Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tracing a pattern to poetry, madness and the épater le bourgeois

I wonder if Allen Ginsberg could have anticipated himself playing the Harmonium, much less mastering it when he set out to explore India and find himself. Nor would he have probably thought of striking up friendships with Bengali poets, half way across what was his word. Well after the fame of 'Howl' and his journey to India, Ginsberg found himself listening and finding resonance in Sunil Gangopadhay and Shakti Chattopadhyay. It was perhaps meant to be as both the outsider and the Bengali poets were revolting against a language too 'Bhadrolok' . While Sunil Gangopadhay thought that,“Bangla literary activities were centred on Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and a few other stalwarts of the earlier years. There was a lack of new ideas, new thinking. Bangla literature was stagnant. We rebelled against what the so-called litterateurs were doing then—they were content with just repeating, writing or thinking in the same mould as Tagore and Sarat Chandra. We wanted to break away from that.”..The entire journey of the Beat generation could be described in similar veins, that probably went further and experimented with every form, abuse and thought that they thought would spell liberation.

(Allan Ginsberg playing a harmonium)

If the Beat Generation's experiments with drugs, their bodies and their thought process is similar, the young bunch of Bengali poets, who wrote and published their works in anti-establishment Bengali poetry magazine, Krittibas, tried to trace similar paths, when 'Shakti Chattopadhyay was sloshed in a remarkably inspired way when he wrote ‘pavements trade places at midnight’ or when in his famous poem, Abani Bari Aachho, he had the simplicity to ask Planet Earth, ‘Are you home?' The same man who had been spotted by Sunil Gangopadhay in Coffee House Calcutta saying, " Bidis are like lovers difficult to please, they must be kissed constantly"

(The Calcutta Coffee House)

Sunil Gangopadhyay’s and the volatile Shakti Chattopadhyay, who were like alter egos formed a part of the ' Hungry Generation', amongst other notable poets like Sandipan Chattopadhyay and Sarat Kumar Mukhopadhyay, in many ways Ginsberg probably found in them an answer to his Beat generation. That Allan was friendly with these poets and they left a mark on him is undeniable, a belief the 'Hungry Generation' poets believe quite strongly. Much like the Beats, these poets were restless, rootless days, waiting for a revolution perhaps.Rebelling against the established order was the culture and philosophy among these poets in Bengal. They were in their own ways wild and indulging in excesses, inspiring in their turn a lot of college students. Sunil Gangopadhay says, " I don’t really regret those days; those days were a part, an essential part, of growing up, of maturing and gaining new experiences."

(Sunil Gangopadhyay and Shakti Chattopadhyay)

Images courtesy Google


Raj said...

Your post has certainly inspired me to read more about these great literary geniuses and their works. :)

Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury said...

Believe me Raj, They are worth the effort.

Sanjoy Sanyal said...

Great post. Iwas wondering whether I can use the photos you have used in connection with a post of mine

Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury said...

Thanks Sanjay. The images are courtesy Google