Monday, May 25, 2015

Kon Bar’ite?—কোন বাড়িতে?—Where?

The poem in the traditional Bengali script is followed by two transcriptions. The first is an academic Romanization that faithfully represents the standard spelling in the traditional script. The second follows the standard modern pronunciation.  A guide to the pronunciation scheme used in the second transcription may be found at

At the end, there is also a rather free translation into English.
কোন বাড়িতে?
কোন বাড়িতে প্রেম এসেছে?
কোন বাড়িতে, বলো৷
কোন বাড়িতে, ভোরের সাথে,
সুখের কিরণ এলো?
কোন বাড়িতে প্রেমের পীড়া?
কোন বাড়িতে, বলো৷
কোন বাড়িতে, সুখের বেলায়,
দুঃখের ছায়া এলো? 

কোন বাড়িতে প্রেম আসে নি?
কোন বাড়িতে, বলো৷
কোন বাড়িতে, সন্ধ্যে এসে,
প্রেমের আশা নিল?
কোন বাড়িতে প্রেম জেগেছে?
কোন বাড়িতে, বলো৷
কোন বাড়িতে, রাতের মাঝে,
বুকে আশা দিল?
বিকেল ৫:০৩ 
সোমবার, ২৫এ মে, ২০১৫ খ্রি
বেন্সন্হার্স্ট, ব্রুক্লিন, নিউয়র্ক 
Kōna bāṛitē?

Kōna bāṛitē prēma ēsēchē?
Kōna bāṛitē, balō.
kōna bāṛitē, bhōrēra sāthē,
sukhēra kiraṇa ēlō?

Kōna bāṛitē prēmēra pīṛā?
Kōna bāṛitē, balō.
Kōna bāṛitē, sukhēra bēlāẏa,
duḥkhēra chāẏā ēlō?

Kōna bāṛitē prēma āsē ni?
Kōna bāṛitē, balō.
Kōna bāṛitē, sandhyē ēsē,
prēmēra āśā nila?

Kōna bāṛitē prēma jēgēchē?
Kōna bāṛitē, balō.
Kōna bāṛitē, rātēra mājhē,
bukē āśā dila?

bikēla 5:03 
Sōmabāra, 25ē mē, 2015 khri
bēnsanhārsṭa, bruklina, ni'uẏarka
Kon Bar’ite?

Kon bar’ite prem exeche?
Kon bar’i te, bo`lo.
Kon bar’ite, bhorer xathe,
Xukher kiro`n elo?

Kon bar’ite premer pira?
Kon bar’ite, bo`lo.
Kon bar’ite, xukher be`lae,
Dukkher chaea elo?

Kon bar’ite prem axeni?
Kon barite, bo`lo.
Kon bar’ite, xondhe exe,
Premer axa nilo?

Kon bar’ite prem jegeche?
Kon bar’ite, bo`lo.
Kon bar'ite, rater majhe,
Buke axa dilo?

bikel 5:03, xombar, 25-e me, 2015 khri
benso`nharst’, bruklin, niu io`rk
Where has love arrived?
Where is it?  Let me know.
Where has the light of happiness
Arrived with the dawn?
Where is the pain of love?
Where is it?  Let me know.
Where has the shadow of sorrow
Arrived at the time of joy?
Where has love not come?
Where is it?  Let me know.
Where has the evening arrived
And taken the hope of love?
Where has love awoken?
Where is it?  Let me know.
It glows from the ashes of night.
It gives hope to the heart. 
2015, 25th May, Mon, 5:03 pm
Brooklyn, New York

Premer Ko`tha Bolbo Kake?--প্রেমের কথা বলব কাকে?--To Whom Shall I Speak Of My Love?

The verses in Bengali, using its traditional script and standard spelling, are followed by a loose translation into English, and then by a transcription into Roman letters.
প্রেমের কথা বলব কাকে?

