Vidyapati [Vidyāpati Thākura]; Deben Bhattacharya (tr.); William George Archer(intro);
Love Songs of Vidyapati
UNESCO / G. Allen & Unwin 1963/69, Orient Paperbacks / Hind Pocket Books, 144 pages
topics: | poetry | bengali | translation | devotional-physical
This is exceptional poetry, every poem speaks to me. The constructions are sparse, the working is elegant and lyrical. Around 2004 I found this at the used books footpath in Koti, Hyderabad. At the time I was told that the authorities were going to close down this Sunday market, but I was pleasantly surprised to read reports that it is still thriving. Being interested in translations, I had heard of this work, and it fully lived up to its promise. The cover was faded, but the pages and print were flawless. The poems were exquisite. But whenever one encounters superlative work in translation, e.g. in Ezra Pound or in Kenneth Rexroth, one always wonders about the French saying - La belle infidele: translations that are beautiful are unfaithful to the original, while those which are faithful are often ugly. Later I came across a scholarly review by N. H. Zide and S. M. Pandey, who compare the originals with Bhattacharya's re-workings, and while they find some problems with the liberties he takes, on the whole they praise the fact that he has managed to "convey more of the poetic flavour" than the earlier attempts by Aurobindo (uses a fixed rhyming abba structure), Coomaraswamy, Subhadra Jha, and others. I wish though, that Bhattacharya would have shown a little more respect for the text by at least maintaining some pointers to the originals. I mean, how many translations of Neruda or Goethe do you see which don't refer to the originals? This lack of respect for the originals is typical of indology translations, (e.g. Tagore's own Gitanjali) but fortunately the tide is turning. In any event, this makes it difficult to locate the original texts - I have inserted a couple that I could find (in bAngla font only, for now... any help transliterating into devanagari appreciated). Not that I am rushing to try to understand and compare the old Mythili texts, but it still would be nice to be able to index the originals. In the poem selection, he avoids poems with excessive word play, but it would have been nice if there was more of an introduction and some notes on the translation, perhaps with a literal transliteration, as in Vikram Seth's Three Chinese Poets, say.
Here are some of my favourites...
Radha's glances dart from side to side. Her restless body and clothes are heavy with dust. Her glistening smile shines again and again. Shy, she raises her skirt to her lips. Startled, she stirs and once again is calm, As now she enters the ways of love. Sometimes she gazes at her blossoming breasts Hiding them quickly, then forgetting they are there. Childhood and girlhood melt in one And young and old are both forgotten. Says Vidyapati: O Lord of life, Do you not know the signs of youth?
Each day the breasts of Radha swelled. Her hips grew shapely, her waist more slender. Love's secrets stole upon her eyes. Startled her childhood sought escape. Her plum-like breasts grew large, Harder and crisper, aching for love. Krishna soon saw her as she bathed Her filmy dress still clinging to her breasts, Her tangled tresses falling on her heart, A golden image swathed in yak's tail plumes. Says Vidyapati: O wonder of women, Only a handsome man can long for her.
দিনে দিনে উন্নত পয়োধর পীন । বাঢ়ল নিতম্ব মাঝ ভেল খীন ।। ১ ।। আবে মদন বঢ়ায়ল দীঠ । শৈশব সকলি চমকি দেল পীঠ ।। ২ ।। শৈশব ছোড়ল শশিমুখি দেহ । খত দেই তেজল ত্রিবলি তিন রেহ ।। ৩ ।। অব ভেল যৌবন বঙ্কিম দীঠ । উপজল লাজ হাস ভেল মীঠ ।। ৪ ।। দিনে দিনে অনঙ্গ অগোরল অঙ্গ । দলপতি পরাভবে সৈনিক ভঙ্গ ।। ৫ ।। তকর আগে তোহর পরসঙ্গ । বুঝি করব জে নহ কাজ ভঙ্গ ।। ৬ ।। সুকবি বিদ্যাপতি কহে পুন ফোয় । রাধারতন জৈসে তুয় হোয় ।। ৭ ।।
There was a shudder in her whispering voice. She was shy to frame her words. What has happened tonight to lovely Radha? Now she consents, now she is scared. When asked for love, she closes up her eyes, Eager to reach the ocean of desire. He begs her for a kiss. She turns her mouth away And then, like a night lily, the moon seized her. She felt his touch startling her girdle. She knew her love treasure was being robbed. With her dress she covered up her breasts. The treasure was left uncovered. Vidyapati wonders at the neglected bed. Lovers are busy in each other's arms.
