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APRIL 29, 2012

SEVEN SISTERS

NELit review

FIFTH

WALL
UDDIPANA GOSWAMI
Literary Editor

Modernism, Poetry and Identity among the Bodos


Anil Boro charts the course of how modern Bodo poems became a vehicle for the identity and emancipation of the community

FRONTISPIECE
We are the people of this land Dry and shrunken soil of winter Soften and simmer With the first fresh shower Ushered in by Bardoisikhla *** We are the people of this land Dimapur, our Dimapur Golden city of ours Brahma Choudhury, who started off with romantic poems, contributed immensely to the enrichment of modern Bodo poetry. Daoshri Gwba Nagirdwng Ang (In Search of the Morning Star), another landmark poem by Choudhury, gives voice to the Bodo youths longing for the morning star, the eternal symbol of liberation and illumination: The world around is bereft Of the sun The world around is bereft Of light Goddess Airakhi Will never awaken Can you tell me, Sonashri? When will Goddess Airakhi Wake up And the eclipsed sun Be released? Jagadish Brahma is well known for his poem Daimani Phisa: Dimasa (Sons of the Great River: Dimasa) which demonstrates the intensity of the poets concern for the roots of Bodo civilisation and culture: No one knows where came from This river of life *** This is my life Im the son of this river The proud son of the great river. Jagadish Brahmas Duphangni Solo (Tale of the Autumn) bears the stamp of novelty of style and originality in the treatment of the familiar theme of nature and the poets reflective self. Charan Narzary is well acclaimed for his poem Anaru Thu Sigang (Anaru, March On). Anaru represents the poor and exploited community which is struggling to earn its land rights. The poet calls upon Anaru to act as an avant-garde Bodo and help his people march forward: Beloved son you are Of your mother. Oh Anaru! You can never forget your mother. Tread on, Marching along the path Of new creation

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Owning identity

HAVE always felt that if one claims to be Axamiya, one must have a little bit of Bodo in ones self. After all, the Axamiya language uses so many Bodo words; its syntax is also heavily derived from the Bodos. The Axamiya love their river Luit, the old man Brahmaputra. But if the Bodos did not call it Bhullungbuthur, could they have woven the legend of the son of Brahma into its name and given it a new genealogy? Could they have celebrated Bihu if they didnt derive it in some measure from the Bodo Baisagu? Ever since I started travelling to Bodoland as a researcher, I have felt a lot of warmth emanating from the people there despite the fact that my forefathers (or mothers) must have, at some point, treated some Bodo individual in a demeaning way. They would have done it because they would have internalised a sense of superiority deriving from their Aryan heritage, unmindful that their Axamiya identity would not have evolved without their interactions with Bodos, or Misings, or Karbis, or Dimasas, or the various other ethnic communities that have been in Assam longer than they have. But I have been enriched immensely by my experiences in working among these various communities and have understood the true import of being Axamiya from them. On their part, these communities have also been distancing themselves from the Axamiya identity. It is an identity they helped shape and over which they have equal ownership. It is sad that the marginalising machinations of one community among the many constituent Axamiya communities have been successful. Culturally and politically marginalised, the Bodos and other ethnic groups have renounced their share of the Axamiya identity instead of staking their claim to it as integral parts of it. Rising middle class aspirations and the promise of parallel political rewards by a State that tries to control one ethnic conflict by propping up another, have contributed in this regard. In the interest of durable peace however, the peoples of Assam must all come together and reconcile their differences. One kind of peripheralisation cannot be fought by creating newer peripheries. It is time we learnt that. T

ODERNISM arrived quite late in the domain of Bodo literature. Bodo writers came under the impact of modernism after it had swept through Bengali and Assamese literature. The effect of this literary movement was, however, more pronounced on Bodo poetry. It was evident from the emergence of a young generation of poets who wrote poems as a vehicle for self-assertion, emancipation and identity of the community. Until the 50s and 60s nature, love and patriotism were the dominant themes of Bodo poetry. The poets then followed the old technique and rhetorical style. But a perceptible change gradually came about when young poets like Jagadish Brahma, Prasenjit Brahma and Samar Brahma Choudhury, influenced by the wave of modernism, engaged in verse writing. Their poems marked a breakaway from the rigid format and confines of the classical, romantic and mystical poetry of the Bibar-Alongbar epoch. The harsh realities of life and the politics of domination that impeded the development of their language and culture inspired them to write poems about ethnic liberation and salvation. In 1954-55, two epoch-making poems Ang Thwiya by Prasenjit Brahma and Sijou Geremsa by Samar Brahma Choudhury were published in Okhaphwr magazine. Ang Thwiya reflects the indomitable spirit driving a Bodo awakening: The steamroller With gusto and force Of new light He thinks, Here it comes The ruthless still heart Of the black iron To devour Them all. Sijou Geremsa, written in a new idiom, is about the cultural heritage of the Bodos and the awakening among them.

