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Looking Back In Anger

This is a special post for me. Firstly, it’s sort of a comeback – I was suffering a wordless hiatus and a long depressive bout, when I decided that the best to break it was to put my hands on the keyboard and go tap-tapping. Secondly, this post is dedicated to a disturbing poet, one who I dare not fathom. Whatever, I put down here goes farthest to what I gauge of Malay Roy Choudhury,  Bangla poet, scholar, main propagator of the Hungryalist Movement in Bengal in the mid-sixties. He, along with companion poets, erupted in the sixties Bengal with an angry plea for change in face of a decadent society.

Malay Roy Choudhury

I quote below from Wikipedia,

“ The Hungry generation literary Movement was initially spearheaded by Roy Choudhury, Samir Roychoudhury (his elder brother), Shakti Chattopadhyay, and Haradhon Dhara (alias Debi Roy). Thirty more poets and artists subsequently joined them, the best-known being Binoy MajumdarUtpal Kumar BasuFalguni RoySubimal BasakTridib MitraRabindra Guha, and Anil Karanjai.

Roy Choudhury is to the “Hungryalist Movement” as Stéphane Mallarmé was to SymbolismEzra Pound to ImagismAndré Breton to Surrealism, and Allen Ginsberg to the Beats. The movement is now known in English as Hungryalism or the “Hungry generation“, its name being derived from Geoffrey Chaucer’s “In the sowre hungry tyme”; the philosophy was based on Oswald Spengler’s “The Decline of the West”. The movement’s bulletins were published both in Bengali and infrequently in English as well as Hindi Language by Roy Choudhury since November 1961. The movement, however, petered out in 1965. Thereafter Roy Choudhury ventured out, apart from poetry, into fiction, drama, and essays on social and cultural issues that Bengali people have been suffering from.

Howard McCord, formerly English teacher at the Washington State University and later professor of English language and literature at Bowling Green University, who met Roy Choudhury during a visit to Calcutta, has succinctly traced Malay’s emergence in these words in Ferlinghetti-edited City Lights Journal 3: “Malay Roy Choudhury, a Bengali poet, has been a central figure in the Hungry Generation’s attack on the Indian cultural establishment since the movement began in the early 1960s”. He wrote, “acid, destructive, morbid, nihilistic, outrageous, mad, hallucinatory, shrill–these characterize the terrifying and cleansing visions” of Malay Roy Choudhury that “Indian literature must endure if it is to be vital again”.

 

That should give you a fair idea, atleast much fairer than I would give you on his life and times, firstly, because I believe in the immediacy of feeling to write something that would attack the reader’s sensibilities, and secondly, because I believe my immediate interaction with him in the cyber world is of utmost relevance to this post.

I was fortunate to meet Malay Roy Choudhury or ‘Malay Da’ as I like calling him through Facebook. This incident has somewhat mellowed my acidic rejection of ‘social-networking’. My initial contact with Malay Da’s work was through a learned source, a year or two back, which I can characterize as one of the turning points of my life as yet. One that pushed me off the brink of a cliff of reason into the abyss of somewhat frenzied knowledge where am still trying to get my hand hooked to a creeper and terminate a dangerous free fall.

The first body of work that I got acquainted with is the translation of ‘Prachanda Boidyutik Chuttor’, or Stark Electric Jesus’ on the net. I quote the lines that made me blush and where I covered my eyes and felt heat steadily climbing up to the roots of my hair,

Shubha let me sleep for a few moments in your violent silvery uterous

Give me peace, Shubha, let me have peace

Let my sin-driven skeleton be washed anew in your seasonal bloodstream

Let me create myself in your womb with my own sperm

Would I have been like this if I had different parents?

Was Malay alias me possible from an absolutely different sperm?

Would I have been Malay in the womb of other women of my father?

Would I have made a professional gentleman of me like my dead brother without Shubha?

