Glass Bangle ( Kuppi Vala by Sugata Kumary) Poem Translation From Malayalam

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Kuppi Vala( 1974, Sugata Kumary)

Glass Bangle

***

Listen, I have stood yearning

My eyes athirst

For red glass bangles.

Once, in my poverty stricken

Childhood

In an eventide, near a small shop,

Not daring to ask,

Holding my mother’s finger tip

I had stood-

Kissing the red glass bangle

With my eyes,

As my little heart wept within.

 

Years passed, I walked

Long distances,

Through many paths.

In my youth, in that passionate

Ecstatic time,  in front of you

My Love,

I stretched my slim, glistening

Fair Hands

And said,’Those shining red bangles-

Will you buy them for me?’

With a smile laced with contempt

As you hurried, you mocked:

‘Glass bangles! No shame?

Are you a kid? Tch!’

My heart and my face

Both  got scorched,

Withered fast.

I became yet again,

That small child

Holding her mother’s finger tip.

 

How many years have

Passed since then?

White stars have come and gone!

At the end of my long journey

In the darkness of my autumn

I sit remembering

Those  red bangles.

 

My shrivelled hands,

Exhausted with endless

Toil,

Never have they known

The redness of a glass bangle!

Never have they heard the sparkling

Laughter of one!

 

Still I find myself smiling.

Because, in my heart,

Few smashed glass bangles

Are scattered around;

And from the prick of a sliver

Four or five red drops

Are gathering within…

****

Note:

Perhaps one of the most perceptive poems  about loss that I have ever read , this  one touched me  rather deeply. How often our small yearnings are ruthlessly crushed by  the stark insensitivity of those who claim to love us.

How ironic that a woman  actually needs so little to feel truly loved. But that very innocence is derided often.  The  mockery of the ‘quixotic female mind…’ still continues…

Searching For A Shore: Tat Ki Khoj By HariShankar Parsayi

Tat Ki Khoj-(Searching For A Shore) is a slim novel by Hindi’s renowned writer and satirist Harishankar Parsayi. Written originally in 1998, it has been reprinted many times.  The theme it explores, of a woman’s place in society, is as relevant today as it was in 1998.

Sheela is a brilliant, motherless college student. Her poor, honest government pensioner father is distraught at his lack of wealth which makes it impossible for him to give dowry for his daughter’s wedding- which consequently becomes an unfulfilled dream. Meanwhile a supposedly progressive young lecturer called Mahendranath makes his interest known to Sheela. But a strange quirk of fate exposes his inherent cowardice before a hypocritical society- the one which considers a woman’s virtue to be a  fragile glass plate that can shatter at the mere presence of a man. Shocked by the turn of events, Sheela finds  that her god has clay feet.

The latter half of the story is  about the temporary  emotional shelter the innocent girl obtains from her friend Vimala and her brother Manoharlal. The arrows of prejudice against an orphan girl whose chastity has once been questioned, prove too bitter  a venom for the rest of  Manohar’s family. Finally, Sheela leaves in search of a dignified life- where she wants to be her own person, without being dependent on any other.

The story line by itself is simple: but the  sly sentences that the satirist par excellence weaves in his narrative can excoriate the false ego and hypocrisy of every one of us.

What is the status of a ‘tainted woman?’ Even if she is totally innocent, why do we revictimise a victim? Why is it always her fault? How come the man gets away scot free? Is wealth the only solution  for removing a woman’s agonies- by purchasing  a husband, by buying the comforts of a respectable life, by buying silence from a rabid society?  Why is the girl objectified and paraded before prospective grooms who get to balance her on the scales of their greed? Why do values, which people write about and shout about heroically, become very hard to practise when the time demands it? When a woman decides not to commit suicide  in utter desperation and instead chooses to live with dignity, should we not be applauding her?

Let me translate a few striking observations of Parsayiji.

“Ve sab log haath mein taraju liye the, jiske ek palve par bete ko rakhe the/ Mucche, mere samast vidya,buddhi aur saundarya ke saath doosre palve par rakhkar dekhte,to har baar mera hi palva halka pathe/”

All those people had in their hands a balance: on one of the scales they would  have their son seated  and on the other- me with with all my education, intelligence and beauty. However, every time my scale would be the  one lighter in weight.

