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Poem: Home

By Somrita Ganguly

I was born in Khulna
Growing up, we were told that we were a part of ভারতবর্ষ

In 1947, our history books were edited
हिंदुस्तान remained where it was, Khulna became a part of East Bengal

Someone had decided on our behalf
That we did not belong

The new English name, however, could not contain any of our old pains, for
The পূর্ব in পূর্ব বাংলা not only referred to the spatial east, binary of the geographic west

But also, to the temporal, for which there was no compass on the English map
পূর্ব in বাংলা stands for both: the east and the past

Khulna in 1947, therefore, went to পূর্ব বাংলা
East Bengal/ Past Bengal

1955 reedited Khulna’s identity, yet again
مشرقی پاکستان

Eastern provincial wing of Pakistan
Is what the revised pages of our history books read

By 72 (year on the calendar/ age on my identity card)
I had to relearn what I knew about my motherland

Khulna became the third largest city of Bangladesh
They say, we found freedom at last

I relocated
I sit today in a rented house in central Calcutta

A Hindu from Bangladesh/ East Pakistan/ East Bengal/ India
In a Muslim locality of the capital city of West Bengal, India

I hear my daughters in the next room
Talking to their cousins in fluent English and fluent Bangla

I hear my granddaughters playing on the terrace
Laughing in fluent English and broken Bangla

I hear the historians discuss history
I hear the linguists discuss etymology

I hear politicians talk about patriotism and nationalism
And wonder where my allegiance lies

বাংলাদেশ/مشرقی پاکستان/ हिंदुस्तान
Bharat/ India/ Hindustan

All my life I fought for what I thought would bring independence to my homeland
With Netaji, with Masterda, with my wife, by my side, as my comrades

From the Dum Dum Jail to Andamans
I have spent nights under barbedwire skies, fighting for my own

What is my nationality?
Will I be a foreigner in my home?

(In memory of my Dadu, Sri Shanti Sharan Roy Chowdhury, a freedom fighter and a visionary. In memory of my Dida, Smt. Anjali Roy Chowdhury, a freedom fighter and an educator. In memory of the million people – and more – who died, and the fifteen million people – and more – who were displaced by the Partition of India.)

Somrita Ganguly is a professor, researcher, and translator, soon to complete her PhD from the Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She teaches British Literature to undergraduate students, and translates from Bengali and Hindi to English. She was selected by the Writers’ Centre Norwich as an emerging translator in 2016. She has been invited as translator-in-residence at Cove Park, Scotland, in October 2017, and in December 2017 she was invited as poet-in-residence at Arcs of a Circle, Mumbai, an artistes’ residency organized by the US Consulate in Bombay, Akshara Centre and Rochelle Potkar. Somrita’s work has been showcased at the 2017 London Book Fair and she has been published in Asymptote, Words Without Borders, In Other Words, and Muse India, among others. She has been selected as a Fulbright Doctoral Research Fellow to complete the last stage of her PhD at Brown University (Rhode Island, USA) in 2018-2019. Somrita is currently translating a novel on the Russian Revolution, and a re-telling of the Mahabharata, to be published later this year.


For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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