Awake, Radha, awake Calls the parrot and its love For how long must you sleep, Clasped to the heart of your Dark-stone? Listen. The dawn has come And the red shafts of the sun Are making us shudder...
Listen, O lovely lady Cease your anger I promise by the golden pitchers of your breasts And by your necklace snake Which now I gather in my hands If ever I touch anyone but you May your necklace bite me; And if my words do not ring true, Punish me as I deserve. Bind me in your arms, bruise me with your thighs Choke my heart with your milk-swollen breasts Lock me day and night in the prison of your heart. See how much tighter the above is, compared to this version by Azfar Hussain perhaps, at oldpoetry.com : -- For heaven's sake, listen, listen, O my darling: Do not dart your cruel, angry glances at me, For I swear by the lovely pitchers of your breasts, And by your golden, glittering, snake-like necklace: If ever on earth I dare touch anyone except you, Let your necklace turn into a real snake, and bite me; And if ever my promise and words prove false, Chastise me, O darling, in the way you want to. But, now, don't hesitate to take me in your arms, Bind, bind my thirsty body with yours; bruise me With your thighs, and bite, bite me with your teeth. Let your fingernails dig deep, deep into my skin! Strangle me, for heaven's sake, with your breasts, And lock me in the prison of your body forever!
Oh friend, I cannot tell you Whether he was near or far, real or a dream. Like a vine of lightning, As I chained the dark one, I felt a river flooding in my heart. Like a shining moon, I devoured that liquid face. I felt stars shooting around me. The sky fell with my dress, leaving my ravished breasts. I was rocking like the earth. In my storming breath I could hear my ankle-bells, sounding like bees. Drowned in the last waters of dissolution, I knew that this was not the end. Says Vidyapati: How can I possibly believe such nonsense?
Madhava: Your moon-faced love Had never guessed That parting hurts. Radha is tortured, Dreading you will leave. Love has robbed her of all power, She sinks clasping the ground. Kokilas call, Startled, she wakes Only to brood again. Tears wash the make-up From her breasts. Her arms grow thin, Her bracelets slide to the ground. Radha's head droops in grief. Her fingers scar the earth Bleeding your name.
He left me saying that he would return tomorrow, I covered the floor of my home Writing repeatedly ‘Tomorrow’. When dawn returned, they all enquired: Tell us, friend, When will your tomorrow come? My beloved never returned. Says Vidyapati: Listen beautiful one, Other women lured him away.
Swelling breasts, hard, like golden cups. Those wanton glances have stolen my heart, O beautiful one, protest no longer. I am eager as a bee, let me take your honey. Darling, I beg you, holding your hands, Do not be cruel, have pity on me. I shall say that again and again, No more can I suffer the agony of love. Says Vidyapati: Shattered desire is death.
O friend, there is no end to my joy! mAdhava is home for ever. The pain I suffered for the heartless moon Ended in bliss My eyes live on his face. Lift up my dress, fill it with gold Yet never will I let him go again. He is my shelter in the rains, Ferry boat on the river. He is my warmth when the winter is hard, Cool breeze in the summer months. Nothing else I need. [see a derivative version at http://www.andreepouliot.com/library/l-friend.html O friend, there is no end to my joy! O friend, there is no end to my joy! My lover is home forever. The pain I suffered for the heartless moon ended in bliss my eyes live on his face. You may fill my pockets with gold but I will never let him go again. He is my shelter in the rain, my ferry boat on the river. He is my warmth when the winter is hard, my cool breeze in the summer. Nothing else I need.
