Surya Katha Poem by Prayag Saikia

Surya Katha


A flock of birds arrive to shroud the sun;
Vermilion hues raise mild tremors
In a camera.

Thehues in thousands are bound for the nests,
It's the sunset hour.

A lad, all engrossed, gazes at the sky.
None knows if he's infatuated by the heavens.
He's a scribe
Seeking to enchain wonder.

He says nothing
Beautiful splendid or heart-rending.
Only an automated sound is heard
Of a picture moving away.

Arnab, be careful
Your hands mustn't shake!

He laughs.
There can be no question of his hands shaking.
Never have his hands shaken;
It's something he can hardly imagine.

There's no one around him,
Yet who could it be who keeps cautioning!

The shutter of the camera closes.
The shutter of the mind opens.
Enters Arup.

Arup da
Today's photograph would be an exceptional one.

Arup smiles,
The smile of wisdom.

Arup has traversed a long distance.
He's seen numerous forms of the sun,
The sun that has burnt many of his wings.

He falls, takes wing,
Flies, falls,
Enduring varied pangs of birth and death.

There's a little black scar in Arup's nose.
Arup is a soldier not humbled before the sun.
He aspires as Van Gogh.
Let all yearnings be incinerated
Under the scorching desert sun,
Let the indomitable thirst of his camera
Survive alone.
Ultra-violet rays
Filtering through the ozone layer
Bring agonies of the searing veil on Arup's nose.

Friend Satanic states:
Arup, you look quite wonderful in this way.

Do you recall the days ofPerestroika, Glasnost,
He too had a black map on his forehead!
You're one, who can perceive the odour of pictures,
You can, even blindfolded, click photographs.
Take this scar
To be a commendation from a father
Of the famed Radheya*
Sent drifting along the waters by the virgin Kunti.

This earring is unique,
Never try to remove it.

Satanik is one who emerged on oath
From the school of Hippocrates.
A poet in reality,
He loves to ponder about extraneous matters.

If Beethoven could compose the last immortal symphonies
Without the sense of his ears,
Why would Arup be unable to create
Modern poetry ofthe camera
With self- created blindness.

Arnab shuts his eyes.
He wants to tread with darkness on his shoulders.
Ah! impossible,
This ballad of blindness that he's to begin.
(*Radheya-another name of Karna)
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One of the disciples of Prabhupada is Pradip.
Pradip is extremely pessimistic
For he has seen death time after time
From the closest proximity

There's no darkness
Beneath the burning lamp of Pradip,
There's the light of the pyre.

One thing is often clear in Pradip's mind- -
We've come as if only to disappear.

There's a portrait of Pradip in Arup's studio.

You know, Satanik is really a strange person,
His words are enveloped in mist,
He remains submerged in mystery.

Do you know why I've kept him inside the frame?
He'd come to me once
With a startling observation—
I'm passing my days with lord Krishna
In my life's Kurukshetra.
Pradip had said:
People make fun of me.
You're a true devotee of the flautist
Who wetted his lips with cider.
Why do you live amid this mist?

The mists really keep my live eyes shrouded.

You're a man dwelling in the world of pictures.
In Chinese mythology
The earth was created with colours and lines.

Just the other day my son was born
Give him a name moulded by colours and lines
So that I can dream for him.

I took a snap
And said:
The name Arka would suit fine.
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It's raining
Not in drops
But heavily.

Kaushik enters Satanik's room
All drenched.
Immediately Kaushik hands Satanik a coin.
Satanik doesn't understand
What the offer is about,
What could be its implication.

He feels as if there'ssome ancient attachment here.
Kaushik seems to try to revive
A tradition of the remote past.

Besides the coins
Kaushik draws out of his pocket
Some masks sculpted on seeds
And spreads them on the table.

Brother, pen a few lines on this art of mine,
The art of carving masks on seeds.

If you're impressed by Abanindranath's works,
If the endeavour of instilling life into these dead seeds
By this kin of yours
Through sleepless days and nights
Doesn't even mildly touch your poetic heart,
What peace can I have?

