A View From Within

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It started with a birthday gift. A book of poetry in my mother tongue. Today, I am part of another journey because of it.An anthology – a collection of selected writings that have been translated into English- is now taking form. I hope it gives joy and serenity to the readers when published.

Another wonderful translation project of a novel is taking off. The title and blurb are being discussed. The excitement of another intellectual adventure is giving me wings! The edits will begin soon. The searching for words : which will capture nuances, accommodate different reading sensibilities, transcend language barriers, convey scalpel sharp emotions, and yet remain unique!

Answering the intelligent questions of multiple editors, defending the choice of phrase or giving way gracefully, listening to the concerns of the author as her beloved child enters into a different world( Will she stumble? Will she float? Will she walk and run at ease into the readers’ heart?)….these are the challenges known only to a translator. Sometimes I reflect that being mother to two daughters- strong, self willed, opposite as chalk and cheese- has prepared me for this role. You should have no ego when it comes to this assignment. You just let the words flow through you, with a silent prayer.

My friends often ask me about how I find time to do my  translation assignments.  My answer is simple. It gives me joy, so I find the time. It energises me, so I often run to it. It is incredibly fulfilling, so it is worth the effort.

Actually, if you sit before a 200 paged novel and dream of translating it at one go, it will never happen. But if you decide to take one paragraph at a time, and one page at a time….then the mind becomes confident. It is all about our perception after all.

‘So, why don’t you write your own books?’  I grin and say that I translate better than I write! Believe me, I have tried both. The  reviews and the award long/shortlists came faster with the former!

Besides, have you ever tried to get inside another’s head? It is akin to a Psychologist’s job! And so, I translate! 😀

***

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Dinner and Other Poems( Prof Veeran Kutty, Poetry Translations from Malayalam)

1. Flame of the Forest

That lone tree-

In the midst of the green valley!

Perhaps it bloomed suddenly,

Recollecting

A childhood memory:

Of being terrified at the sight of fire!

2. Word

I do not remember the day

I was born.

But the day I died

Was not like that.

It was the day

When I could not keep

The word

I had given you.

3. Haiku

Did love rain within?

Look at the sky above you

Resplendent rainbow!

4. Dinner

Apology!

I made an error

In the invitation I sent

Requesting you to come home.

Happened in my haste-

I have no home.

5. Freedom

Why bewail the withering

And falling of a leaf?

Betwixt the seperation and drop

It lives the life of a bird

For a moment

At least.

**

 

The Path To You and Other Poems (Prof.Veeran Kutty, Translation from Malayalam)

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1. The Path To You

I was searching for your footsteps

By the sea shore.

Footsteps over footsteps-

A veritable ocean of footsteps!

Yet I discerned the way

To you-

By trailing the lotus buds

Blooming unseen therein.

**

2. Death

No words exist

In the universe

Except that one.

The rest  of the words

Are elaborations

Or opposites

Or synonyms.

Some astounded at it,

Some rueing.

Dictionaries grow thicker

Trying to describe it.

Poems fail at the task.

One day,

The word meaning

Resounding

From it

Shall have to be answered

By each of us.

Who can speak it out?

So we demonstrate it.

One day,

I too shall try it out-

Wonder if it will work!

**

3. Wings

Have you ever watched

Girls clapping their hands

Delightedly?

Using their hands to fan themselves?

Wringing their hands?

You can see those hands recollect

Having been Wings

Once upon a time!

When did those feathers

Start withering away?

The wing letting go, and

Cut off from flight,

Dropping on earth –

As a mere crawler?

I wish to see her

Making the festival flag

Fly high with the resounding

Applause

Emerging from her hands

Akin to bursting of crackers!

I want to see her

Turn into that ancient, magnificent

Flying creature,

Which converts every  stumble and fall

Into speed and movement.

**

4. A Plea

Did you know

When you were

Uprooting it

That  the Touch-me-not plant

Was pleading silently

With folded hands

‘ Please desist,’ and that

It was speaking

For the Earth herself?

**

5. Dance

As you thread the needle,

As you tie the laces,

When you plait your hair…

The way your fingers dance!

I swear

I have never seen anything

So beautiful till now.

**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poems of Pain : Prof VeeranKutty ( Translation from Malayalam)

  1.  Your Life

The plant that has grown

Over your burial site,

Is resplendent with flowers!

I cannot believe

That you went back

With so many love- secrets.

**

2. Forgetfulness

The Secret which I kept

For your ears

Was lifted away by the breeze.

Wonder on which branch

It has kept it dangling!

In what fire has it got scorched?

Where is the earth,

Which has buried it deep?

What was the secret

That I had kept for

Your ears?

Well, now it seems

You will have to remind me

Of it

Yourself.

**

3. Confrontation

I cannot bear to look

At that emptiness

That was left behind,

When you went away.

How am I supposed

To confront

The void

Which is growing

To your proportions

Over there?

**

4. Unspoken

I might die

In the contraction and dilation

Caused

By the word

That you left unspoken-

Even when  life

Was  being snuffed out of you.

**

5. Loveless

Without love,

The body becomes

The most unyielding tree

Ever.

Though the lips may struggle to sculpt,

It simply does not oblige:

Refuses to transform into an idol.

**

 

 

 

Poems of Sagacity : Prof Veerankutty,(Translation from Malayalam)

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1. For You

**

It is good,

That God  has kept

My mind

In an unseen place.

Even you  won’t be able to discern,

The love I have,

( For you, dearest)

Which is hidden inside it.