কি কহব রে সখি আনন্দ ওর । চিরদিনে মাধব মন্দিরে মোর ।। পাপ সুধাকর যত দুখ দেল । পিয়ামুখ দরশনে তত সুখ ভেল ।। নির্ধন বলিয়া পিয়ার না কৈলু যতন । অব হাম জানলু পিয়া বড় ধন ।। আঁচল ভরিয়া যদি মহানিধি পাঙ । তব হাম দূর দেশে পিয়া না পাঠাঙ ।। শীতের ওড়নি পিয়া গিরিসের বাও । বরিসার ছত্র পিয়া দরিয়ার নাও ।। ভনয়ে বিদ্যাপতি শন বরনারী । সুজনক দুখ দিবস দুই চারি ।।
A fateful night I spent Gazing at the moon Like the face of my love. Now are my life and youth fulfilled. The air about me is free. Home is home, My body is my body. My god is kind to me. All doubts are gone. Kokila, you may sing a million times, [conventional excitant] A million moons may shine now. Love's five arrows may become a million spears. The southern breeze may gently blow. So long as he is close to me, My body shines as mine.
[Alternate version, from Sacred Sex: Erotic Writings from the Religions of the World by Robert Bates (1994) "All doubts are gone. The birds may sing a million songs, A million moons may shine now. When he is close to me, My heart sings and my body shines. Lift up my dress, beautiful lover, And fill me with pure gold. You are my shelter in the rain, My ferry-boat across the river, My warm fire in the cold weather, My southern breeze in the summer heat. Nobody else I need Only you."]
Her hair dense as darkness, Her face rich as the full moon: Unbelievable contrasts Couched in a seat of love. Her eyes rival lotuses. Seeing that girl today, My eager heart Is driven by desire. Innocence and beauty Adore her fair skin. Her gold necklace Is lightning. On the twin hills, Her breasts . . . .,
I cannot guess your heart, O madhava The treasures of another man I offered to you: I was wrong To bring a she-elephant to a lion. Relinquish then the wife of another. Your kisses have wiped clean The mascara of her eyes. Her lips are torn by your teeth. Her full-grown breasts Are scarred by your nails: The autumn moon is scratched by Siva's peak... [treasures of another man: rAdha is married she-elephant: graceful movement is more relevant than her bulk Siva's peak: kailasa; as moon rises behind it, it is scratched by the icy ridge The maid was wrong not only because she brought a married woman to Krishna, but also because his reckless lovemaking has left so many marks on her. ]
How the rain falls In deadly darkness O gentle girl, the rain Pours on your path And roaming spirits straddle the wet night She is afraid Of loving for the first time O mAdhava, Cover her with sweetness. How will she cross the fearful fear In her path? Enraptured with love, Beloved rAdhA is careless of the rest. Knowing so much, O shameless one, How can you be so cold towards her? Whoever saw Honey fly to the bee?
The darkness of separation is over, Your face glows as the autumn moon. Raise your eyes, O lovely darling, Listen to my words, This is no time for shyness. O mAlati, My flower of fragrant honey, Your lover is here. Let the bee take His fill of sweetness. King of the season, Spring, too, is here. Fulfil your promise... [AM: King of season? shd it be "seasons"? ]
Flowers in groves... As death's agent, the moon shines For women parted from their lovers. More delicate than a lotus How can their fragile forms Endure such pain?
As I guard my honor, My love in a foreign land Ravishes beauties Who belong to others. Safely he will come, But he has left me dead. O traveler, tell him That my youth wastes away . . . If time goes on Life too will go And never shall we love again . . .
When the moon is up, O moon-faced love, The rays from you both Shine all around. Your walk has the grace Of the gait of an elephant Come to the tryst While darkness is thick. 0 moon-faced love, The night is alight. The fragrance of your skin Floats free in the air From afar, the unkind Can gaze at will. How can I bring you there, my love? Your eyes look everywhere. Your body is afraid. I dare not bring you.
