|"Perhaps I shall be a duck, some young lass's."|
This article mainly relates to the poem "I Shall Return Once More" and its well-known Bengali poet Jibanananda Das (1899 - 1954).
To maternal Dhansiri’s banks did you return, as according to your plan? Are you there now in the guise of a wild bird, a white hawk or shalik or dawn crow? Or were you driven to move on by the bitter realisation that found you when you saw that river later? Your heart must’ve been struck! It’s not the river you knew, Jibanananda. Change does not stop, even for you.
|Trees reflected in the Dhansiri.|
As the locals tell it quite assertively, it wasn’t far from the broad Dhansiri’s riverbank, your maternal uncle’s house. Is that how you came to know her, as some say, to be stirred into noting her name? Did you feel her watery breezes as you once sat beside the pond in your uncle’s yard?
|Did he feel river breezes while sitting beside his uncle's pond?|
On the other hand locals attest to many things and there’s no authoritative information that you really made childhood visits to the village called Bamankathi in Jhalokati – your mother was indeed from Gaila in Barisal. There would seem to be no proof that a now empty Bamankathi yard once belonged to an uncle. It’s a history unverified.
|The Dhansiri reflecting plants and reflecting Das.|
Yet it’s nice for a moment to assume you knew at least Dhansiri. It’s no great distance from Barisal Town and maybe there really was a relative’s house in Bamankathi. There are surely details that from your life’s record got lost along the way – just as the memory of the haystack doesn’t stretch much beyond the harvest. It is interesting to ponder that you might’ve held Dhansiri close as a childhood memento...
|Das portrait by Narayan Chandra Biswas of Itna, Narail.|
|"I shall return to the banks of the Dhansiri, to this Bengal / Perhaps not as a man but in the guise of a white hawk or a shalik."|
Or was it your entanglement with nature that became quite unmanageable? As the currents of your own, now large, River Jibanananda grew after your death so the Dhansiri might have rather instinctively regressed towards modesty as a means of maintaining a kind of balance. Perhaps we witness in its reduction a form of love, a self-sacrifice returned to you by one of Bengal’s rivers? Could it not be so?
|Some say Das was a loner, but the rivers were with him.|
Yet if it was your thoughts of rediscovering her beauteous strength that drove you as a bird back to Dhansiri it must have hurt to comprehend that like your own bodily vitality Dhansiri’s would eventually wane.
|The plot in Bamankathi they call the 'Das house.'|
And if you stayed at Dhansiri, were you circling overhead as we crossed the farm fields, directed by farm hands to the empty yard they call the Das house? They had excitement in their voices – they wanted that place to be special. Did you feel nostalgia or were you laughing – they got it all wrong!
|Beyond the fence is the 'Sen house' in Bamankathi.|
That whole Bamankathi neighbourhood is gone now – just empty plots. I suppose they might have followed you to Kolkata at the time of Partition. I suppose you would have known it before your death. Was it with a sense of sadness then, for what you knew to be gone, that you wrote of Dhansiri? Or was it but a name?
|Fishing frame in the Dhansiri.|
You broke all the rules of poetry in your life and you should’ve been rewarded for that – but the reward came late and perhaps it was, in the end, the rules that broke you? Perhaps that’s how it always ends when the world is not ready. You must know that by now.
|Perhaps the Dhansiri reduced its flow from missing its poet friend?|
|The Dhansiri, Jhalokati.|
|The Dhansiri today is quiet.|
This article is published in Star Magazine, here: Questions for a Lone Bird Called Das