Biman Saha’s collection of poems, Alone on the Aisle, vividly captures the heart of Bengali life and culture, where the Bengal terrain represents the canvas upon which he paints man’s drama, his despairs and his hopes. The landscapes so beautifully created here express a reverence for the homeland, a longing for times past. And yet, while Mr. Saha’s poems radiate a rich nostalgia, they are by no means naïve to the striking contrasts and realities of life.
Mr. Saha’s work inhabits an environment where hope and sadness intermingle with memory and nostalgia, as is delicately conveyed in the poem Embers, where the mother river weeps for the parched earth around her, ‘despairing for the unborn seed’ which rises like a phoenix from the charred ground, transformed from smoldering embers to verdant, fertile provider of life. Or in the poem In Search of Ambrosia, which like the Roman god Janus, embraces both the past and the future, the weight of history and the lure of that magical fruit of the gods—the desire for the unknown ideal.
Mr. Saha’s use of language is imbued with the creative forces that enable us to experience the simultaneity of life and guides us with sensitivity from the burdens of the past to the hope of the future. He not only pays tribute to the intoxicating lure of a simpler time under the mystical cloak of Nature’s life forces beneath the depths of the star-filled sky and its fragility—men returning to the hearth so protective of the ‘life force of Nature’ harbored there—but also celebrates how Bengali culture—her lyrical, musical traditions and her great gurus—spring forth from her diverse, yet collective history.
In this first bilingual edition, non-Bengali readers are now able to experience Biman Saha’s inspired use of the Bengali language and lyricism in English. This adept and articulate translation offers us the opportunity to inhabit the emotional and intellectual landscapes Mr. Saha has created through his poetry, and in turn gain a closer glimpse into the Bengali culture and psyche.