‘Winter’ By Bhanuji Rao

Translated from the Odia original

The time of complete and completely satisfying
old age and death has come.
The time has come for old women
with their spare mattresses under the armpits
to roam around the deserted streets,
to search for heaven in the reluctant sun;
to dig out an iota of warmth
from the dying embers
when there is none.
The breeze draws kinky lines 
on the old body of the night;
and, it is rumoured by the oldies
that a few of them will conk off this year.
The exact number is unknown.
But they still continue with their pronouncements,
with their cheekbones high,
like the barren ridges around Joda.
This year it’s really cold 
and the chill pervades the edges of the village
like a stalking assassin.
The mango orchards are still. 
The doves are drowsy
suckling warm sin
from the ends of dry twigs
for a fill.
Sand has flooded the river. 
The horizon mists over.
With the gray hills afar,
gloomy like faded dreams.
The day ends 
and the bland gray night closes in. 
The sun dies suddenly
while playing with the colours
of its own blood.
Winter comes like a cruel hunter
clumsily snuffling through the body of darkness
with the night as a flimsy cover
to peep into the misery
of the pregnant and the dying.
The day of tortuous degeneration has come,
The day has come for spending tortuous nights.


Note: Bhanuji Rao (1926 – 2001) was an Odia poet born in Cuttack. He worked as a journalist and teacher, working as a language instructor at LBS National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, for seventeen years. His work as a poet (along with that of other pioneers such as Guruprasad Mohanty) was crucial in the transformation of Odia poetry in the post-independence period. He was quite belatedly honoured with the central Sahitya Akademi award for his collection ‘Nai Aarapaari’ – ‘On the Other Shore’ in 1989. He was the grandson of famous Odia poet Madhusudan Rao, and never married.

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