যে প্রেমের কথা বলার ছিল,
সে কথা ত রয়ে গেল সব৷
রইলে না যে তুমি, যাকে
বলার ছিল কথাগুল৷
প্রেমের কথা বলব কাকে?
থেকে গেল আমার বুকে৷
দুঃখে এখন কাটাই জীবন৷
তাও ত দেখ হাসি ভুলে৷

বলব কি সেই দুখের কথা?
গাইব কি সেই প্রেমের গান?
হাসছি আমি মৃদু হাসি,
তোমার হাসি দেখছি আজ৷
গানের আলাপ, গানের সুর,
গানের ছন্দ, গানের শেষ...
গানের মত এলে তুমি,
গানের মাঝে ছাড়লে দেশ...

কোন দেশে আজ গাইছ তুমি?
কোন বেলাতে আসবে ফিরে?
সে দেশ থেকে ফিরবে না, হায়!
দেখতে দেখতে সন্ধ্যে এল৷

বুকের কথা বলব কাকে?
বলব বোধহয় হাওয়ার কানে৷
বইবে হাওয়া, নিয়ে যাবে
প্রেমের কথা কারোর কানে৷

বিকেল ৪:৪৯, সোমবার, ২৫এ মে (মেমোরিয়াল ডে ),২০১৫ খ্রি
(মার্কিন যুক্তরাষ্ট্রে, মৃত সৈনিকদের স্মারক দিবস )
বেন্সন্হার্স্ট, ব্রুক্লিন, নিউয়র্ক
To Whom Shall I Speak Of My Love?
The words I had to say, with love,
those words are still with me,
but not the one, to whom I should
have softly said them then. 
To whom shall I speak those words of love?
They’ve stayed within my heart.
I pass my days in sorrow, yet
you see I smile by chance.
Should I now recount my grief
or sing my song of love?
Or should I smile because I see
the way you once had smiled? 
The humming and the rhythm and
the tune and then the end…
You came like music and like song,
but in their midst you left.
Where is your song and where are you?
And when will you return?
You never will return from there!
The evening comes apace.

To whom will I speak the words in my heart?
Perhaps in the ear of the wind?
The wind, it will blow and carry the words
of my love to a hearer afar.
2015, 25th May, Mon*, 4:49 pm
(* Memorial Day, in the U.S.A., for soldiers killed in wars)
Bensonhurst. Brooklyn, New York

That Roman transcription below follows the standard (West Bengali) pronunciation, but not the standard spelling currently used with the traditional script.

Although the traditional script is beautiful and irreplaceable, the standard spelling is based upon a pronunciation that is now either archaic or borrowed.  This spelling faithfully preserves and represents the old roots, but is better suited, phonetically, for Sanskrit or for the eastern Indo-Aryan dialects of Bihar than it is for the dialects of Bengali that have prevailed in most of the Bengal delta, probably for the past several centuries.

For the purposes of correctly representing the pronunciation of Bengali in Roman letters, it might be best, therefore, to abandon the non-phonetic or quasi-phonetic aspects of standard Bengali orthography.

Of course, standard English spelling is even worse at representing English speech.  Indeed, the spelling of English is probably as far from phonetic as one could possibly get without lapsing into total arbitrariness.

So while a Romanization might be of service to those who come to Bengali with literacy in a Western European language, it is surely advisable to also avoid the vagaries, limitations and ambiguities of English spelling.

So one has to devise or borrow a system of Romanization that can faithfully mirror the actual pronunciation of Bengali words.

In doing so, however, one might have to abandon any attempt to preserve the old root words that might ease the comprehension of written Bengali for those familiar with an ancestral or sibling tongue, such as Sanskrit or any of the Indo-Aryan tongues, or even those Dravidian languages that have borrowed heavily, especially in their literary forms, from Sanskrit or its daughters.

A similar complaint may be lodged against any phonetic rationalization of English spelling, which might of course obscure the Latin and other root-words whose fossils are still recognizable in the current spelling of English.

A brief outline of the transcription scheme used below may be found in the preface at:

Premer Ko`tha Bolbo Kake?

Je premer ko`tha bo`lar chilo,
xe ko`tha to roe ge`lo xo`b.
Roile na je tumi, jake
bo`lar chilo  ko`thagulo.

Premer ko`tha bolbo kake?
Theke ge`lo amar buke.
Dukkhe e`khon kat’ai jibon.
Tao to de`kho haxi bhule.

Bolbo ki xei dukher ko`tha?
Gaibo ki xei premer gan?
Haxchi ami mridu haxi.
Tomar haxi dekchi aj.

