Sunday, March 15, 2009

Baikuntha Mallick: Poetry in Obscurity

Non-Bengali readers should please excuse this nostalgic outpourings of a bunch of non-resident Bengalis about their favourite fictional thriller writer and his favourite poet! 
Normal programming will resume soon.  

Enthused by the tremendous response to my yesterday's post, I dug out my Feluda novels and quickly transliterated the Complete Recorded Works (or as much as I can remember!) of Baikuntha Mallick of Athenium Institution. 
His biggest fan, Lalmohan Ganguly, recites his works at every conceivable occasion and location and even argues any attempts to find faults with Mr Mallick's works. Given the wide range of situations he has poems for, Mr Mallick's prolificity cannot be debated though the same cannot be said for his poetic talent.  

Lalmohanbabu, despite his low-brow literary output, is not only a 'connoisseur' of poetry but the subject of poetry himself! 
Feluda himself has composed a couple of poems - one a riddle couplet and the other a limerick in Jatayu's honour. 
In Hatyapuri, he sums up Jatayu's works in a cavalier manner: 
Bujhey dekho Jatayu-r kalam-er jor
Ghurey gechhey rahasya kahini-r moR
ThoR baRi khaRa
Likhey taRa taRa
Eibarey likhechhen khaRa baRi thoR
But in Gnoshaipur Shorogorom, he creates a quick couplet which is a riddle about his dear friend's name. 
Raktabaran Mugdhokaran
Nadi-pashey, jaha bnidhiley maran
(For the amnesiac, Raktabaran = Lal. Mugdhokaran = Mohan. Nadi-pashey = Gaang. Bidhiley maran = Guli.)

Also, I vaguely recall (from Jokhon Chhoto Chhilam) that poet Ghulam Mustafa was a teacher of Bengali at Ballygunge Government School and Satyajit Ray remembers two lines from one of his poems. They go something like this... 
Anmoney eka eka path cholitey
Dekhilam chhoto meye, chhoto gali-tey
This sounds firmly in the Baikuntha Mallick territory to me! 

Anyway, let's delve into the works of this Unknown Great! 

Chronologically - I think - Baikuntha Mallick appears for the first time in Hatyapuri, where he is seen twice. 
Standing on the Puri beach, Lalmohanbabu recites the last two lines of a poem, for which he had won a prize in Elocution when he was in Class VII. 
Aseemer daak shuni kallol mormorey
Ek paye khaRa thaki eka eka baluchorey... 
As Feluda observes, the poet compares himself to a stork as it is inconceivable for any other species to remain standing on one leg in the wind!  

Subsequently, Lalmohanbabu lets himself loose in the precincts of the Mukteshwar temple of Bhubaneswar and loudly recites the following lines:
Koto shoto agyato Michaelangelo
Ekda ei Bharatbarshey chhelo
Nirabey ghoshichhey taha bhaskorjey bhashwar
When Topshe mildly pointed out that great poets don't usually vandalise common words (chhilo becoming chhelo) to rhyme with Angelo, Lalmohanbabu gets irritated and retorts, "Poet-er background na jeney verse criticise korar bad obhyesh-ta kothai peley, Tapesh?"
Apparently, Baikuntha Mallik is from Chinsurah, where they pronounce chhilo as chhelo

One of the longest poems - which mixes 'poetic' observation with advice - comes in Ebar Kando Kedarnathey. Baikuntha Mallick had obviously been to Kedarnath-Badrinath before the age of cars and wrote the following lines: 
Shohorer joto kled, joto kolahol
Feli pichhey shohosro yojan
Dekho choley koto bhaktajon
Himgiri beshtito ei tirthapathey 
Shudhu aaj noi, shei purakal hotey
Shathey choley Mandakini
Atal gambhirjo majhey khipro probahini
Tobey shuno ebey abhigyer bani
Deb-darshan hoy jeno bohu koshto mani
Girigatrey shirnopathey jatri aw-gonon
Pran jai jodi hoi padaskholon
Tao choley ashwarohi, choley dandi-bahi
Joshti-dhari briddho dekho taro klanti nahi
Achhey shudhu atal bishwash
Shob klanti hobey dur, purno hobey aash
Jatra antey birajen Kedareshwar
Shorbogun Shorboshaktidhar
Mahatirthey mahapunya hobey nishchoi
Uchcha kanthey bolo shobey - Kedarer Joi!

