Translated from the Bengali by Shreya Bhowmik
They all stare at the Naked King
They clap, still.
They all hoot and cheer
Some out of faith, some out of fear.
Some have mortgaged their intelligence
Some are parasites, others
Beggars, flatterers, cheats;
Still others are thinking maybe the royal dress is really sheer,
The eyes cannot see, but it is there
At least, there’s a chance.
Everyone knows the tale.
But the story is not just about a few people
Who could sweet-talk
Or was afraid, or a trickster, or a panegyrist.
There was also a child-
Honest, straight, courageous.
The make-believe king strutted down the real street–
There is frequent clapping, again.
The flatterers have all gathered around.
But my eyes fail to find that child
In the crowd.
Where is she? Did someone hide her
In a cave up in the mountains?
Or did she fall asleep on the banks of a silent river
Or maybe under the shades of a tree in a field
While doodling with stones, grass and clay…
Go, bring her back by any means
She needs to stand without fear before
The Naked King.
She needs to raise
Raise her voice over the cheering claps
O King, Where are Your Clothes?
Nirendranath Chakravarty (1924–2018) was a popular contemporary Bengali poet. He won the Sahitya Academy Award in 1974 for the book of poems Ulanga Raja (The Naked King). In 2007, the University of Calcutta awarded him an honorary Doctor of Literature degree. Chakravarty also wrote few detective novels of Bhaduri Moshai.
Shreya Bhowmik is a Masters graduate of English Literature and Political Science from Presidency University and Delhi University, respectively. She spends half the day reading fanfiction and the remaining half on working towards her research interest that broadly falls under film and queer studies. She loves old buildings, hole-in-the-wall eateries and unfinished conversations, prefers Calcutta over Kolkata and hopes to meet Dylan and Wong Kar-wai someday before the dust calls.