Jibanananda Das and his Banalata Sen
Through darkness I saw her. Said she, “Where have you been so long?”
And raised her bird’s nest-like eyes — Banalata Sen from Natore.
(Banalata Sen by Jibanananda Das)
One of the greatest examples of metaphor in Bangla literature considered by many specialists is given above. Here, the poet compares his lover’s eye with bird’s nest that means he gets shelter in the eyes of his beloved which a bird gets from its nest. So readers can feel the deepest love of the poet to his beloved through these two lines.
The creator of this mind blowing metaphor is Jibanananda Das, a very powerful and prolific poet of Bangla/Bengali literature, who added a great dimension to theBangla/Bengali poems through his many unique poems that give the testimony of his poetic talent. He was born in Barisal, a divisional town of present day Bangladesh on 17th February 1899. He got his Secondary school certificate from Barisal Brajamohan School in 1915 and higher secondary certificate from Brajamohan (BM) College. After that, he completed his BA with Honors in English in 1919 from Brajamohan college and MA in1921 from Calcutta Presidency College.
From the early stage of his career, he took the teaching profession. At first he was the teacher of Calcutta City College (1922-1928). After that he joined at Bagerhat Prafulla Chandra College and then in 1929-30 he taught Ramjash college in Delhi. He was a teacher in Barisal BM College for a long time from 1935 to 1947 and during this period (especially from 1934 to 1939) he wrote most of his masterpieces. After the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, he went to Calcutta and there he taught in Hawrah Girls’ College as a lecturer. He got struck by a tram that resulted in his untimely death in 1954.
From his early age, he used to write poems that were published in many magazines. He was influenced by Rabindranath Tagore, Nazrul Islam, and also some other poets. In his writing nature and love came into focus and he had a profound power of explaining the most critical and complex topics in a very simple way. The World War II from 1939 to 1945 put a great impact on his mind and poems. His collection of about forty poems composed in a volume in 1948 called “Satti Tarar Timir” (Darkness of Seven Stars) during the second world war and in these poems we can see reflections of the devastation of war a poet’s mind. His famous volumes of poems are Jhora Palok (Fallen Feathers, 1927), Dhushor Pandulipi (Grey Manuscript, 1936), Bonolota Sen (1942), Mohaprithibi (Great Universe, 1944), Shaat-ti Tarar Timir (1948), Ruposhi Bangla (Beautiful Bengal,written in 1934 and published posthumously in 1957), Bela Obela Kalbela (Times, Bad Times, End Times, 1961), Aloprithibi (The World of Light, 1984). He also wrote some short stories and novels but these were published after his death. The sad reality is that when he was alive, he did not get any fame that he so much deserved. His short stories were in a volume called Joibanananda Daser Galpo (stories of Jibanananda Das, published in 1972). His novels were published in some volumes like Malyaban (Adorned with a Garland 1972), Sutirtha (The Good Pilgrimage, 1977), Jalpaihati, Jibanpranali, Basmatir Upakhyan etc. Jibanananda Samagra (The complete works of Jibanananda) was published in1985-96 in 12 volumes.
In the poem Banalata Sen, one of his most famous poems, writer shows his heavenly love to Banalata Sen from Natore (a district of Bangladesh) in numerous ways. Banalata Sen is the central character of this poem. The poet says that he has traveled a lot in his life from the Malayan sea to Ceylon Sea, grey world of Ashokaand Bimbisara to the city of Vidarbha. But having traveled this long way, he could just get some moments to live in peace to Banlata Sen. Writer compares his situation to a sailor who lost his way to his destination having broken his rudder. In that situation the sailor sees a green-grass cinnamon island with his joyful eyes as the writer sees Banalata Sen through darkness. Then he compares her eyes with the bird’s nest and here lies the writer’s poetic talent that is considered as a unique job in the Bangla/Bengali literature. Writer says in the last stanza that after the end ofall day, the darkness of evening comes; every color of this world is gone, birds come to their home and rivers are finished and everything of this world comes to an end but Banalata Sen is still there to sit with his loving partner even in the darkness.
‘Banalata Sen’ is perhaps among the top ten most popular poems in Bangla/Bengali literature. To me, it is the best love poem that Bangla/Bengali literature has got. Jibanananda Das can be compared with the Romantic poets of English literature for his beautiful description of nature of Bengal. Unfortunately, he did not receive his due recognition in his lifetime. Even now, he is a neglected figure to some extent. His place is among the very best in Bengali literature beside Tagore, Nazrul and Modhusudan.