Gained in translation: The green princess
By Jiban Narah
Every time I swung my door open around dusk, my eyes would fall on a dove perched atop a plantain leaf dancing in the breeze. Actually the bird didn’t dance on its own; when the air caused the leaf to sway, the dove began to sway as a consequence. I named her ‘The Green Princess’. The breeze stirring the leaf and the bird beginning to dance with it — the scene had bridged a link between my sight and my mind for the past week. Since shifting to Lankeswar from my hostel, this particular scene had begun to entrance me to such an extent that I had totally given up going out for evening strolls.
My disinclination for the evening walks drew unpleasant remarks from some of my buddies. Amal, a close associate of mine, came to see me in my new room, ‘Achin Dera’. As his eyes fell on posters of M F Hussain’s oil paintings and a Faiz Ahmed Faiz painting with its poetic interpretation titled ‘Evening’, he shouted: “Are you building a museum out here with all these? So this is the reason why you don’t go out!”
“No, not at all.” I pointed towards the dove swaying upon the plantain leaf and said, “See, Amal. This is the actual reason why I haven’t been able to go out. Do you want to know about my feelings when I see this scene? This plantain leaf dancing in waves, unfixed and vacillating, is like our lacerated world totally exposed. The dove seems to be in a constant effort to soothe this vulnerable world to sleep with her lullabies.” Amal didn’t say anything. I didn’t meet him thereafter. But the evening scene of the plantain leaf swaying to a dance went on day after day before my eyes.
I was flipping through the pages of a story-book in my neatly arranged room. My younger brother offered me a cup of red tea. Sipping at my tea, I pushed the curtain of the door a little to have a peep at the plantain. But how strange! Instead of the regular sight I found a robust figure gazing up at the swaying plantain leaf upon which the dove was not perched. Within the twinkling of the eye, the heartless man slashed the leaf at its stem.
I couldn’t stand the woeful scene for long. My mind was weighed down by melancholy. I pulled the curtain back, and closing the book, rolled around on the bed for some time. I awoke late in the morning owing to the tragic experience of the previous evening. I tossed about on the bed for some time. Just then a 14-year-old girl of our neighbourhood entered and handed me a packet wrapped in a plantain leaf and said: “Dada! Last night we’d some religious function at our place. Mother has sent a little prasad for you.” Unwrapping the packet, I found it was the same plantain leaf upon which the dove used to dance — the plantain leaf and the bird on which I was conceiving a poem. Yes, it was the same leaf. Even now there were marks of droppings of the bird.
This afternoon as I was ambling out of my room, my eyes fell on the plantain — the secretion of the stem had coagulated on the body of the tree as blood. And the dove was perched upon the stem itself looking down pensively awaiting the emergence of a sprouting leaf.