This may be a beginning of a conversation between me and poet Malay Roychoudhury who was prosecuted for his publication of the poem ‘Stark Electric Jesus’ in 1965. This poem was originally written in Bangla PRACHANDA BOIDYUTIK CHHUTAR which was subsequently translated in English with the help of Howard McCord and Carl Weissner. The poem defied the forms of lyric poetry (sonnet,villanel, minnesang, pastourelle, canzone, stew etc.) as well as Bengali meters (Matrabritto and Aksharbritto), retaining, however, its content vehicle, expressing subjective personal feelings. Malay Roy Choudhury, a Bengali poet, had been a central figure in the Hungry Generation’s attack on the Indian cultural establishment in the early 1960s now living a life of a recluse in Bombay. I was in Bombay for a few days but could not meet him as he was not doing to well and my visit coincided with his visit with the med. So I mailed a few questions to him and this is what he has to say.
Subhankar Das : The Hungry Generation literary movement was launched by you in November 1961 with the publication of a manifesto on poetry in English from Patna where you were residing at that point of time and nobody could believe that a behari can have any say about Bangla literature. During the course of the movement you got arrested, lost your job, dragged around town by the police with rope on your waist…how far it is true? Do you still feel the relevance of the movement exists? If not, why?
Malay Roychoudhury : Everything is recorded in the trial papers which may be retrieved from the records of Bankshal Court, Kolkata. The case No etc are also available in various publications. Why don’t you make a little effort and spend a few silver to get certified copies of those papers to enable yourself to get enlightened about the facts. The Hungryalist movement has changed the course of Bengali literature once for all. We definitely created a rupture in terms of time, discourse, experience, narrative diction and breath span of poetic lines. The lecturer of Assam University who is writing his dissertation for a Doctorate on the subject gleefully informed me that Bengali academicians are even today scared to utter the word Hungryalism. Well, I guess that speaks a lot.
S.D : I need a little more explanation on the word ‘behari’ — the causes behind the rejection etc. ‘lost your job dragged around town by the police with manila rope on your waist’ do you still remember that day.. I need the story of that day. Can you elaborate a little –’rupture in terms of time, discourse, experience, narrative diction and breath span of poetic lines’
M.R : I don’t want to recall those days; it gives me pain in my present loneliness. I want to forgive everybody. There is a rupture; in Bengali we call it ‘Bidar’. Look around you and you will get the answer. Manila ropes were not there in our time. Ropes were made of coconut husks. I don’t think you will fathom the diasporic plurality of a Behari Bengali, or a cultural bastard.
S.D : Keeping in mind the Hungryalist movement made a big difference in the attitude of Bangla Lit Scene don’t you think any kind of movement finally aspires for a kind of regimentation, closed groups where the freedom of the authors needs to be sacrificed to keep the movement going? Please share your experience.
M.R : Arrey yaar, don’t think in terms of your knowledge of the movements in Western literature. Hungryalist movement did not have a centre of power, high command or politbureau. Any one and everyone were free to join the movement just by declaring himself that he was a Hungryalist. In fact some of the later Hungryalists are not known to me even today! Participants were free to publish their own broadsides, pamphlets, booklets, magazines etc. The movement was not confined to Kolkata only. As you have just said, I was from Patna; Subimal Basak was from Patna as well; Pradip Choudhuri was from Tripura; Subo Acharya was from Bishnupur; Anil Karanjai was from Benaras. The Little Magazine Library and Research Centre at Kolkata is having an archive, you may like to check out.
S.D : What initiated you to leave the literary hub Kolkata to live a life of a recluse in Mumbai/Bombay?
M.R : I sold off my Kolkata flat, gifted entire collection of books, gramophone records, discs, cassettes etc to friends and readers and donated all furniture’s in my neighborhood. I felt very sad about Kolkata. As you know, once upon a time Kolkata belonged to our clan; I found it is just leaching. Not that I wanted to come to Mumbai; I would have preferred to go anywhere. I came to Mumbai because I have a one room flat in this city.
S.D : Why you found Kolkata is now just leaching and nothing more ?
M.R : I just stopped myself from uttering the expression ‘The City of Lechers’. I had experienced the city some sixty years back; it was completely different. Ask any one of my age, anyone who is not a part of the present power nexus.
S.D : Do you still feel like an outsider after all these 49 years?
M.R : Oh, yes. I am ‘The Other’.
Αυτός που διαβάζει με όρους ανοχής μπορεί να με διαβάσει, αυτός που διαβάζει με όρους συμμετοχής όχι.
"Poetry is the only adventure that's worthwhile outside itself"
- Yannis Livadas
The one that reads with terms of tolerance can read me, the one that reads with terms of attendance can not.
"Poetry is the only adventure that's worthwhile outside itself" Y.L.
- Yannis Livadas
- ► 2011 (150)
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