By Tridib & Alo Mitra
The Books and web pages we have read so far on Allen Ginsberg, the American poet of Beat movement, have one thing in common. They do not bother to examine the impact
Allen Ginsberg was the poet, short-story writer and editor Samir Roychoudhury’s guest for about a week at his Chaibasa hilltop hutment during Hindu Rathayatra festival in 1962.
The hutment was right in the middle of a tribal village. Ginsberg had gone there with another Hungryalist poet Shakti Chattopadhyay. Shakti had stayed with Samir during the period 1958-1963.
In April 1963 Ginsberg visited younger brother of Samir, i.e. Malay Roychoudhury at their
None of the Hungryalists knew about him prior to his arrival in
Hungryalist movement had been launched from
The word Hungryalism was coined by the Hungryalists from English poet Geofrey Chaucer’s line In the Sowre Hungry Tyme.The Hungryalists felt that the post-colonial dream of a new,ecstatic , resurgent
The philosophical base of the movement, in keeping with the Chaucerian idea of Hungry time, was drawn from Oswald Spengler’s sense of history. Spengler,more or less like Hindus, had seen history not as a linear progression, but as the flowering of a number of self-contained cultures, each with a characteristic spiritual tone, or conception of the space within which they are to act. Spengler had also argued that cultures go through a self-contained process of growing, going through their seasons, and perishing. There were no historically intelligible laws to this process.
The Hungryalists were impressed with the idea. Spenglerian argument that a culture is creative during its ascendancy, when it depends upon its own productive resources. Once the creativity reaches its zenith, the culture starts waning, and starts feeding on alien resources. As a result, the culture starts degenerating, and its hunger for outside supplements becomes insatiable. The Hungryalists felt that there was no further scope to produce cultural and intellectual giants like Rammohan Ray, Vidyasagar, Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore.
The reason why Ginsberg was attracted to this Bengali literary movement is because there had been continuous media coverage of activities of the writers, poets, and artists preceding his arrival in
Allen Ginsberg’s logo of three fishes with one common head displayed in all his post-India publications, albums, cassettes, exhibition cards etc, which appeared for the first time in his
Ginsberg had come to
A CHANGED GINSBERG
Allen Ginsberg was in awe with the depth of tolerance and resiliency of Indian masses. For the common Indian man, as well as the Hungryalists who all came from Hindu family, such binary opposites as God and Devil, and therefore, pure good and pure evil, were non-existent. In the company of Shakti Chattopadhyay, Asoke Fikir and Karunanidhan Mukhopadhyay, Ginsberg met many religious persons such as Sri Sitaram
Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and “Kaddish” were products of a social consciousness squeezed out of clash of monotheistic binary opposites. After his life in
Acceptance of Akbar’s three-bodied fish by Ginsberg as his logo reveals that he had spiritually disowned monotheistic American inheritance in 1963 itself though he converted to Buddhism in 1972. Malay Roychoudhury has written in April 2007 issue of “The Storm” that when Ginsberg visited his
CONCEALMENT OF INDIAN INFLUENCE
Though TIME magazine in its issue of November 20, 1964 had written that it was Ginsberg who influenced the Hungryalists, the fact is other way round. Hungryalists had indelible impact on all dimensions of his identity. Simply look at him how he was when he came to
Ginsberg carried a harmonium from Benaras when he returned to
The Hungryalist influence in this regard had gone beyond Ginsberg in
It would also be worthwhile to mention that Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Leroy Jones (Amiri Baraka), Margaret Randall, Carol Berge, Eric Motram, Howard McCord, Daisy Aldan, Allan de Loach, Robert Kelly, Dick Bakken, Gordon Lasslet, Allan Van Newkirk, Carl Weissner, Barney Rosset, George Dowden, Ida Spaulding, James Laughlin, Lita Hornick, Bonnie Crown, David Antin, Joel Oppenheimer, Dan Georgakas, Diane Di Prima, Octavio Paz, Ernesto Cardenal, George Bowering, Paul Blackburn, Allen Hoffman, Clayton Eshleyman, Carol Rubenstien, Armand, Schwerner, Ted Berrigan, Jerome Rothenberg, Roberto Juarroz and several other writers, poets, artists had creative contact with the Hungryalists. Some of them had visited
Ginsberg’s declaration that “if it isn’t composed on the tongue, it is an essay”, is an insight he received from the stories of oral poets of 19th century Kolkata (Bhola Moira, Anthony Firingi, Ram Basu, Jagneshwar Das,Gonjla Guin, Nityananda Boiragi, Nilmoni Thakur, Nrisingha Rai, Bhabani Banik, Krishnakanta Chamar, Raghunath Das, Haru Thakur, and many others, who incidentally were mostly “revolt of the shudras poets”). Ginsberg came to know about them from Asoke Fakir, whose Champahati hutment used to be frequented by Hungryalists for substance celebration.
Allen Ginsberg has described Asoke Fakir as “saffron robed long black hair Negro” in his Indian Journals. Asoke was rather good looking. Author Shyamal Gangopadhyay had written a novel based on the colourful life of Asoke Fakir. The first thing Asoke did to foreign writers was to give them a shock of their life by taking them to the Nimtalla Ghat, the Hindu funeral place where dead bodies are regularly burnt on pyre logs. This was an experience which Allen and Peter had never encountered before. Thereafter whichever city or pilgrimage centre Ginsberg visited, he invariably went to the Burning Ghat like a haunted man, even in such remote tribal places like Chaibasa.
Hindi poet Nagarjuna had told us that Allen used to spend brooding hours all alone at the famous Manikarnika Burning ghat almost everyday at Benaras, and that his tanned skin and long black hair gave him such an Indian identity that he freely entered all Hindu temples, which are otherwise barred for non-Hindus. Ginsberg was fascinated with the funeral pyre as the burning dead body was a constant reminder of inevitable mortality, a reminder that the living flesh is tender and vulnerable. A grave, on the other hand, gave a false notion of immortality. We are sure that his post-India discourse is built on this premise.
The anti-substance law was enacted in 1980s. Ginsberg was surprised to find easy availability of ganja or the Indian marijuana, bhang, hashish, opium. Etc. at or near all Burning
(Tridib Mitra and his wife Alo Mitra edited two Hungryalist magazines, one in English named “Waste Paper” and the other in Bengali named Unmarga. They also edited collections of letters written to Hungryalists: one in English and another in Bengali. Thesecollections and manifesto, bulletins etc .are available at the Hungryalist archive of Little Magazine Library and Research Centre, 18M,Tamer lane, Kolkata 700 009.)