Srijato began writing at an early age. His first book of poems was published when he was 24. In 2004 his book, Uronto Shob Joker (All these flying jokers) won the Ananda Puraskar, a significant award in Bengali letters. He lives in Kolkata, where he is also active as a lyricist in Bengali cinema. He has 20 books of poetry to his credit.
His translator Arunava Sinha (a seasoned translator of Bengali fiction and poetry) says of his work: “Unique for his intricate word-play, contemporary sensibilities, and a sharp liberal political consciousness, Srijato writes his poetry in an idiom very different from his predecessors in Bengali poetry, who were known for their lyrical, romantic styles.”
There is a startling quality to Srijato’s poems. They flow with an easy and serene grace, often starting out with a friendly conversational air (“I never got to visit Puri with my father and mother/ . . . we didn't even go to the zoo or the book fair”) and billowing out suddenly into moments of casual, almost sensual savagery (“Very late at night, when it's almost dawn, I tiptoe/ Into my mother's room next to mine and sink my teeth into her sleeping throat”).
There is a storyteller’s impulse, evinced in several poems here, such as “My Parents and I”, “Metamorphosis” and “Signal.” But the unexpected flash of the surreal in deadpan narrative, the careening of the poetic line between the cruelly ironic and the imagistic, makes the reader acutely aware that there is no comforting raconteur at work here. This is edgy poetry, restless and disconcerting. Moments of quiet are pregnant with unexpected possibilities; things are not what they seem; and back stories are left unsaid.
Images of static middle-class domesticity are evoked in a few strokes (“His wife sleeps, the fridge sleeps, the TV grows blue”) but things are seldom what they seem. There is a seething subterranean world, hinted at but never defined. And so, the “bilious green” of “city air” is never far away; garrulous and opinionated men lapse into unexplained silences; and God “disguised in a lungi and shirt” is capable of stolidly eating rotten apples all night.
In my personal favourite, “My Parents and I,” a single image distils the feel of a relationship – its changing weather, its tired compulsions – with unerring precision: “My father and mother have this cat-like thing/ About them. Much of the day they curl up/ In corners, their eyes closed. When awake/ They bicker over fish curry and milk packets . . . ”