Wednesday, June 26, 2013


reviewed by
Writer  Daya Dissanayaka 
Published in DAILY NEWS,

Poetry always has been a universal medium of expression. We can read and appreciate any good poem, written, anytime, anywhere by anyone. We have to go in search of poets around the world, and poets in our neighbouring land and other countries of the SAARC region. We have so much in common with them.
I met such a poet on a winter night in Kolkata a few months back, though I had known him in cyberspace (via e-mail) for over ten years, from the time he was editing Muse India. We talked about his poems in the book just published, 'From Dulong to Beas'. He is a bilingual writer, editor and translator. He writes in Bengali and English. His latest collection of poetry is 'Silent Days', which we can hear, loud and clear.
Jaydeep Sarangi also happens to be the Professor, Department of English at Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri College (Calcutta University), academic administrator and the author of a number of significant publications (including twenty nine books) on Postcolonial issues, Indian Writing in English, Australian Literature and Creative Writing in reputed journals/magazines in India and abroad. He is one of the Editors of "Writers Editors Critics" and the Vice President, Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics, (GIEWEC) and the Vice president of the Society for Poetry, Education, Literature and Languages (SPELL). Recently, he had been awarded with visiting fellow/writer to the University of Wollongong, Australia and the Westerly Centre at the University of Western Australia.
Sarangi is a typical Indian academic, who is so prolific in his creative writing, while engaged in all his academic activities. He reminds me of our own bilingual writer, poet and academic, Prof. Sunanda Mahendra.
Silent Days, is a collection of fifty poems, which was published after his successful release last year of the collection 'From Dulong to Beas'. It is in a away a continuation of his journey from Dulong, where he grew up. Perhaps we should say it is from Dulong to Perth, where the 'Silent Days' was released at the Westerly Center, University of Western Australia.
Sarangi was born in Jhargram, "beyond the Gangetic plains of Bengal, with the most exotic beauties of undulating topography culminating in hill ranges of Belpahari and Kankrajhor and near the Dulong river."
Dr. Dora Sales Salvadore, University Jaume I of Catellon Spain, had this to say about Sarangi. "(his) poetic voice delves into the question of identity, India, Bangali.... only to transcend limits and become, above all human. The images are deeply grounded in, contexualized in India, in particular and precise places. But the hues and meanings are openly universal......As we all know, India has a rich literary tradition. Jaydeep Sarangi is a splendid member of this endless family. Truly, a poet of note". And that is why we in Sri Lanka, and readers everywhere could enjoy his poetry.
Dulong where Sarangi had started not only his life journey, but his poetry too, is a small river flowing slowly through the Midnapur forests in West Bengal. Beas or Vipasha is one of the five rivers of Punjab, known by the Greeks as Hyphasis. It also is said to be the river where Alexander stopped.
In the 'Red Soil Allure' Sarangi has again gone back to Dulong, to the red soil of Midnapur. In the 'Small Rivers of the Mind' too, he is still in Dulong, "It longs to embrace small but scenic rivers/ flowing gently". In the 'Refugee', I believe that Sarangi is still waiting at a station somewhere, to take him elsewhere, as we are all waiting.
The aadivasis in their little villages by the Dulong are in Sarangi's mind, always. They were called Harijans by the Mahatma, to mean they were 'God's Children'. Yet those who consider themselves superior looked down on them and because of the stigma attached to the term, the new identification as 'Dalit' came into use. But it too is a vague term. Only the people are real, and Sarangi feels for them and writes about them. He writes,
"You are not a blank page, I understand
Your history is on your side".

Baul is a part of every Bengali, and a poetry collection from West Bengal, without a tribute to the Baul singers would never be complete. Here Sarangi has translated his own Bengali from 'The Baul Call' from his book, 'Lal Palasher Renu'.
"Distrust will be wiped out
From this world one day
The menace of divisions will dissolve
All will bask in the nectar of Bauls"

Sarangi had been called "India's Bard on the banks of Dulong" in an interview by Santanu Halder, himself a poet from Kolkata. Perhaps this could have prompted Sarangi to write the poem 'Bilingual Bard' where he explains why he writes in English.
"I write in a language that you can understand
My community and dear ones can relate with.
It's a cultural language for global readers.
English is my sword, my refuge
When Bengali is the language of my soul
It may be free licence in English cadence
I use, for a cause; raindrops shaped into a sweet dish.

Raindrops shaped into a sweet dish. That is what Jaydeep Sarangi is offering us.

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