…..What did the Bengali word DARPAN (দর্পণ) mean to me? At least for a considerably long period of time? It took me a long while to know that DARPAN signifies a bright, clear object that helps me to see the reflection of my face, that it means a mirror. In my childhood, my father used to bring a weekly magazine that had no cover and I learnt the word by spelling its name: D-A-R-P-AN. What does Darpan mean? Well, a magazine!
Then I learnt the meaning of the word but in spite of that, until quite late, whenever I heard the word Darpan, instead of the bright glass mirror, what would appear before my eyes is rough and grayish newsprint.
Is it possible to be familiar with the unknown through poetry? Even if it falls in the domain beyond one’s own experiences, is it possible to feel familiar with what is expressed in a poem, to share the experiences of the poet? For example:
All the villages that I see
Tell me of my mother’s childhood.
All the free hills that I see in those villages
Remind me of my beloved’s early years.
All the bluish green fountains that I see
At the heart of the hills,
Make me remember all those men
Whom I’ve left in my native place.
For beyond those fountains is the river
And at the head of the river,
There’s the touchy sensitivity of the bamboo-pole bridge
That reminds me of Noakhali,
That rickety bridge and the relentless god.
All the villages that I see remind me of my mother’s childhood? My mother never lived in a village, neither in her childhood nor when she was growing up. She grew up in a city. She used to complain because she had to move to faraway Ranaghat as an adult. Then, why did my eyes tear up as I read those lines? Did they remind me of those villages and ponds and hutments that I see from the train? Do they make me feel as if my mother perhaps lived in one of those villages? And that the woman in the poem is my mother and not that of the poet’s?
I knew neither the poet Alokeranjan nor his mother then. I was familiar with his name only from the printed pages of books. But it appeared as if my mother lived in the village although the reality was quite different. Or is it so that whenever the word ‘mother’ is pronounced in a poem or a song, the reader would think of his own mother?
I was speaking about understanding poetry with the help of life’s experiences. But what happened here then? ….These images that I saw were not completely real; most of them were figments of my own imagination. Does this journey through our own imagination and the experiences we thus gather help us in confronting poetry?
(Excerpts loosely translated from Joy Goswami’s Gosainbagan; Pratibhas; Kolkata)