The Serpent’s Breath


” Urag shwaas tribidhi sameera,” is how Tulsidasji describes Ramji’s plight when bereft of Sita in Sriramcharit Manas.

The breeze with three qualities, namely coolness, fragrance and gentleness felt like a  terrible serpent’s breath to Ram.

In Malayalam,  Ezhuthachan’s Harinamakeertana( Prayers of Hari)  gives a description:

” Gharmatapam kulirnilavennu tambiyodu, chemme paranju nija patnim pirinjalavu..”

It means: “When you were in the avatar of Ram, you found the cool moonlight excruciatingly hot  and complained to your brother about it-because you were separated from your beloved…”


Well, comparisons of poetry apart, it is the exiled King’s plight that I wanted to follow today.

In front of me lies Salman Khurshid’s ‘ Sons of Babur’- a play in search of India. It is a well written script with an intrepid student trying to understand the history of his country’s syncretic culture, by interacting with the Emperors who ruled India. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor, who suffered intensely and died at Rangoon, far away from India, is a character in the play. He was a gifted poet and his poetry in Urdu, is dotted throughout the play, very beautifully.


Sarah: An emperor’s unfinished quest..what were those lines by Bahadur Shah about two days of desire and two days of existence!

Prabhat Sharma:

‘ Umre daraz maang ke laye the chaar din,

Do aarzoo mein guzar gaye , do intezaar mein!’

( I wished for a long life, was granted four days in all-

Two  were spent in tears, another two in waiting.)

It is an erudite book, and has been enacted on stage, with Tom Alter playing the key role.

The need today, is to weave threads of human emotions together, to discover how very similar we are, when faced with life’s challenges. Language, time, space, genre regardless.

The intense pain of being away from his beloved land, is like a serpent’s breath in Zafar’s poems.

‘ Na kisi aankh ka noor hun,na kisi dil ka karar hun

Jo kisi ke kaam na aasake mein  vo ek muste ghubar hu.’

(I am not the delight of any eyes nor a heart’s yearning

Not of use to anyone, just a fistful of dust)


Four texts,  different genres, four languages, same emotion.

Beloved is an imagery:  loved one or mother land. Bereft of the beloved,  life itself reminds of a serpent’s breath.

History, poetry,  mythology will resonate to that concept; along with humanity.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s