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Poet Allen Ginsberg and September on Jessore Road

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Allen Ginsberg composed the poem, \'September on Jessore Road\' which he recited in a poetry reading session in George Church New York. The poem touched greatly, Ginsberg\'s friend Bob Dylan, the great Pop singer of the world who gave the poem a musical f

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22nd-Dec-2017       
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Professor Anwarul Karim,Ph.D  :
Allen Ginsberg (1926- 1997) a noted American poet of New Jersey was an acclaimed poet of his age and generations. He was one of the most respected and leading figures of the Beat writers. He was a humanist. His father Louis was a school teacher in New Teacher and also a lyric poet. His mother was a Communist. They were Jewish and migrated from Russia to America.  
The poem ‘September on Jessore Road’ was composed by Allen Ginsberg, after he visited the War victims of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, on Jessore road personally in 1971. Allen Ginsberg first came to know about the horrible and terrifying moments faced by the people of the then East Pakistan through reports of foreign correspondents. The harrowing tales of inhuman sufferings of the people caught the attention of the   poets and singers who composed songs and poems on them.
Ginsberg came all the way from America to witness the war victims on the over crowded Jessore road living under the open sky, braving sun and shower and without food. He was greatly moved coming in contact with the millions of war victims who were forcibly evicted from their hearth and home when Pakistani army let loose a reign of terror, killing, burning and destroying everything that came on their way in Dhaka and elsewhere of the country on the fateful night of March 25, 1971 and afterwards. It was a miserable situation and Allen Ginsberg was greatly shocked to see things personally. With tears in his eyes, Allen Ginsberg witnessed with pity and awes the inhuman sufferings of the people who were without food and shelter .for months together. He also came across the mothers without food and children unnourished. Allen saw the hungry fathers and mothers   holding the empty pots for food and succour in trembling hands. He also experienced deaths of people in the camps.
Allen Ginsberg composed the poem, 'September on Jessore Road' which he recited in a poetry reading session in George Church New York. The poem touched greatly, Ginsberg’s friend Bob Dylan, the great Pop singer of the world who gave the poem a musical form and presented in Bangladesh afterwards. Both the song and the poem thrilled the world who looked horrified and pitied on the war victims. George Harrison and Ravi Sankar also arranged concert and the people became awe stricken and were spell bound as they listened to these songs and concerts. An Indian singer Maushumi Bhowmik also composed a Bengali version of the song and performed. A  CD of the song is also now available.
But surprisingly enough, the US Government headed by President Henry Kissinger supported Pakistan and betrayed the cause of the then East Pakistani people. The general people of America, like other countries, vehemently protested and condemned the action taken by the US government.
This has also been reflected in the poem written by Ginsberg, entitled September on Jessore Road. And up came the historic poem,

September on Jessore Road


Millions of babies watching the skies
Bellies swollen, with big round eyes
On Jessore Road -long bamboo huts
No place to shit but sand channel ruts

Millions of fathers in rain
Millions of mothers in pain
Millions of brothers in woe
Millions of sisters nowhere to go

One Million aunts are dying for bread
One Million uncles lamenting the dead
Grandfather millions homeless and sad
Grandmother millions silently mad

Millions of daughters walk in the mud
Millions of children wash in the flood
A Million girls vomit and groan
Millions of families hopeless alone

Millions of souls nineteen seventy one
Homeless on Jessore Road under grey sun
A million are dead, the million who can
Walk toward Calcutta from East Pakistan

Taxi September along Jessore Road
Oxcart skeletons drag charcoal load
Past watery field s through rain flood ruts
Dung cakes on tree trunks, plastic roof huts

Mother squats weeping and points to her sons
Standing thin legged like elderly nuns
Small bodied hands to their mouths in prayer
Five months small food since they settled there

On one floor mat with small empty pot
Father lifts up his hands at their lot
Tears come to their mother’s eye
Pain makes mother ‘Maiya’ cry’

On Jessore Road mother wept at my knees
Bengali tongue cried Mister please
Identity card torn up on the floor
Husband still waits at the camp office door

September Jessore Road rickshaw
50,000 souls in one camp I saw
Rows of bamboo huts in the flood
Open drains, and wet families waiting for food

Border trucks flooded, food can't get past
American Angel machine please come fast!
Where is Ambassador Bunker today?
Are his Helios machines gunning children at play?

Where are the helicopters of US Aid?
Smuggling dope in Bangkok's green shade
Where is America’s Air Force of Light?
Bombing North Laos all day all night

Where are the President's Armies of Gold
Billionaire Navies merciful Bold?
Bringing us medicine food and relief?
Napalming North Vietnam and causing more grief?

Where are our tears? Who weeps for the pain?
Where can these families go in the rain?
Jessore Road’s children close their big eyes
Where will we sleep when our father dies?

Ring O ye tongues of the world for their woe
Ring out ye voices for Love we don't know
Ring out ye bells of electrical pain
Ring in the conscious of American brain.

The poem could not be presented in full but it contained main issues of the topic. Allen Ginsberg made it an epoch making poem giving details of his on the spot observation. It speaks of the whole of the people who fought for their mother tongue and also for freedom to lead a life of a heroic nation. Allen Ginsberg was bold enough voicing protest and  hatred against his own government and the  US President for waging war against Vietnam and also for supporting  Pakistan for   crushing  freedom loving people of Bangladesh. But both US and Pakistan finally met the poetic justice as the both faced defeat at the hands of freedom loving people of Vietnam and Bangladesh. n

The Writer is formerly a Harvard Visiting Scholar (1985) and  presently Pro-Vice Chancellor, Northern University Bangladesh. Email: dranwar.karim@gmail.com)     

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