Bwswar Gwdan (The New Year) and Daobayari (The Traveller) are two immortal creations by Narzary. Monoranjan Laharay also contributed to modern Bodo poetry with a handful of works Mwnjarwngi (The Starving), Dabi San Jutani (Demand Day of the Shoes), Host and Khonthaigiriya Noao Gwiya (The Poet is not at Home). In writing his later poetry Lahary discarded romanticism to confront the harsh realities of life in a language that broke loose from the conventions of metre and rhyme. In Mwnjarwngi we see Laharys new style or idiom that approximates normal speech: On the busy platform A dozen beggars beg Down Kamrup Express arrives And stops for a while The passengers throw away The leftovers Upon which the beggars Jostle like vultures

JAGADISH Brahma, Prasenjit Brahma and Samar Brahma Choudhury played a pioneering role in heralding modernism in Bodo poetry. Aurobindo Uzir and Anjali Basumatary are true inheritors of the modernist tradition
Balmikini Somaijung (By the Promise of Valmiki), Bodhidvumni Arw Horwi (Beyond: Bodhidrum), Mwdwijwng Swrjinai (Created with Tears), Dubri Bilai (Carpet Grass), Embu' (Frog) and Biswr Color Blind (Theyre Colour-blind) are some of the best poems included in this collection. Brahma may claim the credit for ushering in a new trend of imagism and symbolism in Bodo poetry. Dharanidhar Wary has written remarkable poems like Bemaje (The Coxcomb), Geosranai Mohor (Unfurled Self) and Thwisam (Thick Blood), all bearing novelty of style and originality in the treatment of themes. Some of his contemporary poets Nileswar Brahma, Baneswar Basumatary, Phuleswari Swargiary, Bhagawati Basumatary, Ranjit Bargoyary, Kamakhya Brahma Narzary and Urkao Brahma wrote poetry eulogising the nationalist feelings and sentiments of the Bodos. Dahal (Waves), an anthology of poems published in 1969 by Kamakhya Brahma Narzary and Iswar Chandra Brahma, was intended to give a new life to modern Bodo poetry. What mark Surath Narzary off from other modern Bodo poets are his treatment of themes and style. He has composed excellent lyrics dedicated to the spiritual emancipation of the individual self (Aroj). Angni Thwinai Swinai (My Lost Beloved), his collection of poetry, was published in 2002. But he had, by then, become a well-established poet. The poems included in this book are cast in the mould of dramatic monologue. The same style was adopted by Assamese poet Devakanta Baruah in his famous poem Sagar Dekhicha (Hast Thou Seen The Ocean) and emulated by many other modem poets, including Navakanta Baruah and Hari Barkakati. Aurobindo Uzir and Anju (Anjali) Basumatary are true inheritors of the modernist tradition in Bodo poetry. A gifted

Like Monorajan Lahary and other poets of the time, Kamal Kumar Brahma, also a dramatist and grammarian, switched over to modernist poetry. Bibayari (The Beggar) and Garbwnai Dwithun (The Lost Wave) are memorable poems penned by him. Many of his poems are in praise of man. Brojendra Kumar Brahma is the most prolific and influential of the modern Bodo poets. His first collection, Okhrang Gongse Nanggou (In Search of A Sky) published in 1975, is characterised by novelty of imagery and symbolism. In the poem Okhrang Gongse Nangou Brahma longs for an open sky, where one can breathe freely and think fearlessly: Today we need a sky Free and fresh air Where a narrow boundary Does not find any place.

poet, Aurobindo shot to fame with the publication of Mwndangthini Rwjabthai (1995). We see in his poetry the mark of an imagist and symbolist influenced by TS Eliot and continental poets. He is regarded by many as an obscure poet. It would be more appropriate to call him an intellectual poet in search of an elitist concept of serious poetry. Anju made her mark with Phasini Doulengao Okhaphwr, her second poetry book. Anju, alongside Aurobindo, can be considered the most gifted modernist poet. Her poetry is characterised by a unique picturesque presentation of the familiar facets of life in a language fused with rare artistry and economy of expression. Ramdas Boro, another modem poet of repute, has published two collections of poetry Phwiphin (1976) and Dabw Urulangkhwi. His poetry is marked by a humanitarian appeal and allusiveness. In many of his poems we come across a mythical figure with a pan-India character. Daniram Basumatary, Guneswar Moshahary, Urno Brahma, Kamakhya Brahma, Iswar Brahma and Ranjit Borgoyary have written lyrical poetry on the themes of love, humanity, national liberation and social oppression. A group of young poets have composed poems protesting against social reprehension, exploitation and abject poverty. These poets are influenced by the ideologies of Marx, Nazrul, Sukanta, Dhiren Dutta, Bhabananda Dutta, Hiren Bhattacharyya, Hikmat and Neruda. Nandeswar Boro is the pioneer of this school of poetry. He is considered the master of Bodo limericks. He has two poetry books to his credit Gwswni Barhunkha (1976) and Subungni Raha (1984). Bineswar Brahma has brought out two collections of poems Aini Aroj and Bardwisikhla. His poems embody nationalist fervour and social concerns. Madhuram Boro, Mangal Singh Hajowary, Sitaram Basumatary, Somnath Basumatary, Rupnath Mwshahary and many other poets have contributed to the efflorescence of modem Bodo poetry. We see snippets of experimentation in the poetry of Gopinath Brahma, Bijoy Baglary, Badal Basumatary and Gohin Basumatary. Anil Boro is not a full-timer in the field of poetry writing, though he has published two books Siphungni Denkhw and San Mwkhangari Simang. A progressive ideology runs through many of his poems in San Mwkhangari Simang, which are devoted to the downtrodden masses. The rest of his poems are modern love lyrics composed in simple and pictorial language. Angni Gamiyao Dwijlang and Delfini Onthaiu Mwdai Arw Gubun Gubun Khonthai are his latest poetry collections. Magazines like Somni Agan and Khonthaimala, published from Kokrajhar, have also nurtured a number of poets.T

