Binoy Majumder: Maths, Madness, and Poetry
I first came across poet Binoy Majumder through a rather interesting photograph. In that specific photo, a man, embodying what possibly was all the “swag” in the world, was looking down from above towards this photographer’s lens. I can’t say for sure whether Binoy was looking at the camera at all, because a monkey cap was shadowing the upper half of his face. And along with his mustache, muffler, old-haggard yet slim fit built made him look quite the part. In that photo, Binoy did resemble the universal image of a long-long striving and struggling artist.
Later on, as I enquired more about this strange-looking man, I got a glimpse of an amazing world. Or maybe, the world as it always were around me, suddenly started to amuse me as I looked at it through the lens of Binoy Majumder. I came to know about this peculiar man and his equally, if not more, atypical writing style, who once a genius mathematician announced that “ poetry is the purest form of maths” and then devoted all his brilliance towards poetry, was a passionate lover, and at the end surrendered it all to utter madness.
Though it’s open to interpretations, many long-time readers of Bengali literature and myself would claim that if you have to read one other poet after Jibonanondo Das it should be Binoy Majumder.
He’s the one who can write
“ a bright fish once flew
Over the perfect blue yet, in reality, transparent colorless water
(and) Drowned once again – upon witnessing this fragile phenomenon
The young fruit, before his time, turned red with the deep juice of sadness “
A brilliant man he was. The interesting fact is, this genius poet had gone through the greater portion of life suffering from torturous mental illnesses. Multiple times he attempted suicide. More than eight times he was admitted to a mental hospital. Thirty-one times he was given electric shock treatment. Binoy Majumder himself made fun of this fact, he used to say: “ I am the inspector-general of all the madhouses of West Bengal.” His whole life, he spent as a schizophrenic, lonely, without care or love.
His book “ Firey echo Chaka”- “ Come back, O wheel” created quite a commotion when it first came out. Other poets of the “ Hungrealist” movement kind of paled out alongside Binoy’s work. The book was rather an extension of the formerly published “ To Gayatri”, which from the name can be understood was written keeping in mind a specific person. This person, Gayatri Spivak, as many have identified, was a brilliant young woman, who Binoy came to know during his twenties. The funny thing is Binoy and Gayatri never had any kind of relationship or even much familiarity. Binoy had seen the girl maybe two or three times. On these occasions, they haven’t talked much. She was just a crush. Yet, the lack of relationship with this woman compelled Binoy to write entire books of strong, revolutionizing poetry.
A reporter once asked
“ Did you love Gayatri?”
“ O hell no, We just a met a few times. She was a student of English literature at the presidency college. Then she was gone. I am not sure where maybe America.
“ Then why write poetry about her?”
“ Well, you have to write about someone, don’t you? How long can you write about trees, flowers, and fishes!”
He lived a brilliant academic life. Got a record number in the matriculation exam. Then he was First Class First in Mechanical Engineering from Shivpur College. Big western institutions offered him teaching jobs. But Binoy refused it all. Because he only wanted to be a poet. That’s what he was born to do.
An interviewer once asked him
“ Two of your books ‘firey echo chaka’ and ‘ Cochrane onubhutimala’ have secured their positions in the scene of Bengali literature. How did that happen?”
“ You want me to answer that? Well, I don’t think people should go about bragging about what they achieved. Lets others decide why these books made their place.”
“ Okay, then answer this, why did your later books fail? They didn’t attract that much attention like these former ones.”
“ ( Binoy looks confused …) Maybe those former books had a central theme. ‘Firey echo chaka’ was written on women, “ Cochrane onubhutimala” was written about the autumn season… these things, people can relate to such things. Oh and speaking about “ Cochrane onubhuti” I don’t even have the manuscript, it’s in London.
“ London?! How did a Bangla manuscript make that trip?”
“ At that time no one wanted to publish my writing. I went to several publishers with the manuscript, and they all refused. Then I reached out to “ Bongio Shahitto Porishod”. I told them ‘keep this manuscript in your archives. And they answered, “ No, we won’t ”. From there I walked to “ West Bengal archives”. it was at the Bhavani data lane. Do you know Bhabani Datta lane? It is around ‘college square’. Well, they refused too. I was thirty-two years old then. What should I do? Devastated, I mailed the manuscript to “ The British Library” in London. Twenty-five years after this incident I wrote them a letter, asking about the whereabouts of my manuscript. And they answered back. They wrote ‘ We have considered and conserved your book with our utmost respect and care. And “ Oghraner Onubhutimala ” is the only sample of modern Bengali poetry at the British library of London”. Ha, Ha, Ha.”