Bengali poet and novelist Sunil Ganguly, in his autobiography ‘Chhabir Deshe, Kabitar Deshe’ (In the country of pictures and poems), mentioned that he got a scholarship in America where he was in search of his friend Allen Ginsberg.
Ginsberg informed him about his fleeting residence earlier and said that he was more often available at the Eighth Street Bookshop in Greenwich village.
“May I know where Ginsberg is?” asked Sunil.
“Are you an Indian? Ginsberg has informed me about you. You may go to the third floor using the staircase,” replied the man at the counter. He got goosebumps when heard a folk song played in the room at the right side. It was Abbasuddin’s ‘Fande poriya boga kande re’ (The crane cries falling in the trap). Sunil saw Ginsberg enjoying every rhythm of the song being half laid.
The incident took place much before Bangladesh’s liberation war. Since then Ginsberg had a cordial relations with Bangladesh. After the outbreak of the liberation war, Bangladesh drew attention of the global media, followed by arrival of many foreign journalists and intellectuals. They stood by the sorrows and agonies of the victims of the war.
Ginsberg came all the way from America to witness the liberation war of 1971. He saw with pity and awe the inhuman sufferings of the people who were without food and shelter for months together, braving sun and shower. The then East Pakistanis were forced to move out of their home and used the Jessore Road to flee to India.
Seeing the conditions prevailing there, Ginsberg composed his epoch-making poem ‘September on Jessore Road’ based on the awful conditions of the then war victims.
“Millions of daughters walk in the mud
Millions of children wash in the flood
A Million girls vomit & groan
Millions of families hopeless alone”
Millions of babies in pain
Millions of mothers in rain
Millions of brothers in woe
Millions of children nowhere to go”
Ginsberg had then gone on to arrange a poetry recitation session in George Church, New York, along with Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky and some American beat poets to raise fund for the war victims. The poet himself recited his poem ‘September on Jessore Road” and thus drew attention of many intellectuals.
Allen Ginsberg, who opposed imperialism of the United States, was born on 3 June 1926 in New Jersey and died on 5 April 1997.
For his contribution to Bangladesh’s independence, the government of Bangladesh honoured Allen Ginsberg with ‘friendship award’.
- This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Faria Islam