Saturday, April 12, 2014

Aenh (English version of Tuccho)

This is a free translation of the Bangla (Bengali) nonsense-poem, "Tuccho".


Arising in the dark, I went to the machine
And with its aid I looked for news of friends.
But finding only naught and nonsense there,
I then began to write these verses mad.

Some sit and calculate, as others sing.
Some rise at dawn to bathe and swim in ponds.
Some snore at noon, while others play at chess.
Some call out, “Momma!”  Others shout for “Dad!”

“Where’s the honey?  Say!” demands the bee.
I answer her, “It’s in the flower, sweet.”
The insects and the spiders rule.  We serve –
And look to them for all our sustenance.

There’s God, for whom the faithful sing.
But who is murdered, by the road, at noon?
Krishna hums, “The Christ has gone. Who’s left?”
The Buddha claims he’s Mahavir’s disciple.

In my knee – a sudden, piercing pain!
I cry out, “Daddy-oh!” and try a pickle.
Coitus, I’ve been told, is better yet.
But Shiva, when I ask him, answers, “Aenh!”

2014 April 1, Tue., 3:30 am
translated April 12th, 12:16 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Note:  The title, “Aenh”,  is my attempt at spelling a certain local nasal interjection. It is mainly used to dismiss a question or concern raised by another.  I have heard this sound at times, issuing, usually, from an older male, during my years at the schools in Brooklyn.  It matches in some ways (though not quite) the downward-flap hand gesture, signifying low regard or uselessness, that is prevalent among some of us desis (subcontinentals). 

This last gesture should not be confused with the twist and upward palm, "What's this?" or the sideways-flap dismissal that one also often sees, along with many other characteristic gestures of hand and eye, in parts of the subcontinent.  But the "aenh" of the Brooklynites and perhaps other Usans beats all of this as a perhaps irrevocable utterance of utmost disregard, tinged with disgust. It seems also to give vent to a world-weary cynicism that is both the antithesis and the inevitable companion of all the "drive and jive" that mark the United States. ;-)
Here are some illustrations of the use of this device.

"What did you think of the valedictorian's speech?"

"Do you think the newly arrived immigrant students, the ones who don't speak a word of English, will understand these instructions?"

"How can we read and grade all these state exam papers in such a short time?"

"Will the teachers have enough time to teach this curriculum if we lose one day each week?  And see, they're also going to drastically shorten the periods on Wednesdays to make time for the 'professional development' that the administration feels the more experienced teachers need.  How will the chemistry and other science labs work with the time reduced to 35 minutes, including set-up and take-down time?  What about safety violations? You know how some of the kids are.  How can we take time to prevent those when the students barely have time to rush through the lab?  Will they even have time to read the instructions? You know how some of them need help with this."
A more literal translation of the Bangla word, tuccho (Sanskrt tuccha), might perhaps be "unimportant", "insignificant", "inconsequential", "trifling", "held in low regard" or, in certain contexts, "contemptible".

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