NEW PRINTS
A HANDBOOK ON PARENTING - A SCHOOLS PERSPECTIVE
Ashutosh Aggarwal Pallabita Barooah Chowdhury Sanskriti Gurukul, 2012 NA, 191 pages Hardcover/ Non-fiction book for parents who want their children to grow into great adults

Longing for love, freedom


PHUKAN CH BASUMATARY

[The melancholic eyes of distressed people/crawling here and there but searching in vain/ an oasis that is far and far away!] The most important message that many of Brahmas poetry carry is: have an optimistic view of life. Balmikini Somaijwng (The Promise of Valmiki) is one such poem through which the poet articulates the need to cultivate a positive outlook on life. Gwswjayw dabw Balmikini gwgwm somayjwng Lwithw thenw ramkhwu lananwi Jwnwm jathwng ramayan arw gangsebao (Balmikini Somaijwng/ The Promise of Valmiki) [Have a desire still today/with a strong will and promise/ to build a dam on the ocean with the help of Ramachandra/Let us compose a new Ramayana] Here Valmiki and Rama are symbols of the struggle for humanism. Triumph of humanism is what Okhrang Gongse Nanggou seeks to promote in society. T

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B
ASOMIYA SAMAJ JIBANAR BIBARTAN
Diganta Oza Bhabani Print and Publications, 2011 `280, 1320 pages Paperback/ Non-fiction N insight into what continues to ail the Assamese nation

INSURGENCY, COUNTER INSURGENCY AND ISSUES OF HUMAN RIGHTS


Arindam Borkataki (ed.) Anandaram Dhekial Phukan College, 2011 `399, 314 pages Hardcover/ Non-fiction N anthology of articles on human rights by Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, Bertil Lintner and Subir Bhaumik among others

RAJENDRA Kumar Brahmas Okhrang Gongse Nanggou is a milestone in contemporary Bodo poetry. Brahma, a prolific poet since the 70s, is a literary critic, social thinker and lover of humanism. He was honoured with the Tagore Literature Award, 2009 by Sahitya Akademi for his contribution to Indian literature. A good number of his poems have been translated into English, Assamese and Hindi in recent times. He has authored five collections of poems and four books comprising articles on various literary topics. Okhrang Gongse Nanggou (1975), a book of 34 poems, is considered the best of his poetry collections. It has been rendered into Assamese, titled Ekhani Akas Lage, by Diganta Ramchiary. During the 70s, Brajendra Kumar Brahmas poems, marked by innovative themes, inspired many Bodo poets. In fact, Okhrang Gongse Nanggou added a new dimension to Bodo poetry. The poems in this collection are a reflection of social crises at the time. They also have an autobiographical touch. Okhrang denotes the sky, a symbol of widespread love, freedom, and of a broader view of the world. The poet

BRAHMAS poems, laced with beautiful imagery, are reflective of social crises. They contain undertones of optimism and humanism
OKHRANG GONGSE NANGGOU
Brajendra Kumar Brahma Bodo Sahitya Sabha, 1993 (2nd ed.) NA, 36 pages Paperback/Poetry
calls for a sky, the epitome of peace and calm in society. Using symbolism, he writes: Gongse okhrangni angkhal jwngha Nanggou jwngnw dinwi Udang gwthar bar Jayni khathiao Guseb simani habilas gwiya (Okhrang Gongse Nanggou/ In Search of A Sky) [We are witnessing the destruction of a sky/now we need fresh air/ where there is no space

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for narrow thoughts, where only humanism is found]. Brahmas poems are laced with beautiful imagery. He uses nature imagery to express his poetic ideas. For instance, the term oasis in Jiuni Thakhai signifies hopes and aspirations of human beings. When one loses all hope and desire one needs some amount of inspiration to carry on with the journey of life. Thwi gwiwi bwlw gwiwi Biswrni mengnai megona Manjrang manjrang gidingna nagirbayw Bobeaoba oasis dongo khwma! (Jiuni Thakhai/In Favour of Life)