The Paper-Book of Men ( Poetry Translation)



I really liked this poem in Malayalam by V.R.Santhosh entitled, Anugalude Kadalasu Pusthakam.


The Paper-Book of Men

Be wary
Of the man who asks
Why you are sitting all alone.
He will encroach into your
He will start working at everything-
It might begin as:
‘Shall we go for a walk?’
As you walk with him
He will enter your loneliness
And exclaim
That his childhood was spent

As you walk towards it
You will see dried up trees
And walls
He would be standing there
Your heart will feel deep
For him
And accompany him.

He will take you along
Ensconced in compassion;
Conquering your mind and body,
Shall take you wherever
He wants to.

On seeing that you’re no longer
He shall start discarding you-
He shall go missing for days together.

And then one day
Another man would step by
And ask,
Why you are sitting all alone.


Few thoughts came to my mind on reading the poem.
The perspicacity of the poet apart, it went to a recently read article on Picasso, the  deeply perceptive story Chatan or The Rock by Ismat Chugtai and Hemingway’s  inimitable Story-  The Snows of Kilimanjaro.


What was it that the poet wrote about- immortalised by ghazal singers?
Yeh duniya, Jadoo ka khilauna hai
Mil jaye to Mitthy hai, Kho jaye to sona…

Dreaming in Words and Images


I love movies. Especially if the movie has been made from a known story. The eyes perceive what the mind once imagined freely. The process of remembering the beloved lines of the book , as the story unfolds on the screen, is a very enjoyable one.  Sometimes, one finds that the artistic liberty of the director has changed the story line altogether-  for example, any one who has read ‘Chocolat’ the novel by Joanne Harris, and watched the movie,would appreciate the point above. But surprise, surprise, one finds that both the versions are great and delectable.

The vagaries of directorial interpretations have directed me to a new past time- reading screen plays. And then you realise that the movie is yet a third version, forget the story and the screen play! In Sanskrit theatre and in Kerala Kathakali there is something nuanced known as ‘Manodharma’- what the actor on the stage can come up with-on the spot. Improvise, I believe,is what the normal people would call it. But Manodharma can often take genius tinted leaps of imagination! It can be in a whole new laugh, the twist of the mouth, the swagger that came in, the look that smoulders, the tilting of the head..When a singer improvises, like Mohammed Rafi  using his Manodharma during certain songs featuring Shammi Kapoor, the voice can undulate and elongate to suit the actor’s artistic eccentricities.

When I grew up, beautiful novels in Malayalam were regular features of vernacular magazines that were voraciously consumed in my household. I used to have free access as a child, thanks to quite understanding aunts and uncles around, to Malayalam novels written for much mature audience. Now, in You Tube era, I happily discover that many of those novels, whose characters and lines I still remember,  can be watched  in movies uploaded therein! The happiness is ineffable- like a child who suddenly discovered a treasure trove of old comics inside a dusty trunk in the attic! I have enjoyed movies based on my favourite novels of writers like Mallika Yunis, Shyamala,Chandra Kala S Kammath, Ajayaghosh and a host of others.( Ente Upasana, Sandhyakku virinja poovu, Rugma, Snehamulla Simham etc…yeah even cult classic Kalika which was written by the formidably brilliant and erudite IFS officer Mohanachandran,serialised in Kumkumam…My mother was a wonderfully liberal mother,haha! Or in other words, it shocked the hell out of readers- and would certainly be banned today. The movie is a far censored version, I should say! Ah, that leads to the screenplay of Nirmalyam…let me not start digressing!)

Certain movies were entirely different- based on pertinent political events of the times- nothing to do with novels.How lovely to watch some of them-strong and dignified characters.”Do not be enslaved by anyone or any thing,” says Indira, the brilliant revolutionary in M.T.Vasudevan Nair’s classic ‘Panchagni’ to her brother who is a drug addict.Quoting an incident about Fidel Castro, the hero ( actually she is the only hero of that movie unless you count her mother, the fiery freedom fighter) tries to get her attention! I love their dresses, their elegance, the sense of self-worth. I find many women in the eighties’ movies depicted as  doctors, advocates, writers , journalists  -who holds fort along with the men. They are remarkable in their dialogues, in their wisdom and in their body language.

We live in a world now where “Bechdel test” is needed in movies to check whether women are actually given any importance whatsoever! ( Bechdel Rule is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) the movie scene has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.)

At least Kerala movies of 1980s would have stunned Alison Bechdel!


Through Pathways of Deserts,Flowers (Poetry Translation)


PooVazhi, MaruVazhi ( Sugata Kumary) Mathrubhumi Weekly, 2016 January 10-16

(Translation from Malayalam)

Through Pathways of Flowers, Deserts


Not yet time to lay myself down? Not yet time?

This is endless toil, my exhausted body grieves

I know, it is all in vain, yet again-

It is a divine hand that drives, without compassion!

Have to rush, cannot stand awhile, across my back the corded whip

Growls,  the fire of  those hits burning ,  pushing me

Forward, how much more longer is the path, My Lord?

