The Master And His Student

9 May 2014 by Kausik Datta, posted in Personal, Society and Life

It is said that Internet is for cats. And a casual flipping through the pages of the world wide web amply serves to consolidate that impression. Even to someone like me, who is an inveterate dog-person, and who vocally professes not to like cats, adorable furballs adorably engaged in various adorable antics can often seem adorably irresistible; oh, did I mention they are adorable?

It is that same internet that alerted me to an awesome program at the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of the Berks County in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania. This program, known as the BOOK BUDDIES, "invites children in grades 1-8, who are able to read at any level, to the shelter to read to the cats in their adoption room. The program will help children improve their reading skills while also helping the shelter animals by providing socialization and human interaction." According to ARL, "cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing."

Best of all? The children showed remarkable improvement in reading, and this program has been well-utilized by home-schooled children, parents who want their children to form a bond with animals, parents of autistic children, and so forth. The Book Buddies link points to the Berks ARL webpage with adorable and delightful photos of young kids reading to cats. Enjoy!


Changing tracks, let me tell you a little bit about one of the greatest poets from India, Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941), poet, author, philosopher, artist - a much-beloved, well-respected polymath, whose glorious work has been inextricably interlinked with the psyche of people from my part of the world, comprising Bangla- or Bengali-speaking folks of at least two countries (Indian and Bangladesh) as well as diaspora. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 for "his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West."


Rabindranath Tagore (L); Tonks, my sister's cat (R)

Tagore, Left; Tonks, my sister's cat, Right.

So... From adorable feline cuteness to beloved poet Tagore, did that seem too much of an abrupt segue? Perish that thought, dear Reader o'mine. In a collection of verses for children, Tagore wrote "Master-Babu" - the Master/Teacher - a first-person narrative about a little boy who wants his cat to emulate the quintessential Bengali good boy, Gopal, and concentrate on his studies. To his consternation, the cat has entirely different plans, as cats always do - much of it directed towards world domination!

Since, sadly, most of you do not read Bangla, I made an attempt to translate the poem to the best of my ability (which, admittedly, is not much), retaining the original meter. The translation, of course, does nothing to convey the pure sweetness of the source poem, but... I hope you'll pardon me.

THE MASTER

I am, today, Kanai Master;
The student is my kitten.
(I just show him the stick, Mom,
I promise, he never gets beaten.)
Everyday he arrives late,
He pays me no attention,
He lifts his leg and yawns,
Much as I exhort, "Listen!"

Day in, and day out he plays
Away from studies he stays.
I say, "A E I O U"
He only says, "Miu, miu!"

First Part pages open,
Lessons I try to imbue -
"Never you steal any food;
Like Gopal, be good and true!"
Nothing I say works any,
Nothing goes through those ears...
The moment he sees a fish
Every lesson disappears

If ever flies in a sparrow
He shoots out like an arrow.
I stick to, "A E I O U"
The rogue just says, "Miu, miu!"

I tell him again and again
"Study time means one studies.
Once you finish your lessons,
go ahead, play with your buddies."
He pulls an innocent face,
He peeks at me askew
His expression seems to say,
"Yes, yes, I got you."

The moment he finds a chance
He vanishes without a glance.
I say, "A E I O U"
He only says, "Miu, miu!"

I dedicate this post to the pseudonymous poet-blogger, Digital Cuttlefish, whose verses are always a source of enjoyment and inspiration.


5 Responses to “The Master And His Student”

  1. Samantha Vimes Reply | Permalink

    That is a charming poem!

  2. Cuttlefish Reply | Permalink

    Beautiful!

    Translating poetry is as much an art as writing it in the first place--I have tried a few times and failed miserably; there are always at least three masters trying to control you, in form (especially if it rhymes), meaning, and voice, and they never lead in the same direction.

    Your verse is charming, and if you can see where it lacks, I certainly cannot.

    • Kausik Datta Reply | Permalink

      I am honored and humbled by your kind words. This - the original poem in Bangla - was a most favorite poem of mine during childhood.

  3. Kakoli Biswas Reply | Permalink

    Kausik, I loved this delightful piece of writing, especially the way in which a reading project in Pennsylvania has been linked to a charming poem by Tagore. And the humor is so you! :) Please write more.

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