In joyous words he spoke In joyous words he spoke Of the beauty of my face. Thrilled, my body Glowed and glowed. My eyes that watched love spring Were wet with joy. In dream tonight I met the king of honey... He seized the end of my dress, The strings broke loose With all the weight of love. My hands leapt to my breasts But the petals of lotus could not hide The mountains of gold.
Hearing the signal, She went to the tryst But you were gone. The shape of beauty Longed to hear your voice But in despair The night dissolved ...
I hide my shabby cheeks With locks of hair, And my grey hairs In folds of flowers. I paint my eyes With black mascara. The more I try The more absurd I look. My breasts loosely dangle My curving lines are gone. My youth is ended And love roams wild In all my skin and bones. O sadness, my sadness, Where is my youth? [Lament by an ageing woman; or perhaps Radha . See commentary in Zide/Pandey]
Harder than diamonds, Richer than gold, Deeper than the sea Was our love. The sea still washes the shores But our love went dry. I wish my lover, Who is dark as the clouds Would come in torrents... How I remember Those hours of passion When he would swear to me That day was night. [Zide/Pandey: DB seems to be guided by Jha's translations. Here the original ending is: "This kind of love is never vyabhichAra" (misbheaviour, adultery). Translated in Jha as "No one has ever given up his genital characteristics", which seems like an ideal line to get rid of. However, DB completely excises it, which perhaps weakens the poem. ]
Her flowing tears Made pools at her feet. The lotus that grew on the land Now floats on water. Her lips have lost their colour, Like new leaves bitten by frost.,
Her tears carved a river And she broods on its bank, Hurt and confused. You ask her one thing, She speaks of another. Her friends believe That joy may come again. At times they banish hope And cease to care. O Madhava, I have run to call you. Radha each day Grows thinner Thinner than the crescent in the sky . . .
Let no one be born, But if one must Let no one be a girl If one must be a girl Then may she never fall in love, If she must fall in love, Free her from her family. O make me sure of him until I end. Should I meet my lover And his love flow strongly Like currents of a river, Let his darling heart Be free of other girls. If he yileds to other loves, Let him know his mind and heart...
My shyness left me As he looted my clothes. My lover's limbs became my dress. Like a bee Hovering on a lotus bud, He lent across the lamp. The god of love is never shy. He brightens like the bird That loves the clouds. Yet still as I remember My darling's wild tricks My heart, shyly trembling Is bruised with fear. [chAtaka or hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx varius) is believed to live on rain-water and hence to 'brighten' at the sight of clouds. (see this poem compared with its original in [Zide/Pandey:65] review below. )
I will not walk With you, Krishna, But at the river By the lonely bank There I will meet you.
I could not suffer the least delay from fear of missing you. i could not live without you. i could not think of our bodies parted for even a moment. when in delight the hair of our bodies rose, it seemed like a mountain wall between us. day and night, we lived that way. How can I live now? rAdhA is far away and I am in mathura. and life goes on. a lovely city, the new city-girls and so much wealth around, yet all are useless without rAdhA. my eyes fill with tears. in my startled heart, i hear these girls there and the ripples on the river jamunA.
