Geet Chaturvedi :: Two poems

From the  Hindi--

Geet Chaturvedi is a noted Hindi poet and novelist. He has authored six books, including two collections of novellas and two collections of poetry. He was awarded the Bharat Bhushan Agrawal Award for poetry (2007), a Krishna Pratap Award for fiction (2014), and was named one of ‘Ten Best Writers’ of India by Indian Express (2011).

Geet Chaturvedi: an Introduction

 To translate Geet's poetry is to repose between layers of profundity and fluidity, and to be enticed by its unusual tones. The translator needs to dwell deep in the myriad themes and find the most fitting words to capture the pulse of his poems, the different stylistic plays, mood and tone in the ‘new’ language. For any translation, therefore, I do extensive groundwork, be it familiarizing myself with master filmmakers’ works, or the with contextual references buried deep in the roots of Indian culture; at times, it takes hours to get a right word or phrase or construct.

Geet Chaturvedi is one of the most widely read contemporary Hindi poets. The two poems here, part of his World Cinema series, are tributes to his favorite filmmakers. They are examples of multiplicity of themes like secret love, memory, loss, injustice, ignorance, pain, alienation, all in a single poem. They revel in intertextuality, as in ‘For the Films of Wong Kar-wai,' a few scenes direct from his films are interwoven with the improvisation of the general mood created by the films. It is like a poetic jugalbandi with the master; by alluding to the filmmaker, the poet depicts his own mental states. The poem For the Films of Yasujirō Ozu’ is an array of impressions, a ‘conversation’ held by the poet with his much loved Japanese filmmaker, so to speak. The voice of the poet keeps changing abruptly--from talking with the filmmaker to talking with his lover to talking, at a much deeper level, with the system. Splendid experiments in incoherent form, the lines of the poems are like characters of a film. They come as incomplete sentences, tell their story- incomplete ones, which coalesce into one cohesive unit of cinematic beauty.

I have experienced many times while translating poetry, Ozu’s musicality as well as tranquillity. Translation expands the experiential space boundaries. It sure is an addiction.


                                                                        For the Films of Yasujirō Ozu

 The nation that you build will be silent: Your dictionaries will be silent too: You never folded your hands in front of gods: An entire lifetime you spent building a scene: In them, you kept yourself invisible like unseen mental tears


Every search for a meaning culminates in meaninglessness: The Buddhas and the Messiahs who walked this earth expressed this meaninglessness through neologisms: From the mother's side, I am a descendant of pain: From the father's, a descendant of loneliness: Whenever I cross the threshold of my house: I leap across the history of solitude


When secret lovers die, where do they go?

They stand and shine as lightbulbs

On the poles on that part of the street where your window opens

For many, many days, one does not even come to know

Of their death


The memory of death

Quietens all discord

My eyes are located low in my knees

I have looked up at life

Bent with humility


Walks an old man with tired, leaden steps

He looks disintegrated

I know nothing of his past disintegration

From his gait but

I visualise his sharded, splintered past

He has already served his prison term

Whether Jaj-ji should have acquitted him honourably or not,

Does it matter now?


Those who say the future cannot be seen, I do not believe them

I see my futures roving on the streets

My futures too, I am sure, can see me in a similar fashion

And discern their past


I am a city whose spelling and pronunciation

A powerful king

Changes time and again


Topography of my body:

Whenever I stand naked in front of the mirror,

I feel,

I am a topographic failure



                                                            For the Films of Wong Kar-wai


One day, go find an unfamiliar tree: Hug this stranger tree tight for a while: Put your mouth on one of its hollows and whisper: In such a way that you yourself do not know what you’ve murmured: Hoarse whisperings of your love: Angst: Guilt: Pain: Penance: All these and more: When done, cover the hollow with mud: Nobody understood you, this is your life’s biggest secret: This secret you would not tell even those who did not understand you


Why are there hollows in trees? So our secrets can hide snugly in them, and not dawdle like young vagabonds:

Hollow, in the wall of a ruin: Hollow, on the edge of a mountain: Hollow, a refuge for your secrets:

Hitherto, you were squirting your secrets into the hollow formed in a woman’s body


The tree may sprout your secrets in the form of leaves, if it so desires

The densest tree would be the one that camouflages most conversations


The heart converses in the body’s language

Much as the body sways, the heart sways much more

I sprint a lot

So that the salt of my body is ducted out by way of sweat

So that the eyes are not burdened with the extra weight of salt

Heart: A broken-stringed sitar

An ascetic sitting with half his legs dipped in a reservoir of love


Heart is, indeed, our body’s heaviest organ


Carved not from cells, but emotions and sensations


Mountains too are sculpted from emotions: Ergo, they do not budge from their place: Parrots repeat words that others speak— and enter their death holding the hand of Silence: A cassette plays in a tape recorder: Someone is sobbing in it: No one can hear: Except the ocean: The ocean’s clamour is a clump of such orphaned sobs: I look out on the ocean: Seeking to recognize--amidst the sweeping sounds--strands of my own faint atavistic sob

My affliction, my depression, my desolation, my silence


One day, air sweeps away everything

One day, the ocean swallows everything

One day, mud would shroud everything


Wet mud is essentially heavier than even our heart.


--Translated from the Hindi by Anita Gopalan




Anita Gopalan is a translator and an artist. She holds degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics. Her translations have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Poetry International Rotterdam, Modern Poetry in Translation, Acumen, Mantis, Circumference, International Poetry Review, and elsewhere.