Poet Swadesh Sen passed away on March 6, 2014. Amitava Nag remembers him as one of those bridges between the fluidic ornamentation of the 70’s and the grounded post-modernist of the 90’s.
Swadesh Sen passed away as the melting summers prepare to latch upon the laziness of sultry nights – in Jamshedpur, probably.
Probably since I don’t know if he breathed his last in the city which grew up to be a synonym for many things – from the Tata-s to the revolutionary Bengali literary magazine Kaurab.
In those romantic 90’s, in College Street when we were hoodwinking our creative acumen in want of greater virtues, we always aligned with the ‘lesser known’, ‘uncompromising’, ‘honest’ artists. That is how a Bengali grows up even now, we didn’t have a Left or a Right – for us the Left is right, always with all the different connotations of the term.
In a land where self-prophecy and media hawkishness is the cult of the day, Sen chose to remain away from the centre, chose to be aloof and hence undisturbed and unperturbed. Whether he liked this stance or this was in a way forced on to him, I don’t know, I never met him in person but only through his simple, minimalist rendition of the nothingness of life through his verses.
He was one of those bridges between the fluidic ornamentation of the 70’s and the grounded post-modernist of the 90’s. His poems seemed private and animate, something you can probably feel with your senses. Some of his poems you will find on Swadesh Sen Kalimati.
Yet, no big publisher chose him to be their bandwagon. And for many city-dwellers like me, who continued to work in government organizations, in capitalist companies and foreign money-mongers – how apt he became an icon of what all which we are not.
Like a few others, his positioning as an un-favourable poet in terms of success fulfilled our misled dream of licking on to an ‘anti-establishment’ wound which we loved to sublimely keep alive for our own mortal benefits.
Being in Jamshedpur and staying away from the crowd also proved the capitalist mind in the Bengali head – where Kolkata is the only place to be – from corporate dungeons to literary humbugs. That’s how we ignored Satinath Bhaduri, that’s how we look away from Swadesh Sen.
I am not an academician, not even an avid reader and hence I could never be able to link William Carlos Williams to Swadesh Sen aptly like many had done since we started reading Sen in the 90’s. In those Presidency years it meant a lot to relate, and correlate and in the process miss the nuances of the commoner, who would be the king, metaphorically. Nor can I thump in conviction how unique was Sen in the poetry oeuvre, in Bengali language itself.
May be an unbiased researcher will try to fathom Sen’s place – irrespective of colonial hangovers in Kolkata or in exploiting the conundrum that he is good cause he was never famous.
For me, Sen remains a bit of a memory, sepia. And to those for whom freedom’s other name was Swadesh Sen, an ode:
The words can’t hear me
speak, moan, even
abuse others as they
flow over the waves
in sharp elegance ,
The tangential rays of
a lonely Sun stumble on the words,
like the broken plaits of a
There is no gravity
in your touch – apart
from the scar
you leave with your parting,
The wind swirls from the
follow the rising word –
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