Sushant: A Bengali's Poetic Journey with Urdu

S. R. Mallik
Sushant Chattopadhyaya

Sushant Chattopadhyaya

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Life is a constant exploration to seek oneself in the frames of time. Art though an outward display is more a journey within. The layers of expression in art brings out new dimensions which the artist traverse. The journey is just not undertaken by the artist but also by the onlooker. Poetry is one of such art forms where time, dreams, reality all converge to create droplets of emotions which keeps the soul moist in times when it is most needed.

In poetry, expressions are born when a deep sense of incompleteness dominates the poet. Ideally, the expression finds shelter in the mother tongue of the poet but often the expression takes refuge in the language of the land. Sushant Chattopadhyaya (penname Safeer), born 3rd Oct 1987, a poet and writer from Allahabad, North India is one such contemporary young promising individual.

Sushant, a Bengali who is deeply rooted in his own culture finds expression in Urdu and Hindi. He belongs to a family of academics and prominent figures who immensely contributed to language, art and science. His grandfather, Pt. Kshetresachandra Chattopadhyaya was a scholar of Sanskrit who migrated from Bengal (a native of Amta village near Kolkata) to United Province of Agra and Oudh (present day part of Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand state) of undivided India in 1915. Pt. Chattopadhyaya a prominent figure in the vedic studies in Sanskrit, linguistics and Indo–Iranian culture spent early years teaching in the Carmichael College, Rangpur, Bangladesh. He just not taught Sanskrit but multiple disciplines which includes Bangla, History and Philosophy.

Pt. Chattopadhyaya was closely linked with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Several of their letters exchanged were published in the centenary year of i.e. 1996. The letters reflect great deal about the young minds of Netaji and Pt. Chattopadhyaya who’s chain of thoughts revolved around the cultural and political independence of the mother land. Pt. Chattopadhyaya was also a recipient of President’s Award of India in 1966.

Sushant’s father Professor Mahesh Chandra Chattopadhyaya, is a retired Professor of Chemistry, Allahabad University with a keen interest in music, modern history and culture.

The poet inherited the love for art and culture. Though an engineering graduate and have worked in the corporate in the city of Noida-Delhi for quite few years, he found himself in the crossroads of life where he picked his love for poetry over his profession. He moved back to his hometown and started his romance with the language of the land which is very dear to his heart. The language of the province has a mix of Urdu and Hindi which reflects in his writings.

Though a young Urdu poet, the script of expression he chose was Devanagiri, which we mostly associate with Sanskrit and Hindi language. Short stories, articles and reviews both in Hindi and English encompasses the various outlet of his expressions. A musically inclined individual, Sushant has published a series of articles about legends of Hindustani Classical Music, where he explored the works of eminent exponents of classical music, such as – Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan, Ustad Ahmad Jaan Thriakwa, Pt. Pannalal Ghosh etc.

Ghazal, Rubai, Qata and Nazm are some of the forms where the poet finds his voice. He deeply believes in a channel where tradition and contemporary forms should mingle to create a wider form of expression. He admires classical poets like Ghalib, Mir, Zauq, Momin to modern/progressive poets like Firaq, Faiz, Nasir Kazmi etc. But, a Bengali cannot remain untouched by his own culture and he finds expressions of Rajnikant, Tagore and Kazi Nazrul a great source of his inspiration.

To commemorate the birth anniversary of one of his favourite poet Firaq Gorakhpuri, he dedicated a sher :

Tanha raat ka musafir, bazm-e-sukhan ka sitara
‘Firaq’ ki kalam ka jadoo, haseen jashn-e-bahara

(The traveler of the lonely nights, the star of poetry
The magic of Firaq’s pen is like a beautiful celebration of spring)

His poetry speaks for the downtrodden, weak and the poor and questions the authority at the same time:

Koi falsafe, koi din ki baat na karo
Haqeeqat hain lachar, khwab ki baat na karo
Muflisi kay jhule mein jhulta bachpan
Dekh idhar o hakim, udhar ki baat na karo

(Do not talk about philosophy or religion
The reality finds itself helpless, do not talk about dreams.
The childhood is rocked in the cradle of poverty.
See this way O ruler, do not talk about anything else)

Deeply influenced by poets like Wordsworth, Keats, Frost, Tennyson and his poetry is filled with nature and romance:

Zameen-e-khwab zerkhez-o-sabz, dilon mein bag-o-titiliyan
Mere ye harf hain abr-o-baad, teri nazar mein bijliyan
(The land of my dreams is fertile and green, garden and butterflies in my heart
My words are like clouds and winds, your eyes hold lightning sparks)

Humanism is core to poet’s philosophy of life. He writes:

Farishta nahi, insaan hi bano
Aftaab na sahi, charag hi bano
Dahar mein pyaasi rooh kum nahi
Kisi kin azar ka khwab hi bano

(Do not strive to be an angel, be a human
If not the sun, be a lamp.
There are so many thirsty suffering souls in the world
If not anything, be a dream in someone’s eyes)

Along with traditional symbols and metaphors, he does not hesitate to use modern ones. One such is reflected in the following sher depicting separation and restlessness in love:

In rail ki patriyon si hain yahan zindagi
Milte bhi nahi, judaa reh pate bhi nahi

(Our lives are like these railway tracks
Neither they meet, nor they can stay afar)

Nature as mentioned earlier, comes as a recurring metaphor or subject in his writings:

Main behta hun sagar ki tarha, tum tehri ho sahil ki tarha
Jazbaat muntaqil hone de, ye pal ho jaye ami ki tarha

(I flow like the sea, you stand still like the shore
Let the emotions be transferred and the moment lasts forever)

S. R. Mallik is a cultural activist, based in Kolkata, India.