Written By Krishna on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 | 8:24 AM

A poem originally in Bengali by Tarpada Ray, translated to English
and added on by Antara Dev Sen in Asian Age recently


*I was merely poor, very poor.
I had no food to eat
No clothes to hide my shame
No roof over my head.
You, the very soul of benevolence,
You came to me and said:
“No, ‘poor’ is an ugly word,
It robs people of human dignity,
No, you’re actually poverty-stricken.”

Stricken by relentless poverty,
My days of suffering,
My days of pain,
Ran on day after day,
I wasted away.
Suddenly, you appeared again, and said:
“Look, I’ve been thinking about it,
‘Poverty-stricken’ isn’t a good word either;
You’re impoverished.”

My days and nights in chronic impoverishment,
Panting in the furnace of summer,
Shivering in the chill of winter nights,
Soaking in the monsoon rain
I became more and more impoverished.
But you are tireless,
You came to me again, and said:
“Impoverishment makes no sense.
Why must you be impoverished?
You have always been deprived,
You’re deprived, historically deprived.”

There was no end to my deprivation,
To bed half-fed year after year,
To bed in the street, under the naked sky,
I had a skeletal existence.
But you did not forget me,
This time, your clenched fist raised high,
You called out:
“Awake, arise, ye dispossessed!”

By then, I had not the strength to rise,
Hunger had almost finished me,
My rib cage rose and fell like bellows,
I could not keep up with
Your enthusiasm and excitement.

**Long days have passed in the meantime,
You are now wiser,
And smarter.
This time, you have brought a blackboard with you,
On it, with great care, and with some chalk,
You have drawn a perfectly straight line;
This time you’ve had to work hard,
You wipe the sweat from your brow and tell me:
“See this line? Below it,
Way below it, is where you are.”

Thank you, thank you so much!
Thank you for my poorness,
Thank you for my poverty,
Thank you for my impoverishment,
Thank you for my deprivation,
Thank you for my dispossession,
And finally, thank you for that long and perfect line,
Thank you for this bright and shining gift.*
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