Shihab Sarkar took degrees in English from Dhaka University before embarking on a career in journalism. He was one of the poets who made their debut in the seventies. He has attended the International Writers Programme at the University of Iowa

Buddha and Balmiki in Airport Road

Further from Farmgate, beside Airport Road,
Buddha met Balmiki.
It was less noisy in this area, there might
Even be a lotus-lake nearby, or a dead river,
Humps of earth, trees, earthen pathways, solitary
Scattered, serpentine

Buddha was arriving on foot, alone.
When he saw the Primal Poet fast approaching
He said, coming via London, New York, London,
I’ve just landed in Dhaka of the Orient.
How green! How green! said the former prince of
Kapilavastu as he plucked some leaves from a bush
By the side of the road, gazed at them for a long while and wondered
How similar were these to
The tree of knowledge?

A storm arises in the west, Buddha has arrived in Atish’s Bengal,
Where hundreds of disciples have sat in the solitary schools of learning
And meditated on peace.

In the thin light of evening in Airport Road
As he watched a soft white light illumine
The thin, contemplative face of Buddha, Balmiki asked,
“I hope you’ll stay awhile in Bengal?”
Buddha remained silent. Then, “Listen, Oh Poet,
What is that cry?”

Balmiki glanced at the darkened field
“I don’t know, I don’t know, Oh king of kings,”
He covered his face with hands, and knees bent
Knelt on the ground.
Behind a bush five young men were gnawing at
A woman all skin and bones

Balmiki left the way he had arrived, fleet of foot
Buddha stood there unmoving, bewildered, in this Atish’s Bengal.

– Shabnam Nadiya