“Main jaanti thi Ki yeh photo maal Ke namune Ki tarah kisi vyapari Ke paas beji javegy/parantu doosry or se kabhi chitra nahi aaya, kyonki kharidar hi maal Ki parakh karta hain; maal kharidgar ko nahin dekhta/streepurushon ke sambadom mein yehi darsan sab jagah charitarth hota hai”

I knew that this photograph ( of mine) would be sent to some buyer like the sample of a good on sale.But never did any photograph come from the boy’s side- after all it is always the buyer who gets to see the good, not the other way round. In every place, this view about male and female relationships remains in vogue.

“Kabhi kabhi prem ki apeksha khrina ka sambandh adhik majboot hota hai…lagta hain, khrina aur prem mein koyi visesh andar nahin hai”

Sometimes, compared to relationships based on love, those based on hatred seemed stronger…I feel that there is not much difference between hatred and love…

“Kyonki purush ko yeh sochkar bada garv hota hai ki naari ne uske prem mein atmahatya kar li…”

Because a man feels great pride in the fact that a woman committed suicide because of her love for him….

***

I can only shake my head in wonder at this iconoclastic writer’s penetrating observations and  their scorching truth.

Maybe I will conclude by translating the author’s foreword for the latest edition.

Foreword: By Harishankar Parsayi

I still find it hard to understand about how I ended up writing ‘Tat Ki Khoj’, all those years before. This is a story which can be called a novella. My poet pal had narrated the original story to me. He was extremely emotional. My age was also that of being drenched in emotions. I was also a romantic. Logic was not my strength then. At that time I had been asked to contribute  something for the Deepawali special of ‘ Amrit Prabhat’. I was in a hurry. The incident that my friend had shared with me was still troubling my mind. My sensitivities were aligned to the girl in that story. I stayed up for two nights consecutively and finished writing this story.

After writing it, I felt regret. When it was published, I regretted more. Now that it is getting republished by Vani Prakashan, I am still regretting it. I can no longer face this creation of mine. One third of my creations are such that I find myself petrified on facing them. Anyway, I am giving the go ahead for the republication of ‘ Tat Ki Khoj.’

****

How Do I Write A Story? ( Munshi Premchand’s Note: Translated from Hindi)

 

Main Kahani Kaise Likhta Hun ( How Do I Write A Story?)

*

My stories are usually based on some inspiration or experience, which I try to paint in dramatic colours. However, I do not write a story simply to describe  a certain episode. I wish to depict some emotional and philosophical truth in it. Unless I get a  starting point like that, my  pen does not even rise. Once I get the base, I create the characters. Often, the study of History gives many plots. But no incident can become a story unless it showcases a psychological truth.

Until I can perceive the entire story from beginning to end in my mind, I do not sit down to write it. I create my characters with a perspective that they are truly  conducive to the story. I do not consider it necessary that the basis of a story has to be an interesting incident; in fact any occurrence with a psychological climax can serve the purpose. Recently I have written a story in Hindi called, ‘Dil Ki Rani'( Queen of My Heart). I had read in Muslim historical narrative an episode in the life of Taimur; which had reference to his wedding with Hamida Begum. Quickly I had the thought of a dramatic improvisation of this historical event. Hamida Begum had learned  combat skills from her father in her childhood and had participated even in military skirmishes. Taimur had killed thousands of Turks. How could a Turkish woman fall in love with a foe like that?  The answer to that question would determine the story climax. Taimur was not handsome, so it was necessary to create in him some  naturally good and  heart warming quality that would attract  such a very fine woman to him. That story developed in this manner.

A lot of news that one hears can serve as the foundation of stories. But an incident does not become a story with mere style and a  beautiful, perfect vocabulary. The climax is critical, and it has to have psychological insight. Also the way the narrative progresses is important,  so that the story climax keeps coming close. Whenever I get a chance to emphasise on the disposition of anyone – and  create poetic and literary  colour effects around it, I make maximum  use of that opportunity. This colour is the life of any story.

I write frugally. I have never written more than two stories in a month. Often months pass by when I  write no story at all. I get incidents and characters but the psychological substructure is very hard to find. Once that problem is solved, it doesn’t take too long for me to write a story. But one cannot describe the whole process of writing a story in these few  paragraphs.

It is an intellectual concept. People can learn to write stories by learning the process , but as in poetry or any branch of literature, one has to have a natural love for it. The nature creates plots by herself, creates dramatic hues, provides vibrancy, accumulates literary finesse, unknowingly all these keep happening.