Ganer alap, ganer xur,
ganer cho`ndo, ganer xex…
Ganer moto ele tumi,
ganer majhe char’le dex…
Kon dexe aj gaicho tumi?
Kon belate axbe phire?
Xe dex theke phirbe na go.
Dekhte dekhte, xondhe elo.
Buker ko`tha bolbo kake?
Bolbo bodh ho`e haoar kane.
Boibe haoa, nie jabe
Premer ko`tha karor kane.
bikel 4:49, xombar, 25-e me, 2015 khri
(memorial d’e)
(markin juktoraxtre, mrito xoinikder xarok dibo`x) 
benso`nharst’, bruklin, niu io`rk

I Do Not Know the Words

I Do Not Know the Words

As I was walking on the street, a whisper came to me.
It seemed an eerie whispering, and so I paused to hear.
And then I heard a voice that called, as if across a sea.
And though it sounded distant, yet I also sensed it near.
“They know the words,” that whisper said, “so all can sing the song.
They know them well.  And one may lead, while others sing along.
But then another takes the lead. You’re hearing what they feel.
They share in song—and everything—where no one needs to steal.”

I heard that voice that seemed to be so far, so distant, yet
Was also there within my heart, as close as it could get.
“I do not know the words.” I said, “I do not know the words.
Do tell me what the meaning is. To me, they sing like birds.”

For I had heard a singing then, behind that eerie voice,
That rose and fell in cadences, as if a hidden sea
Were breaking on a distant shore, from which a random breeze
Had carried sound across the miles and so by chance to me.

But though I heard that singing still, that voice had ceased to speak.
And so I strained to hear that song, which still was distant, weak.
And as I listened, I discerned the words—they still were strange,
But slowly, one by one, they came within my hearing’s range.

And to this day, I hear that song.  It pulses in my mind.
For me, it's still a wondrous thing.  A passing spirit, kind,
Had given me this gentle song—that whispers, like the sea
May do, when quite a distance from the place we chance to be.

“I do not know the words.” I’d said, “I do not know the words.”
But I could hear the feeling in the song.  That still remains.
And though I’d said it sounded like the singing of the birds,
It sings to me of hopes and loves—of all our joys and pains.

“They know the words,” that voice had said, “so all can sing along.”
And one by one I hear them sing—I hear them sing that song.
They share in this, and everything, where no one needs to steal.
And though I’ve never met them, I can hear the way they feel.

And still I daily walk the streets, within the city’s sphere.
And there are times I’m full of grief, of madness and of fear.
But then I hear that song again, and so my heart is lifted.
I thank the spirit then for this—this drop of kindness, gifted.

I wish I understood the words.  But then, it doesn't matter.
For there's a place for words and there's another place for song.
And so at times the words we speak appear as useless chatter.
For those are times to listenand perhaps to sing along.

2015 May 25th, Mon
“Memorial Day “ in the U.S.A.
Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, May 17, 2015

হেসে ফেলি ভুলে--Hexe Pheli Bhule--I Laugh by Mistake

হেসে ফেলি ভুলে

কোথা থেকে এল সে?  থাকল কিছু দিন৷
গেল আবার এখান থেকে, কে জানে কোথায়?
রইল সুধু স্মৃতি তার, মনে আসে এখন৷
তাই ত আমি কেঁদে উঠি, হেসে ফেলি ভুলে৷ 

রাত ১১:৪৮, রবিবার, ১৭ ই মে, ২০১৫ খ্রি
বেন্সন্হার্স্ট, ব্রুক্লিন, নিউয়র্ক
Hexe Pheli Bhule

Kotha theke elo xe?  Thaklo kichu din.
Ge`lo abar ekhan theke, ke jane kothae?
Roilo xudhu sriti tar, mone axe e`khon.
Tai to ami ke~de ut’hi, hexe pheli bhule.

rat 11:48,  robibar, 17-oi me, 2015 khri.
benso`nharst’, bruklin, niu io`rk

for a guide to the Romanization scheme used in this
transcription, please see the preface at the link:
I Laugh by Mistake  

From where did she come?  She stayed with us a while.
And then she went upon her way, to who knows where?
All that’s left is memories.  They come to mind again.
That is why I cry at times, and that is why I smile.

