Kolkata: The day Srijato had written the hard-hitting lines ‘Manush thekei manush ashe/ Biruddhotar bhir barae/ Tomra manush amra manush/ Tofat shudhu shirdarae’, little did he anticipate that they would inspire a working scientist at the biotechnology hub at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to turn into a translator.
Alokesh Duttaroy promptly translated those lines penned during the Hokkolorob movement as ‘Human creates human/Defiance clusters to align/ You’re human we’re human/ Difference is in the spine’. Subsequently, Alokesh has penned what he calls ‘working drafts’ of translations of Srijato’s 50 poems that have been published as ‘Ondhokar Lekhaguchcho’.
While Alokesh’s core area of research is molecular biology, he is not far removed from the literary world. At the ongoing Kolkata Book Fair, this Kalyani born pharmaceutical engineer from Jadavpur University has released a book of his Bengali poems titled ‘8000 Mile’. Then, there is his previous collection of poetry titled ‘T-Twenty’. But Srijato’s translations, tentatively titled ‘Dark Writings’, will be his most ambitious literary work.
But this Boston-based scientist, who did his doctorate at the University of New York before completing his post-doctorate at the National Institute of Health in Washington DC, isn’t scared. “No, there is no trepidation. The universal appeal of Srijato’s verses and the contemporary relevance of his theme of protest will find resonances everywhere,” he told TOI in front of Signet’s stall at the Book Fair. At a distance stands Srijato, literally swamped by autograph-hunters.
Time and again, Srijato has regretted how lack of good translations has been the biggest handicap for regional authors wanting to connect with their global readers. Thanks to translations, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Anton Chekhov, Pablo Neruda, Bertold Brecht and even Haruki Murakami have become household names despite their original works being in regional languages. “Thank God, Tagore himself took the initiative to translate his works into English. But there are so many authors who have great published works in Bengali that have never gone global,” Srijato rued.
But complaining is no solution. “I had to step out,” he admits. Last year, during a trip to the US, Srijato met Alokesh. “He is a friend of Sunilda’s (Sunil Gangopadhay) son. I liked some of his translations of my earlier poems,” Srijato says, before explaining the genesis of ‘Ondhokar Lekhaguchcho’. “The murder of Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy was a big jolt. Like him, I too am an atheist. I protested through my poetry. Daily, I started posting a poem on Facebook. Eventually, they were compiled as ‘Ondhokar Lekhaguchcho’,” he recalled.
Come July when Srijato goes to Boston, the duo will be sitting together to finalize the drafts before they reach the publisher’s desk.
When Srijato wrote ‘Tumi jodi barbar kop marte paro,/Chhinno kandhe pher matha jonmabe amaro’, Alokesh’s translated protest-lines read as: ‘If you keep on striking me slain,/ My head would spring out on severed neck again.’ Or for that matter, the lines ‘Dhormer simantohin prithibir banke/aami thik rekhe jabo amar konyake’, Alokesh’s pen echoed the optimism in the couplet ‘At the bend of earth where religion has no border/ I will for sure let leave there my daughter’.