One of Assam’s greatest poets, Hiren Bhattacharya gave a wide range of reasons to cherish his works
It was not an easy task for an undergraduate student to speak on the poetic sojourn of Hiren Bhattacharjya while felicitating him in the Delhi University Arts Faculty Seminar Room some years ago. Barely had I finished my task of giving a commentary and waited for a response from the luminaries of Assamese literature like the Jnanpith awardee Mamoni Roysom Goswami, Nirmal Prava Bordoloi and others sitting in the front row, the poet whispered in my ears with his trademark humour, “I understand my poetry better now”!
Since then, out of shame, I never talked about “understanding poetry” to Hiru da — the name by which the famous Assamese poet was popularly known as. We only discussed about his latest poems, the sweetness of words and of course, his favourite game, cricket.
For Hiruda, poetry must connect to life. His straight and direct communication with poetry lovers by selecting simple and day-to-day words in a lucid style made him one of the few popular poets who could really steal the hearts of readers across age groups. That is why in his poems, the images, the metaphors, all come with utter spontaneity to depict the magic of life.
Hiruda demolished the impregnable wall of the so-called ‘un-intelligibility’ and verbose hollowness of some modes of modern poetic expressions for the average Assamese readers and made poetry reading a real pleasure for all. He wove the natural rhythm of rural life into the verbal textures of his poetry for which the readers would love to recite his poems in both formal and informal gatherings. His popularity as everybody’s poet is immense because he was a master craftsman in creating heart touching lyrical rhythms in his poems. He once wrote,
“Like a farmer
I roll words on my tongue
To see how each one tastes
I take them in my palm
To see how much warmth they have “!
His words had the tremendous quality to remain in readers’ memory for a long time. The nuances of life and living that the sensitive poet had come across in the domains of pain, love and everlasting hope had a beautiful representation in the exquisite quality of his very short poems.
His love for nature came naturally to his poetry. The seasons, the paddy fields, the flight of birds — all had appropriate spaces in the landscapes of Hiruda’s poetry. Most of the time, he did not allow these metaphors to remain as ineffective and passive props in the background alone but made them the main ripples in the flowing river of poems themselves. He wrote,
“As autumn whispers
Every poem has its season”.
The poetic narration of his love for rains, clouds, the fragrance of butterfly and the land he lived had presented an extraordinary and colourful imaginative universe to the readers. That’s the secret of his unforgettable lyrical expressions, like
“When it is about my land
I need no command”
“After all, death is also an art
A unique sculpture crafted out of life’s hardened rock.”
Mysteries of death had a special meaning for him, he even wrote his last stanza of poetry as
“I want to die
Right now, if possible.”
Born in 1932 in the State’s Jorhat town, Hiruda was a recipient of several accolades, including Sahitya Akademi and Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad awards. He was also a recipient of the Assam Valley Literary Award in 2000. His collections of nursery rhymes, “Lora Dhemali” and “Akou Dhemali” were highly popular. The unquestionably significant poetic voice of the contemporary Assamese literature has gone but his poetic sensibilities, techniques and fragrance of the countryside reflected in his lyrical imaginations are still reverberating in the minds of the poetry lovers.
(A graduate of Delhi School of Economics, the author is a well-known Assamese short story writer besides being the Additional Director General of Police of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre.)