Yes, after finishing a story, I read it myself. If I find something new, some sparkle of intelligence, some freshness of reality ,  a page turning effect,  then I might consider it to be a successful story. Else I conclude that it has failed. Both the failed and passed stories have got published- and often those stories which I considered ‘ failed’ were much appreciated by my friends! And so, I do not trust my own test too much.

****

 

Rites of Growth

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I have heard different people speaking about ‘why they write.’

Some of them write to make the world a more equitable place, some because they see stories all the time and cannot help telling them, some to get  their agonies assuaged, some due to a sense of dutifulness….the reasons are as varied as the types of human beings around us. And that is  quite a lot.

I have been  harshly told not to write ( Only ‘bad’ women write- do you know how men look at them? Do you? Do you?),asked mockingly why I bothered to write ‘if you were going to be published by such low key publishers’ (What is the use of writing something if nobody reads it, eh?), asked if I had the talent enough to write something at all ( She thinks she is a great writer, I do not think so. ), whether I should not be spending that time doing something more worthwhile ( Women have a lot of stuff to do, right?),laughed at for not attempting a novel ( You are not capable of that, are you really?), etc etc…

At my age, I don’t give a damn anymore.

So let me tell you a story. Of how I ended up meeting one of the most brilliant women that I have ever seen. We had dinner together in a nice restaurant  and both  she and my younger daughter fell sick afterwards! The paneer, ( yes, made of milk remnants) had  been bad, and they got infected.  The rest of us, who had  shunned that dish and indulged in other delicacies hadn’t been affected.

I took a week off from work. And  in that one week of looking after a recuperating child, I  ended up translating my friend’s  taut and stunning novella- full of imageries of milk turning  bad in time, symbolising love turning malicious.  When the effect of the poisoned paneer had finally left them both, I gave my friend the first draft. Serendipity had turned a milky white mysterious angel. She loved it and then promptly asked me to ‘ sit and polish it as hard as you can.’

The fact that I was a novice in the publishing industry helped me to ignore the naysayers early on. I am a career bureaucrat, and I deal with high temperamental personalities every day of my life. Well, that  learned immunity to unsolicited negativity, helped with the less than positive comments about my translation, as it was shown around  initially.

‘Burn with the script as a writer.Improve it with sweat and blood!’ She should have been a military commander; my friend. I do not know if I burnt anything in the process, but I have always enjoyed a challenge.

That  translated novel has now been released.  If I look back, it all started with the milk turning sour…

So, why do  you write?

Because…come let us write another one.

*

Yesterday, someone gifted me six Hindi classics. Four books of Harishankar Parsayi and two of Premchand.

My little girl pointed out that she had already studied a short story of Premchand: Eidgaah. Her Amma was going to ‘study’ it only now!

‘Amma, please ask me if you do not understand it, ok?’

I smiled readily. With utmost pleasure, my darling.

***

 

 

Fenugreek Woman

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Fenugreek is tough

Like a woman.

But soak it overnight with

Water

As a woman in love

It softens beyond imagination.

Then all you need is to mash it-

It becomes a hapless white pulp

That, when used on your scalp

With a sting of lemon juice,

Can ease the most chronic dandruff,

For a while.

Woman too, mushy in love

With that sting of passion,

Serves to soothe the malicious obsession

Of certain men,

For a while.

But the day

You try to smash a dry fenugreek

Hoping for a dandruff solution,

Is the day in which

She  turns around and snarls.

Very dangerous:

Both to hair and health.

*

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Dictionary

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The most misused word ever,

Love.

We use it to replace

LustWantNeed BandaidPacemakerAphrodisiac

MusclerelaxantSleeping pill…( top choices amongst others)

Pssst,

Every woman

Has a secret dictionary.

She opens the page

With the word

Love

And reads a new synonym, every time.

If the meaning skips from one to two to three

To four to five to six

Seven and perhaps eight

In a moment, minute, hour or day…

Well,

She will not change the dictionary

She will look at a new page instead.

The page with  words full of “I”-

IridescentIncorrigibleIntelligentIrrepressible

Later, much later

When she laughingly turns to Love,

A new meaning winks at her-

Independence

And hence  the  real truth:

Love

Shall set you free.

*