'Blue Rhino' by Arsenyi Lapin

Rhinoceros: Translation of ‘Gandar’ by Manindra Gupta

#EverydayTranslations Day 4

[A note on the Featured Image: This incredible artwork titled ‘Blue Rhino‘ is the creation of artist Arsenyi Lapin, who has very graciously allowed me to use it alongside this particular translation. Why I asked him for this image, you’ll see in a minute. I discovered Arsenyi on Facebook one fine evening about five years ago and has been following ever since. Seriously, everything this guy does, paintings, sketches, woodcarving, photography, everything is magical. Go check him out right now!]

Three days in and there’s a break already. Yay! Well, the inevitable happened. My family and I tested positive for You-Know-What and I have been down with a mild fever. I’m better now, and able to steal a wee moment for myself between caring for the sicker members of the family and figuring out the logistics of quarantine. I am looking very hard to escape, so I decided to take a walk through the magical words of the late and legendary Manindra Gupta today.

I believe Manindra Gupta to be virtually untranslatable. His poetry is heady like the dark and potent magic of old; filled with imageries and language that demand an umbilical relationship with his ethos to be fully grasped. His metaphors are beguilingly complex and layered. You’ll never see what hit you before it does.

‘গণ্ডার’ or ‘Rhinoceros’ is my favourite poem by him. Why, I cannot tell you. I have gone through a significant amount of his writing, both poetry and prose. But I always come back to this, and leave with a smile. Here, let me share this with you.

My copy of Manindra Gupta’s poetry collection is currently with a friend who stays in a different city and who sent me these photos after I whined to him for an hour about how much I missed this poem. Thank you Rajrup!

Rhinoceros

Manindra Gupta

Tiny bird sits on the horn of a one-horned rhinoceros

And leads him into the deep forest, whistling sweet

The wood’s alight with creeping thistle blooms.

Bird and Rhinoceros think together—

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaOh, what a blessed day!

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Trees lined up like courtiers for half a mile, then

Deeper into the forest there lies a royal court of trees

That is where Bird is taking Rhinoceros—

Will Rhino be the king there, or the counsellor? Bah

These earthly matters do not become him. He is Rhinoceros – the Horned Lord!

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Eko Charo Gandar Khaggabisankappo—

Two and a half millennia ago Shakya Buddha himself

Followed in his footsteps.

Oh, what a blessed day!

Bird whistles, atop Rhinoceros’ nose—

As though Rhino himself walks whistling.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Today, clouds have gathered over the peaks of Mahakal Mountain.

He and Bird took to that path.

His body is huge, brain’s not so sharp, face’s rather ugly too,

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa His skin wrinkled and warty like hoary old men.

His eyes are weak – besides the moon on distant horizons and the sunset

He doesn’t ever really see the whole of the sky.

And yet strangely, the hideous smell of humans

He catches even from half a mile afar.

Drop it though, he doesn’t want to think of evil creatures today.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Today, clouds have gathered over the peaks of Mahakal Mountain—

Such deep dark delightful clouds!

Clouds, like his magnificent brother.

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