Once you didn't let me go as Pitambar like Pandu;
Now another ill is cropping up
They say it's being suppressed amongst people.

Within the chasm of your heart
If you've any remedy for me, speak out.

Satanik picks up one by one
All the seven tiny masks.

These seeds are also known as Iron wood

The downpour seems to have stopped outside.
Kaushik, a rainbow will appear through the songs of Arka
With all seven colours!

Do you know, in medical science there's a disease
Called ‘Progeria',
Sometimes a man could outpace his age while ageing.
Hasn't now a sort of Progeria got the better of civilization?

Take the case of the suppressed fact
To be a sort of Progeria.
What does it matter
If the duration of your birth growth and decline
Is short?

Go on carving masks but with your heart in it.
One day the seeds shall speak about you.

Who knows
Spreading the roots some day
You yourself could turn into a tree.

With its fragrance
If you're to be yourself,
You've got to bear
The stabs of many an iron spike.

The hour that awakens the tunes of self-appraisal
Therein lie the arrows of death.

One ought to be deaf
While on meditation.
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Kaushik has moved away
Satanik knows that a bearing letter would soon arrive.

He's a poet
He sees the future, he's a visionary.
It's to be studied with a little earnestness
Or else the message of the seeds
Shall be left in the dark.

He gropes over his shirt pocket
And finds a coin inside it.

A coin that has rolled over many a hand
That has traversed quite a distance.

Money is a medium of exchange
Arab's dad doesn't prefer savings.

Never save money
Never grow rich as Kuber
Or else you'll have to hand over your kingdom
To Ravana.

*Kuber's brother is Ravana
Ravana's brother Bibhisana
See the fall of morals
In power raised upon wealth.

Don't pile up wealth
Rather pile up knowledge
Knowledge is the base of power;
‘Knowledge is power'
Declared Francis Bacon.

But Daddy
Birth manifestation decline death is the law of nature.
It applies to man
As well as to civilization.

(*Kuber- -god of wealth and regent of the north; the Indian Pluto)

But have you noticed anywhere
A tall tower of civilization?
Erected on wealthlessness?

Hey, what are you doing?
Now it's time for study.
Your entrance exams are close at hand,
Why are you wasting your time?

We haven't enough money,
We can't afford any capitation fees.
We can't
For that will you keep on lecturing!

Arnab and Rabindra have a hearty laugh

Ma, what do you have to say
About dad opening the book of quotations
And quoting Bacon
‘Money is muck, not good except it be spread'!

Do you agree?
No not at all.

Do you see, Dad
Eyeing at Rabindra Arnab smiles self-contentedly.

The phone rings.
A familiar voice at the other end of the line.

Hello! Arnab,
Your photograph of the bird and the sun
Are quite okay.
I'm thinking of sending them to a contest.
Oh, one more thing
Please bring the camera-stand today
I need it.
By the way, how're you going on?

Arup didn't allow any time to answer yes or no.
Perhaps Abhinanda was pulling his shirt tightly and saying
Come on, Papa, let's go
It's getting late.

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Arnab is standing at their gateway
With the camera- stand
There's not a rickshaw in sight.
It's May Day today

Fortunately Satanik appears
On his vintage car.

Come on Arnab, get in.
Aren't you going to Arup's place?

Yes Uncle.

I heard your Arup is doing a documentary
On vision.

Why have you asked?
Well, he'd asked me to prepare a script on the subject

May be
He has a number of commissioned programmes in hand.
Are you writing on anything?

No nothing.
Tell me, what should I write about?
How many types of eyes have you seen in your life?
Eyes of anger
Eyes of compassion
Eyes of hunger
Eyes of wisdom
Eyes of love
Just for the dearth of vision
Every actor in the theatre-stage of life

It's said that the eyes can't veil the heart.
The eyes are honest speakers.
Those who can't read the eyes
Actually lack vision

I myself often feel about my lack of vision.
Much below average!

Surprised, aren't you?
You're learning photography
Try clicking photographs of the eye.