In Darjeeling Jomjomat, Lalmohanbabu sees Kanchanjungha for the first time and is suitably impressed to belt out yet another verse: 
Oyi Kanchanjanghey! 
Dekhechhi tomar roop Uttar Bangey 
Mugdho netrey dekhi mora tomarey prabhatey
Shnajhetey arek roop, bhul nei tatey
Tushar bhaskarjo tumi, moder gourab
Shobey miley tomarei kori mora stob! 
After reciting, he even points out a grammatical nuance: "Shombodhoney A-kar ta Ey-kar hoye jai - shetakey kemon kajey lagiyechhey kobi, dekhechho Tapesh? Etai great poet-er lokkhon."
This rule is absolutely correct but Topshe does not have a very high opinion of the poet and he grudgingly accepts the observation, claiming no knowledge of Sanskrit grammar.  

In Bhushorgo Bhayankar, the beauty of Kashmir and Srinagar are described thus:
Kori noto shir
Tomarey pronomi Kashmir
Kumarika-r opor prantey
Obosthan tobo Bharat-er Uttar shimantey
Rajdhani Srinagar
Jhelum-er joley dhowa apurbo shohor
Koto hrad, koto bagh, koto bagicha
Anya nagarer shathey tulona koritey jawa michha

To get an idea of the geographical spread of the poet's subjects, we can immediately move to Nayan Rahashya - where Chennai is rather badly slammed in a stereotype very common among Bengalis. 
Boroi hotash hoyechhi aaj
Tomarey heriye, Madraj! 
Bhasha hetha durbodhyo Tamil
Anya bhashar shathey nei kono mil
Idli aar dosa kheye triptibey rasana?
Ore baba, ey shohorey keu kabhu eshona! 

From the South of the Vindhyas, Baikuntha Mallick takes us much closer home - to the temple of that one Bengali poet, whose depth and width cannot be faulted too much. 
In Robertson-er Ruby, Feluda and gang reach Shantiniketan and Lalmohanbabu pulls out one more from his hat - on the banks of Kopai river. 
Jirno Kopai, shorpil gati
Mon boley dekhey manoram oti
Dui pashey dhaan
Prakriti-r daan
Duley othey shomikoroney
Boley debey kobi
Anka robey chhobi
Chirotorey mor money

Lest we dismiss this poet as a passion-less chronicler of travels - who offers caveats to travellers in rhyme - a poem about the Moon emerges in Jahangir-er Swarna Mudra. In the dead of the night, Lalmohanbabu recites: 
Aha, dekho chnader mahima
Kabhu ba shugol roupya-thali
Kabhu adha, kabhu shiki, kabhu ekfali
Jeno shodyo kata nokh porey achhey nobhey
Shetukuo nahi thakey, jobey
Ashey amabasya
Shei ratey tumi tai
As as aside, he also reveals that "Bujhtei parchho, ekjon lady-key address korey lekha..." to which Feluda wryly points out that he has managed to draw the attention of another lady with his performance. This lady is the client's octagenarian aunt! 

And to end, it would be interesting to take the poem which ends the above short story. It is about the great brains of the world and Lalmohanbabu obviously believes Feluda to be one of them. 
And to put his feelings into words, it is Baikuntha Mallick who comes to the rescue - with the poem called Genius
Aw-baak pratibha kichhu jonmechhey e bhobey - 
Eder mogojey ki je chhilo ta key kobey?
Da Vinci, Einstein, Khana, Lilabati
Shobarei smari ami, shobarey pranati! 
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