Dr Ratan Bhattacharjee

Poets and writers usually select a location for their creative activities. Sometimes it is real sometimes it is imaginary or semi imaginary. R.K Narayan selected Malgudi, Hardy wrote on Wessex; Ruskin Bond selected Dehradun, Faulkner Yaknapatwapha and Mark Twain Mississippi.

In her first book of poems ‘Ghagarar Sipare Mur Ghar’ Debina Pamehgam Pegu made Ghagar the unknown river of Assam her poetic locale and weaves her imaginary pictures with her magnetic ink. It is a river in the Lakhimpur district mingling with Bogi River. Rains and river have a special place in her heart and her imagination knew no reins when she starts writing. In fact, it gives her a picture of mini Assam where rain has a deep connection with river in the daily life of the people. The riparian sensibility is best expressed in her poems in the book.

In Assam where monsoon is celebrated by all poets in a romantic way, she felt it to be a season of sorrow. In one of her poems, she depicts how the heritage buildings and temples were dilapidated in the excessive rains that caused floods and came to conclude that the Rainy season is for her ‘An elegy of hard times’.

The poet is shocked by other sad happenings of real-life and one of them is communal disharmony when houses are burnt, the darkness is visible at the noon.  Debina is basically a tragic poet who imagines pain in love. In one poem ‘Hridayar Rekha (Lines of Heart)’ she imagines a moonlit night where one beloved is waiting for the arrival of her lover.

The graphic description of nature and the mind of the beloved can mesmerize any reader and the poem ends in despair as the lover did not come finally. Waiting is love and here this waiting is futile because of the social barriers. Caste and creed in Assam sometimes override the heart’s desire. This poem is a poetic protest against social restrictions imposed by the so-called guardians of society.

The line ‘Najano Kio Nahila Tumi’ (Don’t know why you did not come’ has an elegiac resonance in the poem emphasizing the separation, longing and loneliness of a woman’s heart who is deeply engaged in the love of a young man of other caste. The colourful picture of love on the map of her heart is effaced by the social strictures.

She in poem after poem muses on the afflictions caused by floods during the rainy season in Assam.  But all these thoughts could not extinguish the romantic light that burns in her incandescent soul where she is out and out a Romantic. She sings about the romantic beauty of Nature in Assam – the floral ecstasy. In many poems, she exhibits her love for evergreen idyllic charms when she looks at the forest and the hills, rivers and trees which make her poetic.

In her poems, she wants to convey the message about the good pastime effect of poetry which can make the mind refreshed and refurbished. Basically, a poet of nature, she relates her poem to contemporary social issues and that is natural for a teacher of political science. 

It is quite interesting to know that her deep romantic writings were inspired by real events and experiences that she gained in her daily life. She explores the trauma and sorrows of the people around her while dwelling on nature. She is a continuous writer and her forthcoming books include one novel where she is basically focusing on the struggles of a female in her daily life. Almost autobiographical writings too become impersonalized by her skillful handling of the situations.

She creates a poetic illusion and readers are unable to certainly conclude whether the ‘I ‘in her poem is exactly the poet herself or not. It is her deep involvement and experience of life that made her express them with a lively vitality. Her observation is wonderful. In a poem on Father, ‘Deuta’ she reveals her own self as a daughter. In the poem ‘Kanyasantan( Girl Child)’ the heart-rending line ‘ Let me live ( mok jiyay thakibo diya) shows her bleeding heart.

In this poem, she focuses on the very common social curse where parents go for sex determination of the child in the womb of a pregnant mother. It shows how society is still living in the middle age in spite of all the so-called urban development. Inside our minds, we have not yet been able to clear our prejudices about a girl child.  In her poem on ‘Ma’ or ‘Air Gharkon (Mother’s House’), she rightly feels that the debt to her mother can never be repaid.

In her poem on Father, she imagines a person who dreams of a new society free of all inequalities and hatred. Basically, Debina is a romantic dreamer and her sensitive heart bleeds on the thorns of life. She makes love an important theme in a few poems in this book where she depicts the diverse moods of a lover and beloved from the viewpoint of the girl.

Love consists more in the waiting and languishment than in the fulfillment as all romantics know it. In her poem ‘Chokur Polokote’(In the Blink of Eye”)  her love involves the moon, the Sun and the river’ and this picture of cosmic love with idyllic touches stay in her mind, where human beings become insignificant.

In a poem like ‘Tumi Ahisila (You Came’) she is fully a free-minded bird that wants to flee to the open sky leaving all the social restrictions. She wants to see herself as a dancing angel in glee. This dreamer of the moonlight and river seems to be more visible in her poems of sorrows and real-life unfulfilled desires.

Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee is a poet and columnist. He may be reached at profratanbhattacharjee@gmail.com