head; and sometimes enjoys a ride out on my bicycle.

As the Year Ends

Ritam Sen poetry bochorer seshe
“Bochorer Seshe” by Ritam Sen

Sculls protrude from crop stubbles after harvest, the sun sinks low. As the year ends, the Jujube tree bears fruit for an ancient woman. Who says God doesn’t exist? All these tall skyscrapers, is the world not warming up in protest against these very abominations? How deep does one crawl into the abyss of age before these questions, and the dark magic they hold, start to penetrate the red wool and bruises upon the canvass of the skin? Vortex upon vortex trembles and vanishes in the blue just below the light. As the year ends, she too thinks about age – yes, the girl who traveled to the woods for the love of fantasy fiction.

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