Thursday, May 6

Kolkata: Blind poets’ collection sees light of day

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An anthology of blind poets, possibly the first in the world, was released at Jadavpur University on Thursday, opening up the world of the blind to the sighted. The book contains works of 155 visually impaired poets, including Homar and John Milton, who were completely blind. The publisher has written to Guinness World Records for its inclusion.

The anthology, Sparshanandan Alor Jharna (Sparshanandan Fountain of Lights), is a culmination of an initiative that began nearly three decades ago in 1992 when the first Braille magazine — Sparshanandan Drishtihinder Braille Patrika — containing poems written by blind poets was launched in the city.

Several poets whose poems feature in the anthology say it was the Braille magazine that encouraged them to write. “Till then, only the sighted had the opportunity to read their poems in public and share their thoughts and emotions. The magazine created a platform for the blind to not only share one’s poems with another but also led to a community of blind poets who gained confidence to read their works in public. Prior to that, the blind were expected to recite only works of Rabindranath Tagore and Jibananda Das,” recounted Manoj Kumar Sarkar, a writer. “As we are a bit different from others, and hence, don’t get easily accepted in mainstream. The magazine helped boost our confidence. The anthology, I hope, will break more barriers and change the perception about the blind,” he added.

Satyajit Mondal, who worked in the railways when he started the Braille magazine and is now retired, said the anthology puts to ink the works of more than 100 poets and hopes it will bring the blind poets into the mainstream.

“Till now, most of the poems were in Braille, and hence, had a limited reach among only those who know it, primarily the blind. Now that it is in print, even the sighted will be able to read them. Perhaps, it will lead to a better understanding of their life, thoughts and emotions and maybe sensitise us to create a more inclusive world for the blind,” said Mondal.

While the poems of those who were born blind is mostly on people and society, those who turned blind later in life also write on nature. “The perception and outlook of a person born blind is very different from someone who turned blind later. And this finds reflection in their poetry. For the former, blindness is a way of life, for the latter, it is a struggle to accept the new reality,” pointed out Bithika Sarkar, another poet.

Sucharita Banshee, another blind poet who is studying English at Jadavpur University, says it is all about the intellectual capability to write and not about whether one can see, walk, speak or hear. “Being blind is not a hindrance to my dream, or my ability to write poems. What’s usually lacking is a platform to showcase our talent. This boom has given us that platform. I am absolutely delighted,” she said.

The poems in Bengali are primarily written by poets from Kolkata and rest of Bengal. There are also translated works of blind poets from other Indian states as well as Liberia, Nepal and elsewhere.

Shankho Ghosh has been a guiding force in the movement all along, holding poetry reading sessions and workshops at his home. Sunil Gangopadhyay, too, had encouraged the initiative.


Source: Times of India

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