Your hunger will rise after each snap.
If you're interrupted sometimes somewhere,
You'll realize the pair of eyes is of none other but yours
After which you've been running all along.
As though after a mirage
You'llperceive it on the horizon
Ofyour vision.

How feeble are these actors called men!

Uncle your words sounds as those of a philosopher's.
We're all potato -eaters of Van Gough!

I best understand
The spoonful of sea-blue in your eyes.

Satanik slackensthe car's speed
With a roar of laughter.

Arnab, do you see this beauty parlour?
Once a girl approached me for this inauguration.

I refused and said:
Invite someone beautiful
Who's charming to behold
Who speaks beautifully.

Do you know what she said?
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder!

Satanik leaves Arnab beside Arup's studio.

The actual name of Satanik is Vivek.
He used the name of Satanic while signing his poems.
Slowly and slowly the name Satanik
Assumed an identity of its own
As Vivek.

Not only among his circle of friends
But even among the common people
Vivek's length decreased.
As Birbal's shortening of the line without erasing it,
Vivek was enveloped by Satanik.

While flipping across the pages of Mahabharata,
Vivek was enamored by this name,
The offspring of the fourth Pandava
Gifted by Draupadi
Whose valour had untimely come to an end
Owing to Aswathama's fault.

Vivek sought to instil life
Into this name with his soul.

A number of Sataniks exist in the Mahabharata
But this Satanik is a tree on Panchali's laps.

In Vivek's new Mahabharata
Satanik engulfed Vivek's identity.

He's not born to end his life
In the hands of any immortal Aswathama;
He seeks immortality through poetry.

In the ocean of consciousness
Satanik is no warrior whose weapons are sharpened
In whetstones.
He's no inheritor of any astrologer.
Satanik is a soldier of words.

Satanik's car again slows down.
The vintage car stops beside a charity clinic.

Satanik dismounts as Jarasandha.
Here he's Vivek
He'll pass the day with some helpless people
The multitude of whom are Sambas
Cursed by Sri Krishna.
Whenever he reaches this place
He feels for some reason
He were in the realm of the sun.

Arup da, I'd like to have a few snaps of sunset.

Very well
Go to Darjeeling.
If you're fortunate enough,
You'll have murmurs of wonder
Emerging from your mouth on their own.
If not, retun to try again the next morn.
It's all about patience.

Surya is our nearest God.
It's easy to have it,
But it's hard to be born a Karna.
(*Jarasandha-a famous king of Magadha and father-in-law of king Kansh; he was born in two halves and was put together and infused with life by an ogress named Jara.)

It requires a world of invocation
To be set adrift as the son of Surya.

Arup da, why do you and your friend
Always drag things to the Mahabharata?

Well, I can't say about other lands,
But what doesn't exist in the Mahabharata
At least doesn't exist in our India.

You surely don't know Sanskrit
But you're quite at home at Bangla.
Go through the Mahabharata by Kaliprasanna Sinha
Written in prose.
You won't find it difficult.

I've heard Rudyard Kipling
Who has written about the jungle boy, Mowgli?
Doesn't have much to eulogise about the epic.

Could be,
Liking and disliking is wholly a personal matter.
First read and then pass your comment.

Do you know the meaning of twilight?

Arnab stares in wonder at Arup.

Just as a lamp brightens up before its last flickers,
Twilight is the phase that follows pitch-black darkness.

Arnab exits.
Arup looks at the photograph of Pradip bound in a frame

Pradip seems to emerge with the current of the river
Holding Arka close to his bosom.

Arup's studio is lit up.

Are rivers born of a pessimist's tears?
Does the first lesson of optimism
Begin with a river?

Homer was blind.
Milton too has lost his sight.
Pradip seems to ask with a grin:
Name a blind poet from our epics.

Arup says, my camera hasn't captured any of his photographs.

Pradip says, look for it!

"DharmakshetreKurukshetre Samaveta Yuyutsava Mamaka Pandavashyva Kimkurvata Sanjaya"

With such splendid rhythm
Who's the speaker
Of the first lines of the Gita?

