ChumaduTangi: Burden Bearer ( Poem Translation from Malayalam)

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Chumadutangi by Lakshmi Devi

( Translation from Malayalam)

The Burden Bearer:

Here, in front of the inn

Meant for wayfarers-

On this  Burden Bearer Stone,

Let me heave the bundle carried

By my weakening body till

Now.

The shoulder bone has

The greatest capacity to bear

Burden, it seems;

And Destiny again shoves

Unbearable weight onto

That today.

For a moment, I ponder

What it is that I carry, stumbling

Struggling onward,

Wrapped within the bundle.

Old sins, virtues

Or both equally divided?

Unknown it remains,

The Fate has filled up my bundle

For me to bear unquestiongly.

There is a bright lamp within,

The fragrance of camphor

As my dreams get enflamed,

The pains unabated, stirred deep

Leaving an oily drop beneath

The forbidden is inside, and the

Whiplashes for those mistakes

Committed unwittingly

The drops of tears which flowed

The red of a fresh wound

A Sun of a baby smile

The chirp of a bird, the breeze

In a shade so green…

I can no longer keep

My load on the stone

It is getting late.

Closing the inn’s door

The watchman too has

Hastened away.

The lonely road that stretches

Long, calls me quietly-

Walk on, until

You fall, losing

Your footing.

Darkness all around me-

Yet  I can listen  to those

Who are ahead of me:

‘ Move without fear!

Beyond the sooty darkness

Of this tunnel,

There might yet be light.’

***

In the olden days, Kings used to construct inns for wayfarers and also stones for bearing burdens. Without anyone’s help, the  heavy load on the villager’s shoulder could be heaved onto the heft of these stones.

Today, I watched again a classic  Malayalam movie called, Amritangamaya.

It is a line from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad…From death to eternal life ( Mrityoma Amritamgamaya).

In the movie,  one character was reiterating that the human shoulder bone is the strongest- designed to carry the Holy Cross of one’s life burden.

Flipping casually through an old vernacular magazine, I ended up opening the poem page where the sentence was repeated for me.

And then, I picked up a crayon, and a pen. These help in shouldering responsibilities with grace. Truly Burden bearers.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koladu by Madhavi Kutty (Story Translation from Malayalam)

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Koladu ( The Goat):

By Madhavi Kutty aka Kamala Das written in 1969.

****

When she was forty three years old, her mischievous elder son remarked : ‘Amma, you remind me of a goat.’

She joined his laughter.But on that day, when the rest of them went out, she took up a mirror and sadly examined her own face. She contemplated on the ways of  fortifying her skinny cheeks to make them fuller; thinking that it might end up fortifying her life too. When she had her youthfulness and her lush body, she had never slept alone on a mat laid out on the floor….But she was disinclined to stare at the mirror for long, pondering on such matters. The milk was beginning to boil in her kitchen.

By toiling endlessly from dawn to dusk, she took care of her family. Her body was pale and slim, and  seemed fragile in certain places. But she never complained and never collapsed  with fatigue. Because of that, as she staggered from the bathroom to the kitchen and back -carrying buckets of water-neither her husband nor her grown up sons ever bothered to give a helping hand.

She was neither educated nor sophisticated.Occasionally, they would  loudly praise her famed abilities in cleaning and mopping the house, in cooking their food and in washing and ironing their clothes. Whenever she heard their adulation, she would smile- exposing her deteriorating teeth.

Once her younger son got her a goose berry when he returned from school. That day, standing in her dark kitchen, she shed tears of joy. With the passage of time, she became a disgrace in his eyes too.

When she said that she would accompany him for the school drama, he said: ‘No need, Amma. I will be embarrassed.’

‘But why? I will wear my silk sari- my wedding sari…’

‘No…No need for you to come.’

Two thin legs moved around in that small house constantly; never resting. Finally that machine also became faulty. She caught a fever and  her stomach started aching. Neither ginger nor rasam could assuage that pain. On the tenth day the doctor told her husband: ‘Please shift her to the hospital immediately. She has acute jaundice.’

The children who were reading their school books were horrified. When a helper wheeled her into the hospital room on a stretcher, she opened her eyes wide and cried: ‘Ayyo! I think the pulses are burning on the stove.’

Her husband’s eyes filled with tears.

****

Listen to this story in the original.

http://www.mathrubhumi.com/books/podcast/audio-story-koladu-malayalam-news-1.1472986

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panchagni: The Five Fires(Scenes 4-7)

Panchagni screenplay continued:

Scene 4:

Day

The Jail Superintendent’s room

The room is in the first floor of the office block in the Jail Complex.

