Leela Kanta Borthakur with the book Mur Saponor Bhogjara


Cecil Day Lewis once wrote “Poetry is not- except in a very limited sense-a form of self-expression. Who on earth supposes that the pearl expresses the oyster, “This is why Purbanchal Prakash which usually publishes serious books of literature did a wonderful job by finally coming up with a poetry volume in Assamese Dr. Leela Kanta Borthakur’s Mur Sapunor Bhogjara which reached me a few days ago only to hold me in a surprise because it was written not by a whole-time poet but an eminent academician who is an ever dynamic administrator as Principal in a college in Assam.

Reading poem after poem in this book written by the ever dignified person who is an aesthetic ride all through because it gives us a rainbow hue of life sometimes a deep plunge in the sea of sorrow some other time wading in the river of joy. The odyssey of sadness turns poetic when the poet being a man science stream observes life through the microscope of reason and intellect.

Not all the poems are magical chants reflecting the Shelleyan image of life as a bed of roses rather some are Zolaesque pictures of the reactions as if in a test tube of life. Orhan Pamuk once told ‘ When a good poet  is confronted  with difficult facts that  he knows to be true  but also are inimical  to poetry, he has no choice but to flee to the margins, it was … this very retreat that allowed him to hear the hidden music  that is the source of all art.”

This is exactly what we feel in the poems of this book. One such poem is on ‘Lockdown and College and Myself’where he writes “Through the wreckage of all my life /Silence led me on /And the threshold opens.” Words here will enchant the readers through the effect of imagery catching the locks of a troubled time. Dr. Leela Kanta in this poetic debut successfully carved out a niche for himself as an Assamese poet who has a lot to contribute to Assamese poetic literature. A man from the world of science sings here of the sunshine and blood.

In his second poem ‘Time Death etc’ he writes of ‘an eternal bond’ relating it to the chirping of a bird. One poem is on the legendary figure of Assamese literature Homen Borgohain where he beautifully explains how the great writer ‘opens the door of his heart to make and remake in the city of stars and moonlight.

The poet visualizes the spring in the trees and the cuckoos. A poet is an evergreen mind and the poet wants to elope with the young girl to the wavy sea to feel the dashing emotions only to discover the house of God. This mingling of religion and the aesthetic reminds us of the Pre-Rapahelite poets like Rossetti which very few Assamese poets have done in their romantic poetry. At times he is drenched in the incessant monsoon.

He waits for his treasure box to be reopened. so that all fragrance in it is unfettered.  Each poem has its own flavor. In the poem ‘Tumi Protik Pragatir’ he pays homage to the teachers in the ever symbolic images of a white river flowing beneath the azure sky.  He describes how the dreams evaporate.  But in the other poem, ‘Mor Aponar Ghar’he dreams of the country of Fidel Castro or the Walls of China.

He in a surrealistic manner imagines how his poem converses with the Taj Mahal or the straight nose of the ever-beautiful Cleopatra. Still, the poet does not cease to continue his search for the Immorality and he speaks in a sonorous silence: “Tomar bukut / Mor Unthor Amrita Sandhan’ and such lines abound in the poem giving a unique edge to the romantic tone in a mystical way.  Any person who is concerned with the welfare of the society around him cannot sleep peacefully This concern is majestically reflected in his poem when he writes “Aji kali more tuponi  bor kamkoi ahe, /jimane nixa hoi ahe / Phensar new new sabdabur  spsasto hoi ahe…’

Some eerie feeling creates the tone for the poem and here the supernatural does not merely haunt but rides it. In his musings, we hear the weeping of a mother who lost her child and the line comes as a refrain in the old English elegies ‘”Ai mor bhoi hoi” ( Mother I feel scared’.) The titular poem ‘Mor Sapunor Bhogjara’ depicts his star universe and the poet’s bold voice comes resonant: Kabitaro ston  ase/ Ache astoron’ and he feels the thrill so intensely. Poems like ‘Dag’ have realistic overtones so faithfully portrayed” Valley after valley I hoist the flag /To announce / There is no more storm or rains in my pictures’.

The evening is a woman in his poems like ‘Priyotama Sandhya’ “ Mor priyotoma  Sandhya/Tomar Mrityur pisote / Mahashantire moi jironi lou/ An ekhon ronor babe” This personalization of nature is another new aspect in Assamese poetry. The optimism of the poet is never lost in the chaotic time and the poem ‘Axha’gives us a picture of a flickering lamp. He also can dream of a rose.  But his identity as revealed in ‘Mur Porichoy’ never denies the conditions of death. Some poems give us the nostalgia of the poet’s personal life and in his trip down the memory lane he tries to anatomize the different stages of his failure though in a poem ‘Muloi thoi gol ji’ he discovers in his palm one golden star ‘ejak sonowali tora’.

The poet being the Head of the Institution sometimes does his professional duties by paying homage to the memory of a talented colleague like Dr. Himangshu Sharma as in the poem ‘Surujor Sushama’, where he imagines  the ‘incessant flow of the golden efflorescence of  the sun.”  The poet overcomes his despair when his heart catches conflagration ‘Endharor bauna hridayat lagil jui’. This kind of poem enables the readers to trace the romantic flashes in the mind of the poet who falls on the thorns of life to bleed.

He then takes an account of his life that he lived in the past and invites the readers to review the happenings “Mor ghat loi ahiba/ xakalo bujai kom/ gamosai sokulo tuke kenekoi’ This image of traditional gamosa gives the poem a poignancy that is poetically rare in a confessional poem like that of Emily Dickinson. His poetry is realistic but never goes overtly political as Allen Ginsberg once wrote; his poetry is “not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think; making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.

Although a poetic debut, this book will capture the imagination of the readers more by the suggestion than by the direct statement. Half revealed and half concealed ideas to give any poem its deeper connotation and after reading the poems of Dr. Leela Kanta Borthakur one may feel this in abundance. The printing is error-free and distinct because of the high standard publishing properties coupled with the artistic cover design of the book by Manojit Rajkhowa. Assamese literature needs such poems more and more in the days to come.

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

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