Why, don't you consider Dhritarashtra
Who made the first query to Sanjaya about Kurukshetra,
A poet.
A gust of wind flows inside.
Arup decides that he must apprise Satanik
About the eyes of Dhritarashtra.

The camera shutter opens.
Enter the eyes of Dhritarashtra
The eyes of Gandhari
The eyes of Homer
The eyes of Milton
The eyes of George Lois Borges try to enter too.
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In the dimming light of the sun
Vivek tries to pen a few lines on the eye.

No word, no line seem to satisfy him.

He's about to strike off another line when sikha interrupts,
Don't do that,
There's vision in all writings
This vision itself opens up one world after another.
With the narrative of that dry piece of wood.
Craved for by Vikramaditya.
Kalidasa was a revered poet of those times.
On the other hand, Barruchi was comparatively subdued and insipid.
But see now
In the eyes of many Barruchi seems to have outgrown in stature.

You needn't wait as O'Henry's"Last leaf"
For a plain canvas.
As Amrita Pritam if you regard the pen
To be a decisive factor of life
Then honour it and go on writing.

Satanik listens to Sikhatransfixed.
Kaushik with an overgrowth of beard


Satanik accepts the coin from Kaushik.

Give up this practice of offering coins.
Whatever coins you have in your pocket,
Use them to shave off your beard.
Take care
There may be life existing on them
As on your hair.

No, Arupda is making a few of my portraits
And we ought not be irritated by the lives on our hair.
Only for them have man learnt to be clean!

Alright, you needn't bother about loading me with wisdom
Like to have a cup of tea?
Yes but not here.
I'll have the sips up on the terrace
Surveying the sky.
When we're on a quarrel,
We should look at the sky.
That's from Dimasa folk
Centering round husband and wife.
Have your sips of tea looking at the ground.
The seed-bearing plants that're so dear to you
Have their roots on the soil after all.

Sikha moves away.
Kaushik hands a mask, sculpted on a seed, to Satanik

Look, this time I've sculpted the sun.
Narada had offered to Samba a remedy,
To unshackle himself from SriKrishna's curse
By visiting the Sun Temple.
I, too, intend to establish a temple of that kind.

He whose heart is accursed
Can never perceive any grief.
May these suns of seeds bring them all benediction!

Satanik holds the mask of the sun
Before his eyes endearingly and says:
Kaushik, curses are said to be pre-ordained.

These are not my words,
They are the words of Samaresh Basu's SriKrishna in his ‘Samba'.

It's not that Samba had turned into a leper
Because of SriKrishna's curse.
Samba had been infected by leprosy years before.

I don't believe in things like destiny.
I think curses are the result of deep-laid conspiracy.
Narada was a messenger as you find in the Puranas.
He'd seen the entire world
Seen leapers
Seen pilgrimages for salvation
So he plotted with Krishna and had Samba banished
Samba was shown the path of ordinance.

‘Tamashoma jyotir gamayama'
Kaushik, light is a strange object.
The point from which it emerges burns
But bestows with a burn-cleansed quest
For enlightenment
Wherever it reaches.

Give me a few of your masks of the sun;
I'll take them to the temple where Samba and the others stay.
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Startled, a flock of birds take wing.
The sun rises to the garden of clouds.

The sun has a number of names
Each name seems to have his own import.
The same sun, numerous pictures.

With the camera in hand Arnab ponders,
Would his photographs of the sun have any impact?
Would some splendour emerge upon the boundless radiance?

His parents opted for the name Arnab.
Arnab implies the ocean.
The ocean has a vast expanse.
To acquire the expanse of the ocean
He has to be sage Agastya.

Arnab broods over his limitations.
All of a sudden
A mass of cloud appears to shroud the sun.
Through the vents of reminiscence, opening up,
A mountain like- Hanuman growing all the more potent,
Stands before him.

