Actually, every pronunciation has an objective. Some kind of outlandish and beautiful objective. As and when the speaker makes an utterance, every word brings forth a definite meaning to her, since her enunciation of the language has the immediacy and directness of her experience and consciousness. The listeners do not have the onus to maintain any such connection. So, in its finer form, it is impossible to have a real congruence between what the speaker intends and what the listener considers. We speak in a manner of our own and understand in our own sweet way too—but the two may not tally. Hence, before realizing the purport of ‘love’ it is merely a garbled sonic bundle; but after our comprehension it blossoms, rainbow-hued. God knows, every utterance has a strange and beautiful objective.
And such is the situation when a woman says to her male companion: “I woke up to this nightmare: that when I wake up I won’t see you again ever. You have gone to your wife.” Some of us may align ourselves with this statement. Others are dumbfounded; they take a lot of time to take it in. Once in a Moscow-bound night train compartment, Mayakovsky assured a young woman travelling alone in the same coach: “I am not a human being but a fleeting cloud in trousers.” But as soon as he uttered these words, he was worried sick about whether the woman would somewhere end up using this deeply potent sonic pattern which was embedded at that point in his mind. We may not easily gather why Mayakovsky was agonizing. But those who know that often writers delve down, down, down and suck out our deepest thoughts, unbeknownst to us, and make them their own will, recognize the source of his fret.
To speak ahista does not just imply speaking low. The expression may also implore us not to go too fast in our speech delivery. Both meanings are inbuilt in the root, from Farsi ahista. It beckons humility and politeness. The seemingly equivalent word dhire does not have the same connotation: here, the etymology derives from dhi— a gesture to our self-controlling and rational faculties.
After coming across in the day’s newspaper that chewing tobacco is surely carcinogenic, this fierce health freak of a boyfriend curtly advises his partner: ‘Discontinue’. What must be discontinued: tobacco or the newspaper? Can’t be both.
The relationship has to work both ways and mutually, the lady wrote to the writer, especially if one is in a relationship of love. The writer concludes that the lady wishes to make the relationship work both ways, for that is what equitability demands. That is what is fair. It is only months later that he realizes that what she meant was that the relationship was not working mutually and no relationship holds firm if not worked at from both ends.
If I can clearly comprehend in someone’s receiving an award or a felicitation that he is an accomplished artist or a scholar, then there is nothing foggier in this world than the very word award.
Words are sometimes the signs of the subject matter of thought, sometimes they are the signs of that very thought process. It so happens that we are lost for words. There is a constant tug of war going on between the intensity of our emotions, intangible sense of beauty, this utterly colourful world and our existential predicament. I want to tell you this every single time when I tear off the lines that I write to you. ‘When you were not there:’ the note seems just right. Not so with, ‘when you are here.’ We are stunned by these unexpected turns in our mind.
And then there are some in this world who are able to express colour and feelings—and create powerful patterns with words which would be impossible with silence. When our cosmos seemed to be engulfed by infinite full-stops and caesura or with relentless tautologies and there was no hope all around, right at that point poet Shankha Ghosh pronounced—‘It may be illusory , but keep hope that something positive will turn up in favour of life; the world cannot sink and slip in this manner.’ And the world changed after such an utterance. Some in this world know the art of fusing the minimum-symbolic hidden in signs and the fleeting, momentary ripples in our existence.
‘I may not turn up’ means I may turn up. ‘Only the heart knows what it seeks’ means that the heart hardly knows what it aspires to. This is not unlike Prince William’s famous statement: ‘After spending a night in the alleyways of London have I realized how people spend nights in this city.’ This means that he is at a complete loss to figure out how people live on the streets of London.
‘The songs of Tagore find a structure in the notations (swara-lipi)’: some revere the truth content in this statement and thereafter seek Tagore in the totality of form with extraordinary love, care and caution. Make it a mission of life. While others value the same statement but add that since the notations direct us to the structure and not to the songs themselves, one must work towards chiselling the notes with our imagination, experience and individual renderings.
Mirpur: At the Bijoya Sarani Crossing , for the first time in my life someone handed me a bouquet of flowers and asked for money.
‘Afridi, please marry me!’ Does she, the one in that Dhaka stadium with this placard, know what kind of person Afridi is? Will he take her to Pakistan after the marriage? What kind of husband will he turn out to be? But is marrying Afridi the point here? ‘There is no limit to our desires/Our excitement drive us like lunatics/ No happiness greater than illicit love/No diversion more enchanting than belittling the other man,’ says Jibananada Das.
If acting betrays performance, it degrades the quality of its artistic success. But poetry has to resemble poetry; songs have to be like songs.
Abhi Choudhury is a linguist and a poet.