Jibanananda Das: The Mysterious Loneliest Poet

Jainab Tabassum Banu Sonali

18 February, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Jibanananda Das: The Mysterious Loneliest Poet

The Indian confessional poet Kamala Das has said, in one of her interviews, that a poet needs isolation. A poetic persona needs to create a room of their own where the split-self can enjoy its full freedom of thought and expression. This poetic world is mysterious and often lonely where the poet only dwells in the cave of words and ideas. In this immaterial rhapsodic world, a poet relishes the exploding shot of new perception which adds dimensions to his poetic sensibility. Jibanananda Das, the most prominent poet in the Post-Tagore era, is called the “Loneliest Poet” for creating a mysterious world in which he captures outstanding images by incorporating unparallel and unusual similes, metaphors and allusions to showcase multifaceted extraordinary features of extremely ordinary things. In this way, the earthy matters become unearthly, the real becomes surreal and the imagination becomes the ultimate mysterious reality.

Rabindranath Tagore appraised Das’s poems by calling them “Chitrorupomoy” due to his marvellous way of depicting nature and natural elements. One of the poets of the Panchapandav called him “Nirjonotomo Kobi”. Even Das himself writes, “Someone has termed my poetry or the poet of this poetry as lonely or the loneliest; some have said the poems relate predominantly to Nature and resurrect historical and social conscience. Someone has judged the pieces as solely symbolic, completely subconscious and surrealistic. I have also noticed some other explanations of my poems. Almost all the comments are partially true.” Therefore, he is a self-proclaimed surrealistic, mysterious and lonely poet in the contemporary world of Bangla literature.

In fact, if we look at his biography, we will excavate mysteries and puzzles which wrapped his life like a dense shadow in the darkness. Jibanananda Das was born on 17 February in 1899 in Barishal to a literary Vaidya-Brahmo family. His father, Satyananda Das, was an essayist, school teacher and magazine publisher. His mother, Kusumkumari Das, was a notable poetess who wrote the famous verse “Adorsho Chhele” (Remember, amader deshe hobe sei chhele kobe/ kothay na boro hoye kaje boro hobe). Das was the eldest son of his parents. He was nicknamed “Milu”.

Das actually belonged to the family titled Dasgupta. However, he was a supporter of the reformist Brahmo Somaj movement. On this note, he himself erased the suffix –gupta from his name and from then on was known as Jibanananda Das. His attempt at getting rid of the convention, even from his name, made him lonely, yet unique. He suffered from many diseases that prevented him from maintaining a normal pace in life. Nevertheless, he never stopped acquiring knowledge and formal education.

He received education in Kolkata where he spent significant periods of his lifetime. In a way, he carried Barishal in his heart and Kolkata in his brain for both the places cultivated sensible and sensitive roots of poetry in him. Since he studied his Honours and Masters in English literature at the Presidency College of Kolkata, he was exposed to European ideas and literature. When he was emerging as a poet, he read on and was highly influenced by Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Unconsciously, he comprised surrealism in many of his poems.

Jibanananda Das had many career opportunities. However, for a mysterious reason or two, he suffered from a financial crisis all his life. He was married to Labanyaprabha Das who he had a very chaotic and problematic conjugal life with. He roamed mysteriously around the city of Kolkata for many years looking at the vast empty sky and listening to the chirping sound of the city birds. Then he returned to Barishal after experiencing professional disappointment and poverty. There he perceived nature in a new way and composed an uncountable number of poetic and literary pieces. Deep inside his mind, he always wanted to come back to his Rupashi Bangla as he writes in his poem, “Abar Asibo Phire”.

He published his first book of poetry, Jhara Palak (1927), at the age of 28. However, he wrote a plethora of poems that remained behind the cloud as long as he lived. Most of the poems got published posthumously. Many of the poems got lost as he used to write and pile them inside his trunk. Unfortunately, his trunk got stolen and with this accident, the world lost a huge number of astounding poetic pieces of the lonely poet.

Jibanananda Das is called the “poet of nature”. He is unique and different from almost all other modern poets in Bengal. His association with nature is reflected through his poems which mark ordinary and common images and present them extraordinarily. In this way, his works become sensuous and mysterious.

Das’s poems possess historical and social consciousness by making a timeless spiritual journey. His hyperbolic expression of walking “thousand miles” or “taking birth as a grass from the womb of a mother grass” exhibits his out-of-the-track perceptions. He was the “purest” and the “truest” poet who never traded his poems but wrote just for the sake of writing. One of his incredibly sensational creations is Banalata Sen—both the poem and the character. This poem has ignited the sensuous imagination of an unknown lady and the unexplored world in readers’ minds. The urge of finding and getting closer to Banalata Sen is irresistible. Das could tickle this suppressed desire of his readers by his magical words.

Jibanananda Das had his own isolated and mysterious world. He had a tendency to walk unmindfully as his mind used to remain busy in seeing things beyond the surface. One day, he went out for a walk and never returned. To quote him, “all the birds come home, all the rivers”. But he never came back as he was crushed by a tram. The city tramline stopped the trail of his life. The lonely poet could not hear the bells of the tram. He was lost in his mysterious world as he had “not a dream, but a sensation at work” within his head. He always dealt with the theme of death and the unconscious. Therefore, it can be said that his unconscious took him to the lap of his inevitable death. He died on 22 October after an eight-day fight against death.

On the 123rd birth anniversary of the great poet, let us celebrate his works by reading, analysing and translating them more! Happy Birthday dear poet. “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see”, you will be remembered and celebrated in eternity.