**

2. On Aging

**

On aging,

My words shall not

Regret painfully-

That they have to

Recline forever

Inside

A dictionary.

After all,

The memory of having spent

Their youth

Indulging in poems

( About you, dearest)

Is constantly with them.

**

3. Till The World Ends

**

Language was drawing

Its very last life- breath.

Then

Someone whispered,

‘ I love you.’

And  the heart beat

Started again.

The heels pulsed with

Energy,

To leap

Till the world’s end.

**

4. Dying

**

Dying

Is like the parting of ways

After a  lover’s tiff:

Shall never disclose

Where it is headed for.

**

5.  The Secret

**

What the Rain was shy to reveal,

Was written  down by the Lightning.

But Thunder turned out

To be a tactless confidante!

Blurted it all,

Noisily

To everyone.

**

6.  With God

No lightning flash,

Or any lit lamp,

Hereabouts.

Then from where

Has this light arisen?

Look-

When no one is around,

An infant in the cradle

Is gleefully playing

With God!

**

7. The Fence

**

Behold!

The thorny fence

Has sprouted flowers:

Much loftier

Than all the  hate-filled sounds

We made

Over that border!

**

8.  Love-Grape

How bitterly

You rued

The day when you

Got a pimple

On your face!

I longingly looked on,

As sweetness welled within,

At that

Love- grape

Ripened by God.

**

9. Visit

**

Like sunshine  falling on water

You entered my life.

Like the dew drop on a leaf

You left me behind too.

Yet I am grateful to you-

For those few moments of togetherness:

When you made our embrace,

Look like pure crystal.

**

10. Corrigendum

**

What I had perceived

While staring at the darkness

Turned to be all lies.

The light

Revealed the truth.

**

 

 

 

Poems of Passion: Prof Veerankutty (Translation from Malayalam)

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1. Who said so?

Who said that

Humans cannot fly ?

Let them produce

The evidence then,

Of your feet having touched

The ground,

Ever since you fell in love.

**

2. As if unseen

Whatever you are doing-

As if unseen by anyone,

I am cognisant of it all.

My only regret:

I cannot convey it

In a language

Unheard by anyone else.

**

3. Willingness

Anyone could have come,

Instead

You chose to come yourself.

You could have come any day,

But you came today itself.

You need not have come,

Yet you came;

I got to know of it.

The seat before you

By the side of the sea shore,

Shall be bereft of my presence.

Tonight

All alone,

In that silence

Where even a foot step’s echo

Cannot intrude,

I want to reminisce

About

Your willingness

To meet me.

**

4. Unable to hide

How lovely to see your

Land!

I caught sight of a tree

In full bloom

Amidst all that green!

It was unable to hide

The spreading blush-

Like you caught unaware,

In an unexpected kiss.

**

5. Lightning

Your smile struck

Me down,

Just once!

I have died many times

Hence.

**

6.  Futile

Alone,

I climbed a hill

And stared down at the valley.

A  wandering breeze

Sent

By God,

Came by,

And tried to

Skirt around me-

In a futile effort

To compensate

Your absence.

I could not help

Laughing.

**

7. Sticker

Two life- spirits

Unexpectedly

Unite

In any love affair.

They endure

The agonised helplessness

Of being torn apart

When they separate.

8. Unique

I am the Fire

You

The  fragrant oil.

In the light cast about

As we

Burn together

God

Completes

A love poem.

**

8. Promise

I shall come seeking you

Forever.

Irrespective

Of the number of times

I am turned back.

I read my own promise,

In the language of the waves.

**

9. Mine

There a few things

Totally belonging to me.

God

Mind

Life

Then you.

(Ah, you mock:

‘Where are these anyway?’)

I have not seen any of those!

We are always busy,

Aren’t we-

Involved deeply

With all that  which remains

Unseen?

10. Who are you?

Who are you?

The one who is willing

To run towards

Someone like me-

Who is lazy

To even move a step

Forward?

**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Rumi and other poems: Prof.VeeranKutty( Translation from Malayalam)

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1. Less and Less

Before we saw each other,

How big we thought of

Each other!

After meeting, we became a tad

Smaller

In each other’s eyes.

Now, when we start walking together,

Will we become less and less

That we render each other

Totally insignificant?

Isn’t it such a relief

That God keeps Himself

Beyond our sight?!

**

2. Opinion

My words were firm like rock,

In those times.

How many could refrain from stumbling

Over its sturdiness?

How many escaped bleeding a bit?

Later,

Like flexible, obedient

Clay,

Certain water- tricks happened;

It thinned out.

Afterwards,

Like water

Which adapts to the vessel,

It shed its original form.

Today,

It is like vapour,

Wind,

Floats around: beyond my own

Control.

Like an aging body,

Yearning to merge with the earth,

Why is it systematically

Acquiring the habit of lightness?

**

3. For A While

How very stupid

Of me,

That I presumed

That the light you carried,

Traveller,

Would forever render

Bright,

My small house by the way side!

Although the truth remains

That for a while,

It sparkled too,

In your light.

**

4.  Every Leaf

We sit and count

The  total number of leaves

In all the trees

Of this earth.

The leaves do not cooperate

One bit.

They do not care the least.

Every leaf,

Ultimately

Is a single entity.

Although the realisation

Strikes,

Only when it is shed.

**

5. For Rumi

The flute sings:

What if I got hurt?

I could stay awhile

With your lips.

**