In their review, Zide and Pandey appreciate the quality of the English translations by Deben Bhattacharya, which by and large convey more of the poetic flavour with reasonable accuracy when compared to earlier attempts by Aurobindo (uses a fixed rhyming abba structure), Coomaraswamy, Subhadra Jha, and others. However, DB's lack of pointers to the originals make it difficult to trace them. Only Subhadra Jha provides details of the original, and also the full parallel text from the Nepal version. DB avoids, rightly, poems with excessive word play, but it would have been nice to provide one or two with transliteration and explanations. REVIEW: Songs of Vidyāpati: A New Translation Norman H. Zide and S. M. Pandey, The University of Chicago Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 85, No. 2 (Apr.-Jun., 1965), pp. 197-204
The Maithili poet Vidyapati has probably- and deservedly - been translated into English as many times as any author of short lyrics in a modern Indian language. Writing in Maithili, he is claimed and taught as both Hindi and Bengali' literature, and his padas exist in a great many Hindi and Bengali editions of all kinds. They are also widely known and sung popularly, particularly in Bihar and in Bengal. At least one complete and would-be definitive edition of the padavali - that of the Bihar Rastrabhasa Parisad 2 -is under way. None of the earlier translations into English is adequate for scholarly purposes, and none of them will give a reader interested in Vidyapati's poetry much idea (or the right ideas) of his accomplishments as a poet. The book here reviewed consists of translations of one hundred short poems. Before taking up these translations, we comment briefly on the earlier translations available3 to us. These are the translations by Arun Sen and A. K. Coomaraswamy,4 Subhadra Jha,5 and Sri Aurobindo.6
Sri Aurobindo early in his career translated forty-one of the padas in various rhymed stanza forms. His versions occasionally retain or reflect some of the metrical and musical effects of the originals-none of the other translators aspire to this-but otherwise Aurobindo's translations are not particularly literal, and are full of inversions, line-padding inflations, and hyperpoetic language not at all appropriate to these padas. Two sample excerpts (from different padas) are representative: Tis night and very timid my little love. How long ere I see her hither swanlike move! Dread serpents fill with fear the way; What perils those soft beloved feet waylay. (No. 33) Ah, who has built this girl of nectarous face? Ah, who this matchless, beauteous dove? An omen and a bounteous boon of Love, A garland of triumphant grace. (No. 10) Aurobindo's versions are least like the originals of any of these translations since he uses a consistent style, and one which rarely permits anything approaching the direct, colloquial-and powerful-language of the original.
Sen and Coomaraswamy also go in for editing, rearranging, and atmosphere-saving (although slightly less so than Bhattacharya does). They write in a language influenced by William Morris and Rosetti and make use of a variety of archaisms and pseudoarchaisms. The translations are sporadically effective, but the inconsistently 'medieval' poetic jargon they write in hamstrings most of their poems and makes ungrammatical hodgepodges of lines in almost all of them, e.g., Hearken, prithee, heartless Hari, Fie on your such love! Why did you speak of keeping tryst, And with another maiden spent the night. (No. 74) Another sample stanza: Her gentle words she can but stammer, Her shamefast speech will not well out: Today I found her most contrary, Sometimes consenting, sometimes fearful. (No. 42)
Subhadra Jha in his edition of the poems in the Nepal manuscript follows a very long (almost two hundred pages) and informative introduction with the texts and translations of two hundred and sixty-two of Vidyapati's poems. Jha's translations are useful for anyone working through the Maithili 7 but for the reader of English poetry he has little to offer.8
Bhattacharya's Translator's Note on his intentions had better precede any discussion on his accomplishment. Bhattacharya writes: The greatness of Vidyapati's songs depends on the fusion of natural phenomena such as lightning and clouds, the moon and the night lily, the lotus and the bee with the greatest of lovers, Radha and Krishna and their emotional reactions to love, anguish, passion, jealousy, joy and sorrow. Love poems, in particular lyrics, do not translate well. Therefore, in trying to render Vidyapati's songs into English, I have concentrated on the atmosphere of the originals rather than on scrupulously adhering to tiny detail. The poems, in their original versions, are often concerned with rhyme, internal echoes and play on meaning. None of these can be reproduced in word for word translation. In order to portray what I consider to be the spirit of the poems, I have sometimes had to condense Vidyapati's lines, content myself with fragments or clarify what might otherwise seem too concise. Following the example of most commentators, I have, in general, omitted Vidyapati's 'signature' lines. In the interest of meaning, I have added titles. It is hoped that with these qualifications, part at least, of Vidyapati's true poetic essence will reach the English reader" (p. 7). First, it should be said that Bhattacharya has been fairly successful in accomplishing his (and UNESCO's) aims. He does bring across something of Vidyapati's 'true poetic essence,' and something of the atmosphere of the (selected) originals, and these are not to be found in comparable amounts in Aurobindo, Sen and Coomaraswamy, or Jha. His poems may 'further . . . mutual appreciation of the cultural values of East and West' as UNESCO expects, although Bhattacharya provides only a skewed sample of the 'cultural values' to be had from Vidyapati.
