Panther Khokon, Boi Mela and surreal poetry

by Towheed Feroze

sin01Brother, you must come to the unveiling of my anthology of surreal poetry, the writer exhorted. I could not say no, though after going through some lines of his poems, I felt like an imbecile.
One poem, Nokkhotrer nucleus e kutshit boshonto (Vulgar spring in the nucleus of the star) left me completely baffled:
Eishob kalo kalo teler drum, jekhane shuye thake picchcil kecho, esho tumi shada dudh haate, churigulo jeno na bhaange (These black drums containing oil, where slippery worms lie, come with white milk hands but make sure the bangles are not cracked).
Didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry, it was around eight pm, there was a slight post winter mist over the Dhaka University field and from the edge of the boundary wall the smell of marijuana wafted into my senses.
The poet was insistent and I felt like that slippery worm. How very surreal!
Something inside me said: you must go because the unveiling of the book of poems will provide enough elements for your ‘saint’ piece.
Absolutely, I said, and looked at my squash marker Dipok for whom every moment is somewhat ethereal because when he faces drab reality, he quickly goes to one strategic corner to take a few uplifting puffs of the magic herb.
So, the next day we were at the spot where the book was to be unveiled. A rather rebellious looking man was shouting out orders left and right.
As I stood on one side, he came up to me and muttered in an enigmatic tone: rongdhonu gulo kintu Harpic deya, to which I could only pull a foolish grin.
By the way, my rainbows were already doused in Vodka; no point going to meet poets in a normal state of mind. Soon, the poet came.
Jubilant to see me, he moved forward and whispered: I am planning to change my pen name to Nengta Pecha (naked owl) to which I agreed wholeheartedly.  ‘Aaaaaaah, what a unique name,’ I observed and thought: maybe it’s time I change the name of this column into ‘The mad saint’.
Already a few others standing by me started reciting from the book to be launched.
‘Adhare pelam ekta condom, shopno shukher tibrotae fele deya shitkaar’ (found a condom in the dark/in the intensity of dreamy bliss/ a discarded climax).
Bah, bah bah, what a profound observation, I said and looked a little more closely at the guy next to me.
‘Tui Panther Khokon na? (aren’t you Panther Khokon?),’ I asked.
He immediately broke into a familiar laughter saying: arey, TOTO, tui?
Panther Khokon used to live in our area and got the ‘Panther’ epithet because his favourite act of mischief was to fill Panther condoms with water and leave the large wobbly balloons on the staircase of his landlord, who despised him because Khokon was caught spying on a newly arrived tenant taking a shower in the toilet which had not been protected by a curtain.
Khokon was the daring voyeur and was often found on rooftops with his father’s Zeiss binoculars. In fact, on one occasion, one of my relatives who had come to my grandmother’s place asked: ‘Is your friend a bird-watcher?’
Yeah, you are spot on, he is a keen ‘bird’ watcher!
Now Khokon has changed, sporting a beard, wearing a khadi kurta and glasses, no one could use the ‘Panther’ as a prefix anymore. ‘Dosto, are you a poet?’ I asked, trying to connect the ‘condom’ bit from the book with him.
‘No, no, not yet but hope to publish a collection of poems next year at the book fair,’ he responded.
The name is already fixed, I will tell you in confidence; he lowered his tone, came close to my ears and said: ‘Rongin Dherosh ar kordomakto telapoka (colourful okra and muddy cockroaches).’
Wow, I could muster one word, the effect of the Vodka was dying out, needed refueling fast.
The Boi Mela is about five minutes walk from the Dhaka University field. Yet, every year when the book fair arrives, it’s usually the last day when I manage to make a rushed visit. They do say, when something is within our reach, we take it for granted.
Despite spending most evenings within the DU campus, that short walk had to be postponed till the last minute.
But with so much happening at the poetry collection launch, I had to say, it was worth it.
A guitarist was supposed to come to play some soft tones during recitation but it transpired that the musician is passed out in some slum near Mohakhali.
Some guy named Baadsha answered the guitarist’s mobile saying: oi halae to bhitre gesega which if translated stands: he is gone inside but the actual meaning is he is stoned immaculate.
No worries, the show must go on, I kept a smiling face.
A few books were handed over to me.
‘Please give them to those who are aficionados of surreal poetry,’ my friend told me.
Of course, I will, I say and add: I am sure a lot of people will love the poem: Sagor konyar diarrhea (the mermaid has diarrhea).
He then asked if I would like to join them for a marathon private session later on.
A budding poet known as Laal Kutta (red dog) will be showcasing works and the guitarist will join because by that time he will be out of stupor.

No, not this time, maybe later, I politely declined.
So, if you are interested to immerse yourself in surreal poetry and want to meet ‘Panther Khokon’, then please let me know.
Meanwhile, I think I will compose a poem called: ‘Binocular haate ekdin’ (one day with the binoculars)………if you are interested to get it by mail then:

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