Sumanta Kumar Banerjee with Dr Shihab Ghanem Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: As a parting tribute to the UAE, an Indian expatriate who has spent 17 years in Dubai, has translated the poems of well-known Emirati poet Dr Shihab Ghanem into Bengali before leaving for India.

The book of 25 poems, titled ‘Udbodhon’, which in English means awakening or illumination, was translated by Indian expatriate Sumanta Kumar Banerjee who brought out the book as a gesture of farewell. The book will be officially released at the international Poetic Heart Group’s virtual meet this evening.

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Dr Shihab Ghanem with the Bengali release Udbodhon Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dr Ghanem is a well-known Emirati poet who has published nearly 86 volumes of poetry. His works have been translated into more than 20 languages. His poems are popular in India and have been translated in Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi and Bengali. Being a deeply humane poet, Dr Ghanem’s sense of compassion and universal human values have appealed a lot to the Indian sensibility. He was awarded the Tagore Peace Prize in Kolkata in 2012.

Why Bengali translation?

Recounting his decision to translate Dr Ghanem’s poems in Bengali, Banerjee, a long-serving general manager with a UAE-based firm, told Gulf News that his deep love for poetry inspired him to translate the poems. “Literature and poetry are part of my DNA and so, even though I had a corporate job, I was contributing articles, poems, essays and travelogues to the literary magazine Aajker Shree published from Kolkata. When I met Dr Ghanem a couple of years ago and came to know that he had received the prestigious Tagore Award in 2012, I thought it was time to introduce his poems to the people of Bengal. I began by translating a few of his works, which were published in the magazine. The response was great and so I decided to translate a whole bunch of these and selected those poems of his that had already been translated into English,” said Banerjee, adding that it was the first Bengali translation of any Arabic poetry.

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Dr Shihab Ghanem was awarded the Tagore Peace Prize in Kolkata in 2012 Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Choice of title

Literally translated, ‘Udbodhon’ means ‘awakening of the senses’, but Banerjee has chosen the title from one of the poems, which is titled ‘Infusion’ in English. “I titled it Infusion after a poem in the anthology that refers to an awakening, as this book is meant to draw or stimulate the people of Bengal to the flavour of Arabic poetry,” he added.

A farewell gift

For Banerjee, who was in Dubai since 2004, this was the best way to bid farewell to the country with this parting gift. “I came to the UAE, 17 years ago and Dubai fulfilled all my dreams. I am returning to my family with a sense of achievement and deep satisfaction. This book of poems of Dr Ghanem in Bengali is my tribute to the UAE and will always remind me of the wonderful time I spent here.”

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Sumanta Kumar Banerjee has been in the UAE for 17 years Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Global resonance

Dr Ghanem expressed his happiness on this translation project and said he was looking forward to the formal evening of presentation on February 12. “It is a beautiful project and I have so much gratitude for Sumanta Banerjee who worked for a year on this project and published this book. Although I do not know Bengali, I think the sentiments and expressions of human values I expressed in my poems are universal and resonate with every human being — transcending language, borders and cultural barriers,” said the octogenarian poet. “I have been translated in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Mandarin, Japanese and several Indian languages and this becomes possible as people around the world have a common sensibility,” he said.

Poetry reflects the soul of a nation

Dr Ghanem said he was looking forward to the virtual meeting when ‘Udbodhon’ would be officially presented to the world, with participation of several leading literary figures from around the world. “I think poetry from any part of the world truly presents the soul of a nation. When poets express their feelings there is a sense of honesty and pure emotions that tell you a lot about the country he or she represents. That is why poetry today is one of the strongest cultural bridges that can link nations together on an intellectual level,” Dr Ghanem said.

From Infusion ...

‘When you became a part of my life

That part became the whole

...And you have become myself,

Do not think I am mad

Raving deliriously,

True, we have two separate forms,

Divided by sea and deserts,

True, my features are rugged,

Whilst your face boasts the prettiest of contours

Yet, you are here, inside me...

In the beat of my heart,

In the pulsation of my arteries,

And the sighs within my breaths,

For I am you,

Since I have become inhabited by this magic,

Like poetry inhabits words.’