‘A sort-of birthday song’: Sampurna Chattarji’s poetic bequest to Junoon


 “A song that can’t really be sung, that isn’t really happy, but it’s the one that wrote itself for all of you my dears at Junoon, may this birthday be the first of many many more.”

Junoon is all about leaps of faith, imagination, belief and joy. It is only natural, hence, for us to be born in a leap year! On February 29, 2016, we celebrated our ‘first’ birthday and completed four years of being who we are. The day was magical, with a staggering show of support from our extended family across the country and beyond. We’d like to share a treasure from the day, bestowed upon us by master wordsmith Sampurna Chattarji.


“The times are such we dare not speak
If one’s a traitor, another’s a freak

Fear runs high and hearts feel low
At such times where’s a soul to go?

Couplets arrange what’s skewed in life
Cut out the rhyme with a subtle knife

And sing in prose instead

Of madnesses that soar
like unhinged kites on spooling strings
disobeying every law that binds.
Of passions wild with knowing
this matters, and this,
small, unthought-of things
that speak in tongues unknown
until we taste them word by word,
sunlit, febrile, blinding words
like the madness in our hearts.

And so we come to madness,
mismatched mis-
understood word
refusing to stay aligned to the careful beat
of humdrum days.
Locked up,
counselled on a sofa
by a shrink,
medicated into unthinking stupors,
she’s mad, an insult, what madness!
celebrated by poets, by saints,
the ones who spoke to god and drank deep
at every intoxicating well
of the spirit.
Besotted, be sotted,
be driven to the edge.


This necessary vital madness,
of fools, and prophets,
wayfarers, vagabonds,
and minstrels.
In crematoriums, way stations,
the vibrations of the mad,
by more than earthly claims, and yet
of the earth, and from it,
to the core.

Daring deluded madness,
shaping silence
out of noise, gesturing vistas out of
void, singing healing into wounds,
springing surprises on a wall, violins out of
sorrow, tigercubs out of tindrums, planets
out of puppets, equations out of eggs,
this grand parade of loons,
such delirium, devilry, delight.

How well they warned us:
Beware the dangers of delirium!!!


How well we listened and then
how swiftly tossed all caution
to the winds and joined the juloos.
Sang, danced, waved the flags of every nation
but Nation, dreamers, drifters, doers, dabblers,
descendants of every pagla dashu in our lives.
What passed for gibberish to others was the
serious, sanest lexicon of our loves, various
as our variegated worlds.
Pied pipers, painters, jesters, jugglers, actors, singers, players,
writers, lovers of song and word and stage
and every imagined, imaginary place still waiting to be made.

No one could shake us, no one break in, burgle, burn or trash
what we carried inside our heads.
As night fell, and the jeers ceased and the people
ebbed away wondering why
their verified stratified ratified lives
felt a little ragged at the edges,
what tugged and pulled and disturbed
them just a little more than they cared to admit,
and in the littlest ones, what sparked just the strangest bursts
of glee, what made the young ones hunger for more, still more
of this thing that moved like a force unstoppable and free,
in that moment, that blood-dark tidal moment in my soul,
as I joined my voice to yours, the lovely lunacy
of all our voices rising to the moon and back, I knew again, anew:
The word for madness in my life was this


To see Sampurna’s memorable Mumbai Local session on her adventures with literary translation – titled ‘No Laws in this Land of Doubles’ (June 2015) – click here.



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