Oh, answer, let somebody answer these

Shubha, ah, Shubha

Let me see the earth through your cellophane hymen

Come back on the green mattress again

As cathode rays are sucked up with the warmth of magnet’s brilliance

I remember the letter of the final decesion of 1956

The surroundings of your clitoris were being embellished with coon at that time

Fine rib-smashing roots were descending into your bosom

Stupid relationship inflted in the bypass of senseless neglect”

I hadn’t read anything like this before. The first thing that I did was to look around and see whether The Orthodox of my family was peering down on her haunches on my screen. My eyes screwed up in little dilated balls as a graphic brain converted the lines in voluptuous images. What is this man writing? He’s raving mad!” and then for several hours afterwards, I tried to come to terms with the fact that I had been scandalized, raped by a few lines. I wasn’t alone. Malay Da had suffered court trial and punished for being ‘obscene’, in a historic trial where some of the best names in Bangla poetry spoke against him.

After a week of hot, sleepless afternoons, I kept returning to this poem, like an adolescent who’s just discovered the secrets of the body. The firs animal instinct to touch the opposite sex, to plunder a body, to grow insane in wild desire. The power of his language had paralyzed me, forever.

And then, I met him on Facebook, and a strange fear gripped me. Frankly, I am dead scared of such people. There is a community of artists who’re too real in their artistry. This class that charts names like, Allen Ginsberg, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and many others are Art Extremists, a term I’ve coined for them. They exert an irresistible attraction towards the opposite sex, who’re drawn to the edgy and dangerous involvement they have with their art and times. Pablo Picasso is often compared to the Minataur, the half man-half monster. Like the Minataur he demanded women to be ‘sacrificed’ to him, a view that is corroborated in his tumultuous personal life, that left behind a trail of agonized wives, mistresses and children. Malay Da told me of a woman who was 20 years his junior and who had threatened him with suicide if he didn’t marry her. She kept her promise and drank toilet-acid.

I entered the Malay Da’s cyber territory stealthily, careful to remain a shadowy admrer and not get myself dangerously embroiled in insanity. I’ve not been quite successful. I asked him the ithing question at last: What is the role of the explicit use of sex in his poetry?

His answer was surprising in a daring nonchalance:

 

“It procreates the poems from my intercourse with the tantalizing body of language.”

 

Again, I grappled with wordlessness. I went to his sites (all enlisted in the ‘Blogs with Jobs’ tab) where people had rejected his poetry as “obscene rants”. Again Malay Da had asked them,

What exactly is the non-obscene?

Is placing good-sounding, pleasing/romantic visions in a few lines called poetry?

You better practice reading. It’s an art.

 

He reminded me of Kamala Das, the only other poet who has had a similar effect on me. She too, crossed shackles of Acceptance to write her voice. For these people, Poetry is an extension of Living. It is, or so I think, as normal as bitching about your friend, grumbling about your boss, brushing your teeth or urinating. These are people who cannot bear to cover up the unpleasant for the sake of earning popularity or admiration. They are dangerous, the character Ammu out of Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things, a insane edge, a reckless energy, like a brother and sister making love, crossing the Love Laws.

I am reading Malay Da’s Chotoloker Chotobela (The Childhood of an Indescent Man) on his childhood. It is a lucid

Hungryalist Poetry Sessions

account of his poignant childhood, warm in recollections, rigid in opinions, surprising in honesty and chilling in sarcasm. Malay Da grew up in a seedy corner of pre-independent India in Patna, Bihar. He describes the world seen through the boy Malay and changes narrative to the now, author, wizened, roughened, merciless in honesty. His family, from the Sabarna Chodhury line was typical in their false prejudices of forgotten riches, striving to bob up their heads above intolerable poverty. He speaks of poverty, his first sighting of a nude woman from the window, a pair of mute and deaf  Muslim tailor brothers who stitched clothes for the entire family, the absurd and tedious bathroom rituals, the keen adolescent absorbing visitors touching genitals of Greek statues at the Patna Museum where his eldest uncle was the Keeper. Anything, Nothing and Everything you would expect from a book that starts with the poet’s 15 year old cousin getting caught red handed when he was seeing off a prostitute at the door, at the death of the night.

Malay Roy Choudhury is disturbing to say the least. Sometimes, I am repulsed, almost nauseated by the images he draws with his pen. I am forced sometimes to believe that his poetry is almost fradaulent, a meaningless rant, negative and sensationalist. And then I come back to calm evenings when everything falls into place – the time, the anger, the mistrust in the human situation.

