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A child’s world in verse

Book title: Dreams and Daybreaks

Author: Jyoti Prasad Agarwala

Translator: Neera Dogra

Publisher: Privately published

Pages: 76

Price: Rs 70

Only about 300 years ago, children were looked at as distinct entities and not as smaller versions of human adults. Jyotiprasad, the famed ‘Rupkonwar’ was at home in the child’s world and his pieces on and about children are, as the translator says in her note, not about utopia or an Eldorado but about day-to-day happenings close to reality.

This slender volume of translations is a tribute to Neera Dogra by her younger relatives on her hundredth birthday in 2009. They are a sincere and feeling recreation of the mood and tenor of the originals. There is an authentic intimacy about the work as Dogra was part of the experiences that inspired the poems. Her eldest brother was sensitive to the ways and pranks of his siblings first, and his own children later, and they inspire the creations.

Hiren Gohain, who has given the book its apt title, says in his foreword: Jyotiprasad’s poems for children not only encompass the child’s world but extend beyond it in significance and scope. The poems are full of fantasy and whimsy, childish pranks and fears; they also body forth in some ways the unfulfilled dreams of mankind… The anxieties the child faces and overcomes are the age-old obstacles man faces in his progress. His unclouded joy in man’s heritage, which, though streaked with gloom today, will burst into radiance once man wins over everything evil that impedes his onward march.

An academic and dedicated social worker at both the local and national levels, Neera Dogra took up the task of translation to make the poems available to a wider audience. Kumpu’s dream about the sun (Kumpu’s Bright Red Dream) is a complete dream anecdote:

He sat in my father’s chair and picking up my father’s music book

He started leafing through it with tremendous speed

He signed a whole lot of pages, as though he was in a big hurry!

As he was leafing through my father’s book of songs,

He stopped at one page and hummed the tune of the song softly to himself.

It then moves on to a child’s fervent prayer, intensely sensitive to the world of the elders, and almost in their idiom:

Lord! Give us light and more light.

Remove from our minds all darkness and show us

How we may reach thee.

In “A Little Boy” we find a detailed response to the world of his father, as he understands it while happily aware of the fondly monitoring presence of the mother:

My mother loves to see my pranks, but hides her mirth.

Frowning, she looks at me sternly

But turns her face away as she smiles

The child’s world in all its variety is evoked in the poems and the translations are alive with the child’s joy and misgivings.

The poems towards the end have more space for the adults and include exhortations to them.

In a nutshell, Dreams and Daybreaks is a permanent addition to the world of the child anywhere.