Critiques some inaccuracies in the translations, classifying these under - Selection : DB rejects those padas where sound or wordplay is significant. - Truncation and Reshaping: DB tends to shorten and re-phrase some lines, e.g. in 33. Remembered love: those hours of passion When he would swear to me That day was night . . . looks not only bad but wrong. A look at the original: Arati darasahu bolita (thi) rAti se save sumari jIvakA sAti (Jha, p. 40) confirms one's suspicions that 'those hours of passion' are all Bhattacharya's. Jha translates 'Even at the sight of emotion of love, he would say it was night / Remembering all these I am pained at heart.) The BRP reading which seems to make more sense in context, and which translates Erati more normally as 'sorrow - reads Arati darasahu boli DarAti 'Even to show (my) sorrow, I'm afraid to speak.' If this reading is accepted, then _rAti, 'night,' the springboard to Bhattacharya's flight goes completely by the board. On the other hand, in some others the re-shaping may result in poems that read well in English, but these are not "translations". Zide/Pandey also remark on the overall accuracy and the meter of the translations. Nonetheless, they agree that "Bhattacharya's versions of Vidyapati are the closest we have to the originals."
Vidyapati appears to have been born in or around 1352 in Bihar, in the Madhubani village of Bisapi in Mithila (north eastern Bihar). He was well read in Sanskrit, and appears to have been inducted into the court of the Mathili king Kirti Simha (fl. 1370). Vidyapati is known for his love songs, written in a direct, earthy voice, which have endured for seven hundred years. There appear to be about five hundred songs, composed between 1380 and 1406, dealing with the love of Krishna and Radha. He was clearly influenced by Jayadeva's Gitagovinda, a somewhat older (c. 1200) text in modernized Sanskrit, which also deals with the Radha-Krishna love story. Indeed, Vidyapati is sometimes referred to as Abhinava-Jayadeva, or the new Jayadeva. Vidyapati is claimed by the literatures in Hindi, Bengali and Maithili. He certainly wields enormous influence on all three literary traditions. He is the inspiration for the genre of Bengali Vaishnava songs written in a mixed language, Vrajabuli. In private life, he may not have been Vaishnava; in worship, he followed the Shaivite tradition of his family.
mainly known as a music producer and maker of films on world cultures. initially worked on introducing Indian music to UK, but later moved to folk music from around the world. Grew up in Benares, where family had been living for 130 years. Was educated in the Sanskrit tradition, but rebelled and dreamed of going to UK. Has also translated the poetry of the bAuls, ''Mirrors of the Sky: Song of the bards of bengal, and also Songs Of The Qawals Of India: Islamic Lyrics Of Love'' ---links: wikipedia: Deben Bhattacharya interview at kevindaly.org Benares ... as a city, where people live one on top of the other. I like being in a city when I can be near people without being involved with them. Like in a village: when you are living in a village you are involved with them, but you are not near, because the distances and the spaces are far away from one another. And one of the strongest points in favour of Benares, as far as I am concerned, that when you were little kids, you could jump from one roof to the other for probably half a kilometre, from roof to roof, jumping. And flying kites is one of the regular features of the boy’s life and it happened always on the rooftops. Most of my father’s family were scholars, his eldest brother was a professor of Sanskrit literature and cosmology at Benares University, and my father was a doctor of Hindu medicine, and the family had very little to do with the English colonial education system. There was no interest in national politics; the family simply didn’t want to know that the British existed, so they ignored it. I was given a Sanskrit education – there was no question of anything else. But I had in me a kind of strange desire to rebel against the family traditions. I suppose partly because I felt a little bit isolated from the other boys of my age, because they were having the usual, conventional education at that moment, like, you go into an English school, playing football. I distinctly remember how I wanted to wear