A Twining of Tongues
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Book: Mujhe Dena Aur Prem
Author: Taslima Nasrin
Translator: Prayag Shukla (Tr)
Publisher: Vani Prakash
Price: Rs. 200
Returning to India after four years, a grandiose Taslima Nasrin declares, "Love is my country". From an author exiled from Bangladesh and then forced to leave India by a jittery government, this sounds slightly accusing. And now Nasrin, a pillar of injured femininity, offers us a collection of her poems translated into Hindi, titled, Mujhe dena hai aur prem. She is aggrieved, but she still loves you.
Most of the poems in the collection are written as an aggrieved address to someone or to a forsaken homeland. In poems like 'Abhishaap', 'Sunte ho' and 'Jaana', she is in the grip of a tempestuous passion for a no-good man. In others, she addresses women who have been oppressed. Many of these, directly or indirectly, address a woefully callous reader. Women from all ages and places are bound by a common plight, her poems suggest. 'Noor Jahan', in which the blows rained down on the persecuted queen are felt by the poet herself, is powerful, gathering urgency through repetitions. But what does the woman who walks up to her at a event in Switzerland want to "weep" about? In 'Switzerland ki ladki', the two strangers look at each other with the grief of — being women, presumably.
Others are poems of exile, where she rues a native country that has forgotten her and even Kolkata, her adopted home, which eventually rejected her. 'Bhoomadhya saagar ka seagull' and 'Is ghar se us ghar mein' evoke the sap and green of rural Bengal and Bangladesh. Nasrin has often been compared to the Bengali poet Jibanananda Das for her depictions of the landscape. But Das's poems linger in the shadows and contours of the countryside, Nasrin's poems rarely venture beyond the Brahmaputra. The collection takes Hindi readers beyond the political Nasrin, perhaps for the first time. Her controversial memoirs and Lajja, the novel that led to her exile from Bangladesh, have been translated into Hindi before, but not her poems. As translator Prayag Shukla observes, there is a large market for Nasrin's work among Hindi readers. In India, she has been known mostly as a figure of political dissent; this collection lends depth to her image as a writer, introducing another side of her to a new group of readers. It is perhaps the translation that is the triumph of this collection, marking an important exchange between two regional languages.