He has the notion that the mass of cloud
Is the armpit of the Son of the Wind
Who had carried the Gandhamadan hill with the healing herbs.

It's all magic!

He tells himself.
Man's manifestation of his indomitable will
Is the glory of this magic.

His aligns the camera lens with the patch of cloud.

He has the sensation of a drop of rain
Landing on his body.
He's alarmed.
It's the signal for pack-up.

He has no incantation for impeding nature.
He hasn't come prepared
For the unforeseen tears of the sky.

At this time it's his most valuable tool.
If its security is not ensured,
His auspicious hands would be tarnished
No matter how drenched he be.
But for the moment it's the cage of his soul.

Arnab hold his camera and stares as a fairy-tale ogre.
His soul has been imprisoned herein since a day or two.

Can he become Karna?
It's not easy to be offspring of the sun.

Arnab looks towards the river nearby.
Arka's father, Pradip is his morning stroll
Along the river- bank.

Once his only kin
Had descended down to this river
Beckoned by some mermaid.

On the bank of this river, for the first time,
He'd held the painting-brush of fire.

The painter of fire was just a tender boy
When his father breathed his last.

An individual entity has grown in him
With his frolic with fire
It's hard to remain stable all along
In an aborgine's profession.
If one is unable to shed a few drops of tears
In solitude.

Pradip has become almost a regular visitor
To the river bank
Right at the hour of sunrise
With his tearful reality.
The very idea of river seems to imply tears

Arnab closes up towards Pradip
Uncle, did you see the sunrise today?
Pradip laughs
Keeping his gaze on the patch of cloud.

Arnab, all persons with vision see the sun,
Clouds can't be a hindrance,
Only the soul encaged in vision
Vary in versions.

Some behold the sun with Kunti's sight
Some with Karna's
Some with Jayadratrha's

For some the sun is love
For some entity
For some death.

I've heard from Arup about you taking snapshots of the sun.
I've heard about Kaushik sculpting faces of the sun on seeds.

Keep the sun in its temple itself
So that the accursed keep receiving
The nectar of life.

Don't make the sun a warrior of life.
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What's made Satanik recall Oppenheimer this morning?
With the splendour not of one but a million suns
Who's it trying to come to his midst!

In the ‘Gita' Krishna had bestowed Partha with divine vision
To behold the Cosmic Revelation.

While prodding the eyes of Arup,
The eyes of Arjuna emerge
Along with Oppenheimer's.

With the same sensation of Arjuna
Beholding the Cosmic Revelation,
Oppenheimer kept glaring at the atomic explosion.

Later, everyone in the two cities of Japan,
From the infant to the old,
Got the eye of Oppenheimer.

But could this grant any poetic serenity?
It was, after, all it was hell's destiny
Awaiting the journey of truth.

Satanik is startled.

Enveloped by the arrows of radioactivity
How unbearable the times have become!
All are blind
All are Dhritarashtras
The entire world seems to be a Kurukshetra!

The flight of Satanik is coming to an end.
He seems to be falling with his wings in flames
Beside a vast ocean.
Here he's no Satanik;
Here he's a bird much before the Mahabharata.
Here he's Sampati.
With his burnt wings here he's shorn of his powers.
What's in your mind this early morning?

A couplet from the Gita
Beheld by Arjuna when endowed with divine vision.

Which was perceived by Oppenheimer,
A contemporary of Einstein,
Without divine vision

What are the lines?

"Divi suryasahasrashya bhaved yugapadutthita
yadi bhasadrishi sa shyad bhasatashya mahatmana"
Which means

The brightness emitted by millions of suns appearing in the sky
Only can equal the light of the Cosmic Revelation of the Supreme Being.

Perhaps Oppenheimer was a profound aesthete
A non-atheist
Or may be a Hegelian
A self-isolated God interpolatedfrom ideas of the supreme.

But you know, Vivek
How spontaneous it was, I'm not aware.
But the sensation of a woman consecrated to a similar occasion
Had been oscillating in my mind for a long time.
This was
The laughing Buddha.