2015 May 17th, Sun. 11:49 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Minstrel

The Minstrel
I met a minstrel on the road
And walked with her a while.
I heard her singing as she walked.
I listened, with a smile.

And this is what she said to me
Upon that twisting way.
Her every word remains with me
Unto this very day.

“I found you just by happenstance,
And while I have your ear,
I’ll sing to you the songs that come,
Before they disappear.
“I’ll sing to you of land and sea,
Of sky that vaults above.
I’ll sing to you of innocence,
Of tenderness, of love.
“I’ll sing to you of villages
Beside the rippling lakes.
I’ll sing to you of sentience,
Of consciousness that wakes.
"I'll sing to you of mountains and
Of foothills and of plains.
I'll sing to you of dancing
At the starting of the rains.
“I’ll sing to you of patience and
Of science and the arts.
I’ll sing to you of courage and
Of hopes in human hearts.
“I’ll sing to you of swirling clouds,
Of thunder, lightning, rain.
I’ll sing to you of rapture and
Of sorrow and of pain.
“I’ll sing to you of sunrise and
The fiery, blazing noon.
I’ll sing to you of sunset and
The brightly shining moon.
“I’ll sing to you of multitudes
Of men and ants and stars.
I’ll sing to you of horrors and
Of all the senseless wars.
“I‘ll sing to you of present times
And also other things.
I’ll sing to of history
And what the future brings.
“I’ll sing to you of turbulence
And of the times serene.
I ‘ll sing to you of what I've felt
And what I've heard and seen.
“And when you’re tired of what I sing,
Then you can bid me leave.
But when I’m gone, with all my songs,
I trust you will not grieve.
“I do not know from where they come,
the songs you’ll hear me sing,
Perhaps you’ll hear that singing too,
When I have taken wing.
“And then perhaps you’ll seek for one
Who’ll lend, to you, an ear,
And hope she will be stirred by what,
Through you, she too can hear.”
And so that minstrel sang to me
Her songs of light and dark.
And though the years have passed since then,
I still, to them, can hark.
And just as she had said to me,
I hear a singing too,
That comes from where I do not know,
So I can sing to you.
2015 May 14th, Thu.
Brooklyn, New York  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Body, Soul and Spirit

Body, Soul and Spirit

The body needs its food and drink, its sunlight and its air.
It also needs the healing calm, the long and restful sleep.
But what is it the soul requires, which gives to us our life,
That ties us each to other and to spirit, coursing deep?

The soul can draw its sustenance from beauty and despair,
From watching all that rises up and arcs and then descends...
The body and the soul are linked, and each without the other
Returns again to lifelessness, as all that's vital ends...

And where in this is spirit, whose tendril is the soul?
Can the leaf perceive the twig, the branch, and even know the tree?
We dwell within our ignorance, within our prisons small,
And yet, there is the universe – and spirit – boundless, free.

Let all illusions fall away, and yet let us survive
The dazzling light that spirit is, that also is the dark.
For thunder loud can point to it, and fill us then with awe,
And yet it is a whisper soft, to which the gentle hark.

There is a world of space and time, of messages between,
Of atoms in their whirling dance, of sound and light and fire.
There also is another world – they're woven tight, the twain –
And that's the world that lies within, of thought and of desire.

It's little use to use the tints of one to paint the other.
We dwell within the two-fold worlds, and each affects its twin.
Our bodies bridge these worlds – and though we can't describe the soul,
It's that which knows.  It's spirit-stuff, and only it can sin.

2015 May 3rd, Sun.
Brooklyn, New York


Saturday, May 2, 2015



We walk upon the roadways we’re told to walk upon,
And find ourselves in places we really shouldn't be.
But what should be or shouldn't, between the herders and
The herded ones of reason, are matters of dispute.

The corrupted hate resistance, the zealots even more.
Our fellows who’re compliant—they shun the ones who’re not.
And so we have progressions, from misery to worse.
And all I've left, of reason, I now express in verse.

For some of us resisted and walked our lonely paths.
But each of us was hounded, who didn't stop and turn.
The paths we trod are faded and soon they might be gone,
For those who're young or jaded will hardly seek them out.