I feel angry and frustrated when I talk to this man, now a septuagenarian living as a retired government officer with his wife in Mumbai. How dare he be so startingly honest? What gives him the audacious liscence to be irresponsibly independent? When ask him these questions, I can almost see his silent laughter in his reply:

“ Have you thought of as to who can be the person in your life whom you hate and love at the same time ? I am like a sinister animal who enjoys being attacked ! Have you noticed that the alpha male always uses it’s head butt to defeat it’s opponent ? Bison, Jiraffe, Lion, elephant, Rhino, Croc, any animal with power. I survive like those animals who are at the head of a Pride. Like the lion, I am a loner. I utilize my head. For writing, go on writing whatever you want. The reader is irrelevant. It is the LANGUAGE with which you are in love.”

 

And just like that, he’s decided to call his recent category of poems, ‘Alpha Male Poetry’. Just Like That. This man is irritatingly simple. There is no gestation between his heart and hand. Somebody has lapsed the lightyears between his feeling and his pain. We, the ‘rational’ ones can only but gape at such insolence. We can call it frenzied rants, we can rile and write pages on controversy, put him behind lock and key, stop people from researching on his work, but we are powerless in claiming their pens, their angst, their pain, them.

I once asked him, does he behave like an ordinary family man? Does he go to the bazaar, sip on strong milk tea? Etcetera. He answered me matter-of-factly. His wife takes care of marketing. And he has liquor tea. And being a family man is better than living on the edge.

I cannot forgive him for evading my deeper concern, Is he for real?

This post is an order from the man himself:

 

“Read your page on Picasso. Great. Why don’t you write a page on me, now that you have read my books in original. Write freely. don’t worry about my reactions. I am Gandar-chamra*  writer. You have good command over your thoughts. So go ahead. Give me a ‘piece of your mind’.”

 

Gandar-chamra*  – Bangla proverb meaning ’ as hard as the skin of a Rhinocerous’ or ‘one who is thick skinned/unaffected by criticism.

This is my small-something to you, Malay Da. I’ll wait for your comments. Long Live Obscenity.

  1. February 14, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Thanks Dear. I didn’t see this earlier. I was happy to read your poem and was delighted to see the changes you are bringing in yourself. Good that you are gaining your Lightness of Being.
    I’ll read this page after I complete a bunch of poems I have been requested to submit by an editor of a Bengali poetry magazine.
    But I am very happy to find you in the state of mind you are finding yourself in.
    Well, why don’t you come out and declare to the world that you are Sreemanti Sengupta. Let people know your name. You are going to write a novel to be signed by Sreemanti Sengupta and not the Jobless Ideator.

    • February 14, 2012 at 7:17 am

      Malay Da, I am glad you liked the poems. And am extremely happy that your editor is after you. You have already told everyone my name. The cat is out! If God gave me a wish to come true, it would be a book to my name. I hope I do justice to a book, for it will be such a painful experience moulding parts of myself into letters, it’s like opening a cupboard of skeletons! Bless me Malay Da, with the strength to write an honest piece of work. That is, indeed my true calling. Do read my post on you. It’s dear to me. Happy Valentine’s Day ❤

      Yours Joblessly,
      The Jobless Ideator
      alias Sreemanti Sengupta

  2. February 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    So do not waste time. Start writing the novel. Start writing various chapters simultaneously. You may edit them afterwords. Your life itself is a treasure trove. Open up and write everyday.
    Dedicate it to Kaushik at the beginning itself and proceed.
    DO NOT WAIT FOR THE MOMENT TO ARRIVE.

    • February 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      I may break down again. I’m quite scared frankly..

      • February 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm

        Use pen and paper. Writing various chapters becomes easy that way. Brood over the flashes and write. You may think about the diction later. For the present just open up and START.
        Sreemanti, do not waste time.

      • February 16, 2012 at 10:20 am

        I will need your advice. Chotoloker Chobela is brilliant! Please keep talking online at my blogs or on gtalk. Okay? Do I need to chalk out the plot structure beforehand? Nowadays my fingers pain when I write on paper. So used to typing. You have to support me constantly. You write brilliantly. Really!

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