Walking the Streets

Jibanananda Das was possibly the greatest Bengali poet in the post-Tagore generation. Here is a poem that takes us to the deeper layers of human consciousness filled with inexplicable longing, memory and nostalgia.

Jibanananda Das

Walking the Streets

Many a time as if recalling forgotten beckoning I have 

walked alone the streets of this city: I have seen

trams and buses running on time:

then leaving the streets they depart peacefully 

for their world of sleep.

All night long the gaslight, understanding its duty, burns well.

No one makes a mistake–bricks houses signboards windows

doors roofs all 

feel the need to feel quietly asleep under the sky.

Walking alone in the streets I have felt their deep 

peace in my heart: 

then it was late at night–then many a star had quietly come 

to surround the tips of the monuments and minarets;

I wonder, have I ever seen anything! 

More simple, more plausible: a host of stars and

monuments-filled Calcutta? 

I lower my eyes–silently the cheroot burns–dust and straw

in the air:

I shut my eyes and move aside–many almond-brown

worn-out leaves

have flown away; in the same way, alone in Babylon I have 

walked into the night

for some reason; after thousands of crowded years

I still do not know why. 

Translated from Bengali by Tarun Gupta.

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