We foundered in the ocean.  We saw the distant isles.
We swam towards those islands, but only for a while.
We were driven back by currents.  We either yielded or
We fought until exhausted—and one by one were drowned.


We're weighted down by morals, when these are valued less
Than what is deemed expedient.  Our caring gives us stress..
What matters is the package.  Who cares for small details?
What's slick and fast and trendy succeeds, where labor fails.
We each may have our ethics, be loath to let these go.
And yet, amidst the breakers, we either sink or float
By holding still to scruples or yielding to the flow.
The virtue, that’s resistance, has long been seen as vice.

For some are always eager.  They never see the harm—
And so despise the laggards, who ask the questions still.
We’re beaten down and broken, or bribed to walk those roads
To then become the captors, who bend the captives’ wills.

Our labor, it is precious; the time we have is short.
And yet that time’s expended, and labor’s turned to naught.
We see the great destruction; we see the precious die.
We’re not allowed to question.  These things, they just deny.
So why appeal to reason, to sight of mind and heart?
What use is it to argue with those who will not see?
We drape our tattered ethics around ourselves and say,
“Although you strip us naked, we still will not obey.”
We always have our choices—and even unto death
We either stifle conscience or listen to its voice.
But when we’re in the furnace, it hardly matters then.
Our souls have been forfeited.  Within the hell, we’ll burn.
What point in now regretting the roads we traveled on?
We knew that their direction would lead towards this day.
The flames around are roaring, the work we did is lost.
We strangely still are fighting, as ashes drift to dust.

2015 May 2nd, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York

Friday, May 1, 2015

The First of May

The First of May
The first of May.  The city streets at dusk.
A bench to sit on in the cobbled park.
The workweek ended—time to sit and breathe—
and yet a tension, still, that will not leave—
a strange foreboding in this worker’s heart.

A calm, a pause, between the day and night,
between the workweek and the weekend and
between the seasons. Yet—above—a storm.

The trees, with all their springtime twigs out-thrust
towards the storm-clouds swirling in the sky.
An eerie light on high—and in the streets
the traffic moves in strangely silent streams.

A chill that’s more like March than early May.
The muted voices of the passersby.
And as I sit, a question comes to mind.
Is this the time for me to exit right?
I mull upon this question for a while.
The answer comes—  
a student’s father’s dead.

It isn't time for me to leave—not yet.

I’ll grade my papers and, when Monday’s here,
I’ll go to work and speak to him a bit
and then decide if I should quit my job
and try to start on all I've left undone—
or linger still and do the other things
I still must do before I have to leave.

But then—I know such tidiness is rare.
We each must bear the mess that life can be,
with times like this to quietly reflect—
and then be grateful for that precious gift.


The sky has cleared.  There’s Jupiter above.
The south is darkened still with clouds.
The storm has come and gone—but left no rain,
as sometimes happens in a warmer zone.

It’s Friday evening.  Weekend—filled with work.
But that’s a blessing.  Opalescent sky—
the trees in silhouette.  The traffic lights,
whose silent signals are the city's pulse.

A bit of peace.  And yet, across the world
and even here—the madness and the wars.
The madness in the job is part of this.
Who knows what harsher horrors May and June
will bring?

Let morbid thoughts subside.  Of seasons, sing.
For life will pass and death will come in time.
Till then, we live and do what needs be done.
A bit of laughter and a bit of fun—
and that’s enough.

My student—fatherless
and far from where he came from—alien,
within a city where he walks alone,
will face yet more of sorrow and of grief.

The mortal lot.

A gesture or a look, a word or two—
a little notice—might give some relief.

It’s time to rise and tote my papers home.


The first of May.
A day for workers—yet a day for work.
2015 May 1st Fri 8:30 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

A Prayer-II

A Prayer-II
Let all the weight of history be shed, so we can live.
Let’s still recall that history, so all of us are free.
Let’s turn towards the spirit, away from all that’s vile,
Be freed from our compulsions, so each of us can see.

Let’s dwell within that being – that presence still, serene.
Let’s gather up our scattered parts, so each of us is whole.
Oh spirit that is everywhere and yet is nowhere seen,
We turn to you for sustenance of body and of soul.
2015 May 1, Fri
Brooklyn, New York