The Superintendent is past fifty years of age. When he raises his head, after signing some papers,  the Matron, a forty five year old woman, salutes him.

Matron: Indira refuses to have food. It is the fourth day today.

Assistant Jailor and the Jail Doctor at the door.

Asst.Jailor salutes.

The Doctor pays respect in the normal way.

The Supdt is pondering deeply.

Asst.Jailor: Sir, we can charge under Section 45…

The Supdt motions with his head, negating the suggestion.

Doctor: She is very weak

Matron: If we manage to hold her for you, can you not give her glucose or some stuff?

Supdt: No, we can’t do it.

Asst.Jailor: Is her mother’s condition truly serious,  Sir? Has the verification report arrived?

The Supdt nods.

‘I have referred the matter to the IG. Let the decision be from there.’

An orderly arrives,( dressed in the Jail inmate’s dress), with tea for them on a tray

While serving, he comments sycophantically: ‘Too much freedom in the Jail nowadays! This is the result of that!  It was totally wrong to banish whipping.’

The phone rings. The Supdt picks it up,  says, ‘Yes’ , and then his face expression changes to obsequiousness.

‘Superintendent here, Sir! Yes, yes..but Sir! Yes, yes..the Doctor is observing her Sir! Ok Sir!’

He keeps the phone down.

‘The IG has referred the matter to the minister. But  it seems that some journalist has reported about the fasting incident in the Jail ! Hell!’

Scene 5

Jail. Indira’s Cell

The mercury rises in the BP apparatus.

The Doctor examines her as she lies on a bed.

The Matron and a nurse along side.

Scene 5A

Office of the IG Prisons

The IG throws a file to the police official standing in front of him.

‘Refer the matter to the Parole Board.’

Scene 6

Day

The courtyard of the Jail

Women inmates working.

A female inmate: If you get out on parole, do you have to report to the police station daily?

An ‘Expert’:

Hey, no! When I went, it was a good guy- as Inspector! He asked me to come just once a week.

The woman who had spoken on attacking her husband:

When I went on parole, I was  only apprehensive on whether I would end up before that son of a bitch!  I might have grabbed the cleaver again, forgetting  that the punishment could  get doubled  !

The Expert: No doubling ! All that is nonsense. It is not  there in the law.

A long whistle. The women stop work and return to their Cells.

Scene 7

The office of the Jail Supdt

The Supdt takes a typed sheet of  Official paper and pushes it forward

Indira stands in front of him, dressed in the convict’s uniform.

She is totally exhausted.

She signs on the paper.

Supdt: Fourteen days. Please read it.

She looks at him.

The Supdt checks the accounts and the voucher placed in front of him by a clerk.

‘You have some money as savings. You can take that. Also get your dress.’

He rings the bell.

He looks at Indira- she stands silent, emotionless. He thinks for a moment and then with great soberness:

‘ If you start acting as if the revolution has reached the next street…! Hmm..The Government can cancel the parole any time. Up to you’

It is a warning, also an advice.

*

Inspirations…

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When I was twelve, my mother gave me a small book- it was so small as to be kept within one’s palm. It contained the inspirational quotes of Swami Vivekananda.

For me, it was wondrous: this handsome sage telling that it was better to build a pair of strong shoes as a humble mochi, than to spout nonsense as a professor who has long stopped learning!  He said that the best way to forget one’s own sorrows was to reach out to remove those of another. He reiterated that infinite energy flowed through one, as one tried to make a difference by service- it was a universal law of the spirit.

I spent many happy hours debating on his quotations with my best friend, my namesake. In fact during a school tour, our Physics teacher was perplexed to see us analysing ‘why playing football was better to build nerves of steel than by rot learning of religious studies.’An age of innocence- that is all I can reflect about it right now.

Why am I referring to that book again?If anyone were to ask me to name a book that has transformed my life- that little dog eared copy of Vivekananda’s quotes, published by Ramakrishna Ashram, would be it! So many times, when I had felt like giving up, lying down and just let endless sleep wash over all the travails, it has been his vibrant quotations that gave me new energy and focus.

Why do we need inspiring people? Why do we need to read motivational quotations? Because, not every day is sunny and shining with possibilities. More often than not, it is a dreary, dark wintry day of hopelessness. The dark news from around the world make you wish to stop reading totally. Yet, life is meaningless without action.

And then he says from beyond: Wake up, and stop not until the goal is reached. You set a new target and you toil on- knowing that the efforts will not be in vain. The universal law springs into action and you find yourself carried by a buoyant spirit, and sunshine trickles right back in!