short trousers, but in our family European clothes were not allowed – you had to wear a dhoti. Possibly it was this sort of rigidity that made me want to rebel, so – I started to run away from the family at the age of sixteen, seventeen – coming back, and so on, and travelled all over India, completely like, almost like a vagabond. It was a kind of peculiar restlessness, plus a curiosity about other people that developed as I travelled. Already I was dreaming of getting out of India. ... [during ww2: There was no conscription in India, but ... the war created jobs. I could then just about speak English, and I got a job as a clerk in the Indian army. I didn’t get on with army people, I had trouble with both the Indian and British officers. Actually, I was almost court-martialled, because I slapped a British officer. One day on parade, he called me a ‘black son of a bitch.’ The moment he said it, my hand just sprang; I had no control over the hand! He fell, and the nearby Indian soldiers doing fatigue duty laughed and giggled as they’d never seen anything like that. I was taken under escort to the Field Artillery Training Centre. After a few days, I got a note saying the charge had been withdrawn. I found out later that some civilian lawyer had made a noise about it, that I was a civilian and not subject to military law. [but is beaten up when trying to see an english film in an army theater gives up job and goes back to his doctor father in Muzaffarpur, Bihar It is the time of the Quit India movement. ] Ghandi’s peaceful methods were not going to get Churchill out. Churchill would hang onto India until it dropped dead! And Ghandi was no match for him in that field. So what was the answer? Guns! Guns! Guns! They were made in secret by village blacksmiths. They were not well made, and were always bursting in people’s hands. But they were beginning to learn, you see. My people were buying these guns, and I looked so young and innocent (I was twenty) that my duty was to find these guns from the blacksmiths and bring them over. There were two of us working together; I was just one link in the whole chain. One day, one of my father’s patients came to see him (he adored my father because he’d cured one of his sons from a serious illness) and told him what I was up to. And I had four or five guns hidden! My father, a very quiet, simple person was very upset. I was sent back to the family home in Benares. I was at that time dreaming of going out of India. Just at that time, I met two Europeans who were living like Indians in Benares, a man called Raymond Burnier, and his partner, a man called Alain Danielou. He was a French man. I was excited by their involvement with Indian culture: one was working on Indian music, and the other on art and sculpture. ... Fifth of November, 1949. I landed in Tilbury. Then took a train to St. Pancras, where Alan was due to meet me. It was chaos – hundreds of Indian students being unloaded, arriving in Britain for their technical education. I had precisely eighteen shillings in my pocket, and here I was in a totally unknown land, except for a friend called Alan Colquhoun. I had an enormous steel trunk, carrying my very precious poetry books. I had very few clothes .... In Sweden I lived for ten years, but the Swedes have an extraordinary habit of non-communication which I could never reconcile. I began to feel isolated and lonely in spite of extremely kind friends. I know the French have a very bad reputation for being selfish, egotistic, this that and the other, but somehow, as far as I am concerned, I feel absolutely free. I’m not aware of my colour, I’m not aware that I’m different from the French, and so on, in Montmartre. My grocer scolds me, scolds my wife that I don’t let my girl go alone to the school! I never hear that, anyone giving that lecture in London or Stockholm. They wouldn’t dare. But this kind of scolding to me is communication, this is contact, affection, and that makes me feel at home in Montmartre. I wouldn’t say this is all Paris, but Montmartre has this village quality which I love, within the heart of a great city, and honestly I’ve never felt I was a stranger in Paris. You can have friends everywhere, and because of that you can choose a place to live. Here in Paris, I can live with everyone – not just the French, or the Algerians or the Turks – but with everybody.