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Suman Chatterjee

Three songs about women and violence by Suman Chatterjee

translated By-
Sudipto Chatterjee
Dept. of Performance Studies
New York University


by Suman Chatterjee

[Anita Dewan was a social worker who was raped and brutally murdered by hoodlums in Bantala, a poor neighborhood in suburban Calcutta.]
I hear the cries time and again
Cries that my heart penetrate
Martyrs' pulpit inside my body
Martyrs' pulpit within my head.

Foul and filthy Bantala is but
Another Calcutta neighborhood
Three women are assaulted with
Three hundred men in pursuit.

Manhood now makes me shameful
Before myself I hang my head
The blood of the three women sits
In our conscience, still and dead.

Does Anita Dewan's carcass
Make Civility feel some shame?
I have put my shame in song
You can, for yourself, do the same.

I hear cries time and again
Cries that my heart penetrate
Martyrs' pulpit inside my body
Martyrs' pulpit within my head.

The real mark of barbarism lies
In this silence of heads without torso
Calcutta, meanwhile, dances dirty,
Celebrates three hundred years or so.

Your enjoyment puts me to shame
A shame that is too, too dogged
Martyrs' pulpit inside my body
Martyrs' pulpit within my head.

There's blood in your new apartments
In water faucets, at dusk and dawn,
It's the blood of raped women that flows,
Blood telling tales of the land goes on.

Look! it's blood upon the snack-bar,
On your mutton-roll! it's blood
It is, again, sprinkled blood that
My bowl of fish curry floods.

The same invisible blood has now
The flag of the same color wetted
The colored world of politics
Is stained in blood unabetted.

Anita Dewan's blood will not
Erase itself, it is so obstinate
Martyrs' pulpit inside my body
Martyrs' pulpit in my head.

Blood is on your raga Malkosh
Blood is in your music chambers
The harmonium's wet with blood
Blood rehearses melodic numbers.

Blood stains your culture and
Blood is in your juvenile memory
There's blood even in Tagore-songs
Rape becomes your identity.

Covering blood with painted design
Is that your civilized barbarity?
I am of the same order, too,
I am Calcutta; the mega-city.


by Suman Chatterjee

[Paapri De was a four year old girl who, after swallowing a pen-cap in play, first suffered from lack of treatment and then died when a certain Dr. Mal injected her with adult dose tranquilizers since it was very late at night.]
Little Paapri is too foolish
Ate something other than food
That's how in the little throat
The pain got stuck and stood.

Gulp it down little girl, gulp
The pain stopping your breath
Life in this land only means
Swallowing the pain of death.

Little Paapri is too foolish
A little dull, I have to say,
Else she'd know such things
Are happening everyday.

Little Paapri is too foolish
Hasn't learnt to swallow pain,
How dare you spend, little girl,
The country's time in vain!

Little Paapri is too foolish
The medical tools are gone
Out-of-order; so what?
Democracy lives on!

"Little Paapri is too foolish,"
Thinks Doctor Mal,
"Why be a doctor this late,
With no sleep at all?"

Sleep, little Paapri, go to sleep.
Why at all were you born ever?
I've made and sung my song,
Now with a sigh I'll slumber.


by Suman Chatterjee

Whack! the Sun slapped the Sky across the face
Scared Dawn, unwillingly, stays out of the race.
Understandably flushed is the Cloud's forehead
While Morning smiles like a girl newly wed.

Smile, my Morning, the newly wedded bride,
You'd remember if you really were a bride
In this country your father had to sell his land,
To make you a bride on another man's demand.

Your man took his dowries without a blush
Hard cash, jewelries and a shoe shining brush
Because the skin of your face is quite like a shoe
The scars on your face must be kept shining, too!

The scars on your heart you'd hide with a smile
(This country is, after all, a foreign land defiled)
Lying on the bed that was your father's gratuity,
With a smile you would rip apart your virginity.

In this land that swears upon the Mother goddess
Hair flowing, you'd rock your baby without recess.
Rock, you would yourself time and time again
Your father died with your dowry unattained.

But your kid's father wouldn't stand such a flaw;
An undowried groom is no less than a tiger's paw!
One day, graced with the same tiger-paw's blessing,
Hung by your neck, you'd dangle from the ceiling...

As a ghoul, you'd see your dangling corpse turn
And laugh as the night would fade into morn.
The Morn has blushed, actually, out of shame;
Has turned to the Sun for justice, all the same....

And having seen the plight of the human race
Whack! the Sun slapped the Sky across the face.

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