Satanik surveys Sikha's eyes.
Herein lie tidings of a bird from fairy tales.
It's not one shattered by the arrows of fire
As Sampati,
It's one in the temple of the sun
Changing robes
Risen from its own ashes
A familiar name-Phoenix.

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Here comes the sun.
Arup scans across the headline of an article
In the morning paper.

He goes through the names of the sun-gods
In different countries
Apollo in Greece
Rha in Egypt
Liza in Africa.

He rests his eyes on the narratives
From Chinese treatises.
Years before there were ten suns in the sky.
Once all ten decided to rise together.

The result was disastrous.
The earth was heated up,
The rocks began to melt even.

Their father, Disun tried to dissuade them.
They wouldn't listen.
So he summoned an archer named Yi.
Nine of them were slain by Yi's arrows.
The emperor removed the tenth arrow
From Yi's quiver.
The earth was saved.

Arup laughed.
It'd be nice to narrate the story before Abhinanda.

He thought of Arnab.
For these past days he's been a rider of the sun.
Would he be able to rein in the sun?

It's said that the seven colours of the sun
Are seven steeds.
Has he found the whereabouts of the shrine
From which rises the alluring body of colours?

Abhinanda's mother walks in.

Come and have tea.
That mark on your nose is beginning to look a bit too odd.
Why don't you get rid of it?

The sun, too, has scares.
Do you know, Bornali?

What's going on?
The whole atmosphere is getting sun-centric.
Has a new campaign of any sort begun
Between you mentor and disciple?
I'm setting aside the case of Arnab.
Your artist brother had handed me yesterday
A few masks carved on seeds.

He said it's the remuneration for those photographs.

I'd have preferred a little oil from the seeds
To tide over these difficult days.

What's wrong,
Do you mind my trivialities?

The tea is getting cold.

Arup comes to the table.
Abhinanda dips a biscuit into the tea cup.

Would you take me to the land of the midnight sun?

When you grow up you'll be able to go all by yourself.

What's happened
Are your thought's infecting her too?

Try to develop a hand in writing as Bhanu Sinha.
If you're Dade can't take you,
You can do it on your own.

Who's Bhanu Sinha, Bornali?
What day is it today,
Isn't it Sunday?

Bhanu also means ‘Rabi' or the sun
I'm talking about Rabinandranath Tagore.

The Nobel that he received,
Isn't it from somewhere around
The land of the midnight sun?

Arup laughs.
Do you see how infections are good thoughts?
You, too, Couldn't escape.

I don't know about good thoughts,
But good minds are like blotting paper.
Whenever it finds the link
That inscribes the Absolute in word-form,
It sucks it in.

However, its Sunday today.
The day of Sabbath.
Even the creator had rested on this day.
Let your brain, too, have some rest today!

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Arnab returns and put his camera in its place.

Ma, fortunately there was no rain today.
Dark clouds had covered the entire sky.
The Krishnachura trees by the river presented a wonderful sight.
Daddy, You'd have loved to see it.
His mind raced back to his Satanik uncle.
Didn't he use to tell how enthralling is the sight
Of the Krishnachura on the canvas of dark clouds?

I realise only today
How true he was!

You'll be crazy to hear
How the wind had rolled me in the bundle today.
I thought I'd have some respite
By clutching on to the fig tree.
But how strange!
The dark clouds had dispersed within moments
In a magical way.
There was only a drop or two of rain.

You must have been totally unaware of all this.

Is it so, my son?
I'll see how long you carry on with your pre-dawn swoops.
Now you'll surely not hesitate to make up for your lost sleep.

Of course
Today's Sunday after all!

I've laboured a lot all throughout the morning,
I'll surely need some rest.

If someone comes today, tell him
I haven't returned from the temple of the sun.
It'd take some time to rise up
From the funereal ashes of slumber

Arnab holds aloft a negative of some photograph.

Not one but thousand of birds
Try to shroud
The seven steeds
Risen from some solemn site of pilgrimage.
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Translated from Assamese: Krishna Dulal Baruah

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