May every parent put a book of motivational quotations into her child’s hands. Three decades down the lane, the memory of one would make some tired traveller take another step down the road of life-with grit and determination.

*

Through Pathways of Deserts,Flowers (Poetry Translation)

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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 ,

Saying-

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

****

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

 

For My Daughters: A Letter

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My daughters,

One day, amma might not be there to tell you all these tidbits. Not pleasant to hear, eh, but then, we will start with discussing some home truths.

The world in which you live has both darkness and light. Like your favourite movies and books have villains and villainess abounding, our little earth has her share of these horrid creatures too. Dementors, Soul-suckers, horrendous evil- name them what you may- they exist.

Remember the scene of those froth dripping mouths of evil when they attacked Frodo and Company in the Two Towers?They were trying to stop those monsters from getting to the innocent women and children.

Evil exists, in both myth and reality. In fiction, fantasy and our daily lives. In souls so dark that a six month old flesh and seventy year old flesh and twenty year old flesh are all flesh to them- to be attacked and devilled and destroyed. Hence, caution!

Amma does not want to frighten you. But awareness is the first strength. So start being aware that all things that smile need not be the Kind GrandMother. It could be a wicked wolf in disguise too.

How can you make out the deadly swamp from the pure river?

The great intuitive power which the Divine has vested in you, will serve you well. But for that, you have to value that gift, and respect it.

It is called the Ïnner voice.

By the way, there is a word called “Bestiality” in the English language. Among the various meanings are “being like an animal” or “being depraved or brutal”.

I want you to listen to this very carefully.

There is not a single living animal, bird, insect or fish…any non-human living thing which is capable of “bestiality” as much as the human being- man or woman. Animals might kill, but they kill to defend themselves or to satisfy their hunger. Even the wild lion, tiger, bear…they do not commit acts of unimagined torture on another living being. They do not rape and insert rods into innocents. They do not throw burning acid into beautiful faces claiming to love them.They do not shoot a child because she went to school. They do not hammer the head of a three year old because her parents pray to God in a manner different to theirs.

So, only human beings are capable of “bestiality”. We defined the word in the first place- no animal did.

That is a very important lesson to remember as you grow up in this world.

Have I frightened you? Sometimes, fear is a good companion, provided we let her sit afar and tell us her tales.

Does that mean, all the bright, beautiful, brilliant little souls should hide themselves away?

No.

It means that all the bright, beautiful, brilliant little souls should stay wide awake in their awareness- of light and dark.

Listen with a smile to the cacophony around you– telling you what to wear, what to dream of, whom to desire,what to yearn for,how to worship God,which job to do, what vacation to take, how to be hot, how to be cool..go ahead, listen…but then decide for yourself.

That is another lesson, by the way. (Have you wondered on that phrase- by the way? By life’s way, as we travel..:)

Decide for yourself – all your life choices. You will make mistakes, but they are yourmistakes.

Be proud of the fact that you chose for yourself, even if you failed.

Dust yourself up, cry a bit, but then simply go ahead and choose again.

That is thousand times better than primping that you never made a mistake at all.

There is the story of an old crone in the Canterbury Tales.  Someone is tasked to find the answer from her on the greatly discussed question: What do women want?

The old crone gives the answer : Sovereignty over their lives.

How do I explain that conundrum to you?

Hmmm, let us put it this way:

Women (as well as men) have the right to dream of living their own lives. They have the right to choose their destinies. They have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. They have the right to let their inner light shine forth in whatever creative way they might choose for themselves.

Basically, they can dress, dance, walk, sing, dream, work, study, climb mountains, play football, mess around with clay and wet earth, fall in love, make love, have children, watch them grow, live happily, die gracefully…I hope you get what I mean.

But then, my girls, sadly, even after millions of years later, having been evolved from primitive animals, our world seems to be having difficulty about this simple proposition.Especially when it comes to women, let alone groups and sub groups of apparently “different” characters.

Remember the phrase ” Live and Let Live”.

It is also one of the greatest spiritual principles enshrined in all religions of this world.

It is based on one word- respect.

I have a right to live and shine in this world- as much as you have. As much as a butterfly has. As much as that evil creature has. As much as the mango tree has.

Yeah.

So, where were we?

Somewhere on the way, Amma lost track of what she originally wanted to tell you.

Does not matter, right now- the sunshine is bright enough.

And remember as you run off and play- be kind, be tolerant, be accepting, be yourselves.

Dare to be.

Bless you,

Your Amma