‘Falsehood’: A Translation of ‘Mithye’ by Sankha Ghosh


I don’t make resolutions. Only because I tend to fail at promises I make to myself. But this new year, I decided to change that. So I made myself the promise that I’d translate and post something on this blog every day. For how long? This month, maybe. Maybe the whole year. Maybe just a week. Let’s see how long I can keep this up. It may be a few lines, it may be a whole story. Who knows? Not me!

For the first day of 2022, I chose a poem by one of my eternal favorites in the Bengali language, the great Sankha Ghosh. The worst bout of Delta infections took him away in 2021, another of those gaping wounds that this nightmare of a year has created in our collective lives. His poems are a masterclass in technique and form, and yet, so unrelenting, so unforgiving in their search for truth. Sankha babu spoke in the language of Truth. In my interpretation, at least, he is one of those rare souls who had succeeded in creating a vocabulary for touching upon the fundamental chords of our existence, something all poets strive for, and few achieve.

A Note

This poem came to me first as a lover’s guilt. The pain of never being enough, the urge to give evermore, and the self-flagellation that comes with it. My friend M (An ace poet herself) opened my eyes to an interpretation far simpler, and yet more in keeping with the poet’s direct, unadorned style. Guilt, yes, but not the vague, all-encompassing kind I was reading into it. There’s a catch.

Sankha Ghosh was a master wordplayer. He could hide the obvious in broad daylight. I have tried to capture that direct yet elusive quality of his writing. I will not do the reading for you. But I will say this much: the word that I agonized over the most was তাপী. In Bangla, it has a direct connotation in conjunction with the word পাপী which means ‘sinner’. Yet তাপী also has the sense of being feverish, hot from within. I strove to choose a word that can straddle all these meanings. I am not sure to have succeeded though. Over to you, then.


This face is not the right face

Falsehood stamped on it

To go to you now,

Will not become of me.

You, bountiful in tenderness

Your mouth descends like rainclouds

Your tears can still

Fill a rogue country with blessings

Yet I am torn away from you

This face is not the right face

The yellowed body fumbles up

Dull, wanting

You have given quite enough

I am yet to give everything.

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