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From engineer to poet

S. Mallik looks at the work of Sushant Chattopadhyaya – “Safeer”.

Life is a constant exploration to seek oneself in the frames of time. Art though an outward display is more a journey within. The layers of expression in art bring out new dimensions which the artist traverses. The journey is just not undertaken by the artist but also by the onlooker.

Poetry is one of such art forms where time, dreams and reality all converge to create droplets of emotions which keep the soul moist in times when it is most needed. In poetry, expressions are born when a deep sense of incompleteness dominates the poet. Ideally, the expression finds shelter in the mother tongue of the poet but often the expression takes refuge in the language of the land.

Sushant Chattopadhyaya (who writes under the penname Safeer) – a poet and writer from Allahabad, India, who was born on 3rd October 1987 – is one such contemporary, young, promising individual. Sushant, a Bengali who is deeply rooted in his own culture, finds expression in Urdu and Hindi. He belongs to a family of academics and prominent figures whose contribution to language, art and science has been immense.

His grandfather, Pt. Kshetresachandra Chattopadhyaya, was a student of Sanskrit who migrated from Bengal (he was a native of Amta village) to the United Province of Agra and Oudh (part of present day Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand state) of pre-divided India in 1915. Pt. Chattopadhyaya, a prominent figure in vedic studies in Sanskrit, linguistics and Indo-Iranian culture spent the early years of his teaching career in Carmichael College, Rangpur. He just not taught Sanskrit but multiple disciplines which included Bangla, history and philosophy.

Pt. Chattopadhyaya was close friends with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Several of the letters they exchanged were published in the centenary year of 1996. The letters reflect a great deal about the young minds of Netaji and Pt. Chattopadhyaya, whose chain of thoughts revolved around the cultural and political independence of the motherland. Pt. Chattopadhyaya was also a recipient of the President’s Award in 1966.

Sushant’s father, Professor Mahesh Chandra Chattopadhyaya, is a retired professor of chemistry at Allahabad University with a keen interest in music, modern history and culture. The poet inherited this love of art and culture. Though an engineering graduate who had worked in the corporate sector in the city of Noida for quite few years, he found himself at a crossroads in his life when he chose his love for poetry over his profession. He moved back to his hometown and started a romance with the language of the land which is very dear to his heart.

The language of the province has a mix of Urdu and Hindi which is reflected in his writing. Though he was a young Urdu-speaking poet, the language writing system he chose to express himself was Devanagari, which we mostly associate with Sanskrit and Hindi. He wrote short stories, articles and reviews, both in Hindi and English.

A musically inclined individual, Sushant has published a series of articles about legends of hindustani classical music, in which he explored the works of eminent exponents of classical music such as Ustad Allauddin Khan, Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan, Ustad Ahmad Jaan Thriakwa, Pt. Pannalal Ghosh, etc.

Ghazal, Rubai, Qata and Nazm are some of the forms in which the poet finds his voice. He deeply believes in allowing traditional and contemporary forms to mingle to create a wider form of expression. He admires a range of writers, from classical poets like Ghalib, Mir, Zauq and Momin to modern, progressive poets like Firaq, Faiz, Nasir Kazmi, etc. A Bengali cannot remain untouched by his own culture, and Sushant finds the work of Rajnikant, Tagore and Kazi Nazrul a great source of inspiration. He dedicated this sher (a couplet) to Firaq Gorakhpuri, one of his favourite poets, to mark his birthday.

Tanha raat ka musafir, bazm-e-sukhan ka sitara
“Firaq” ki kalam ka jadoo, haseen jashn-e-bahara

(The traveller of the lonely nights, the star of poetry
The magic of Firaq’s pen is like a beautiful celebration of spring.)

Sushant’s poetry speaks for the downtrodden, the weak and the poor while questioning authority at the same time:

Koi falsafe, koi din ki baat na karo
Haqeeqat hain lachar, khwab ki baat na karo
Muflisi kay jhule mein jhulta bachpan
Dekh idhar o hakim, udhar ki baat na karo

(Do not talk about philosophy or religion
The reality finds itself helpless, do not talk about dreams.
The childhood is rocked in the cradle of poverty.
See this way, oh ruler, do not talk about anything else.)

Sushant is deeply influenced by poets like Wordsworth, Keats, Frost and Tennyson, and his poetry is filled with nature and romance.

Zameen-e-khwab zerkhez-o-sabz, dilon mein bag-o-titiliyan
Mere ye harf hain abr-o-baad, teri nazar mein bijliyan

(The land of my dreams is fertile and green, garden and butterflies in my heart
My words are like clouds and winds, your eyes hold lightning sparks.)

Humanity is at the core of a poet’s philosophy of life. He wrote:

Farishta nahi, insaan hi bano
Aftaab na sahi, charag hi bano
Dahar mein pyaasi rooh kum nahi
Kisi kin azar ka khwab hi bano

(Do not strive to be an angel, be a human
If not the sun, be a lamp.
There are so many thirsty suffering souls in the world
If not anything, be a dream in someone’s eyes.)

Along with traditional symbols and metaphors, he does not hesitate to use modern ones. One such is reflected in the following sher depicting separation and restlessness in love.

In rail ki patriyon si hain yahan zindagi
Milte bhi nahi, judaa reh pate bhi nahi

(Our lives are like these railway tracks
Neither they meet, nor they can stay afar.)

Nature, as mentioned earlier, is a recurring metaphor or subject in his writings.

Main behta hun sagar ki tarha, tum tehri ho sahil ki tarha
Jazbaat muntaqil hone de, ye pal ho jaye ami ki tarha

(I flow like the sea, you stand still like the shore
Let the emotions be transferred and the moment lasts forever)

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