Through pathways of flowers, honey, shady blooming trees

Through prickly paths,  those of smoldering embers-

Crossing all of these-

I have reached this desert way;

The intense  heat is green herein-

May I stop awhile, My Lord?

‘ No, no time, you can still walk, move quick,’

The whiplash sizzles

You are my  only relative, I belong to You, the decree is Yours.

I will struggle forward, not losing my rhythm, through

The pathways of flowers and deserts alike

Until I can; till the sword flash of your whip-lash ceases,

I  will rush forward in time-

To the tunes of  your primal, furious rhythm,

Till the stars light themselves in the sky

Till a hand without an owner

Raises a lamp high and beckons ,


‘The resting place is here, come in please.’


All mistakes of translation are mine. I love her poems.


Treasure Island

“It was the time of year, the time of day, for a small insistent sadness to pass into the texture of things. Dusk, silence, iron chill. Something lonely in the bone.”
― Don DeLillo, White Noise


Louise Gluck,  The White Lilies,

‘…the evening turns
cold with their terror: it
could all end, it is capable
of devastation. All, all
can be lost, through scented air
the narrow columns
uselessly rising, and beyond,
a churning sea of poppies–‘


Virginia Woolf, To the Light House

“…the problem of space remained, she thought, taking up her brush again. It glared at her. The whole mass of the picture was poised upon that weight. Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface, feathery and evanescent, one colour melting into another like the colours on a butterfly’s wing; but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron.”


The authors above were part of the list that Michael Cunningham wanted to take with him, in case he was ever marooned on a desert island.

I remember his brilliant book, “The Hours,” and that stunning movie inspired by that book. I had watched the movie first and then gone back to the book.


What certain women would like to speak


  1. If you think you can crush me, oh please-

You are sadly mistaken.

Sorry to disappoint you,

But I was born with a stubborn gene –

Which gathers strength with each attempt

Of humiliation, defamation, degradation.

And I was born with a funny bone too

That laughs with derision at every manly effort

To make a joke of my life.

Do check with those who love me,

You might be surprised

How much we laugh together,

As we dare to grow more lushly

Every beautiful day.


It hurts , does it not

To see joy where you imagined sorrow?

Words, where you imagined terror?

Life, where you imagined death?

You have been encroaching into my sanctuary

Even after the boundaries closed shut long before,

Trying to spread the deep malaise of your nature

To infect the roots  of my happy  tree

Poisoning everything green around

With your fumes of hatred, lies and malice.

You have gone raving mad in the attempt,

I am merely bemused at your antics.

My roots go deep down the earth of my own truth

Which , is deeper than the whole falsehood of your beliefs.

Because, my truth is this:

Every human being deserves to be free- from what ails it

And be happy.

Try that bitter medicine for your chronic illness.



The Absurdity Trap

Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Recently two interesting news got my attention.

The first was about a very rich community enclave in Europe which preferred through a referendum “to pay a fine” than “to take in refugees”, since “they had worked hard all their lives and they deserved their beautiful village. The refugees coming in, even if it were ten families would spoil the whole set up and besides, the kids would not know English.”

The second was an article written about the research study by a Professor of Psychology at Berkeley, in which based on a personal escapade (he literally escaped from being crushed onto the tarmac by a Mercedes driver who jumped the traffic lights) he analysed whether too much money leads to a sense of entitlement and a superiority that gives a damn (or at least its equivalent in a metaphorical sense) to other human beings who happen to be around the vicinity.

Why were the news thought provoking? One often reads newspapers that highlight the atrocities committed by “rich and spoilt people” on a roll. If they shoot dead innocents, plough over sleeping roadside vendors, kill teenagers who overtake them in humble vehicles- the grist keeps getting added to the mill. I had presumed that it was a problem with the noveau riche in particular parts of the world. Until I read a few years before about the behaviour of an internationally top shot Monetary Fund director and then discovered that the Tehelkaeque issues of India were also common across  the inhuman grazing lands of power play in the world.


(From the book: The Power of Myth)

BILL MOYERS: We seem to worship celebrities today, not heroes.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Oh, yes that’s too bad. A little questionnaire was sent around one of the high schools in Brooklyn: What would you like to be? And two-thirds of the students said a celebrity. And no notion of having to achieve something, you know —

BILL MOYERS: Just to be known.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Just to be known, and have fame — name and fame. It’s too bad.

BILL MOYERS: But does a society need heroes?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yes, I think so.


So does it mean, it all evolves to nurture than nature?

May be we should bring up our children with some basic lessons:

That to be human means to be considerate and compassionate.

That the world needs the true riches of the great human heroic soul.

A hero who respects another’s rights as equal to his/her own. Who will act to protect and not harm. Who will not abstain from a helping hand when he/she can.

Maybe then the absurdity of believing in a sense of entitlement due to  x, y or z ( gender, skin colour, riches, nationality, position, stature, power, x, y, z..) will cease and the ability to commit atrocities with impunity on ‘others’ will stop.

I would love to read about a true hero soon.