Posted in Poems

‘ No man has hired us’

‘No man has hired us’ are words we find in the New Testament, but to me they represent T. S. Eliot.

Ever since I first read these words in his poem, they haunted me. I remembered them whenever I passed labourers standing in groups, at crossroads or corners, with their paint brushes or bags of tools, waiting for someone to hire them. Some of them used to get hired every day, but now they wait in vain. So sharing these words, from a different time and cultures, but so relevant to us in India today.

The voices of the Unemployed:

No man has hired us

With pocketed hands

And lowered faces

We stand about in open places

And shiver in unlit rooms.

Only the wind moves

Over empty fields, untilled

Where the plough rests, at an angle

To the furrow. In this land

There shall be one cigarette to two men,

To two women one half pint of bitter

Ale. In this land

No man has hired us.

Our life is unwelcome, our death

Unmentioned in “The Times.”

***

Posted in Poems, Writing

Writing and Bidyutprabha Devi

I have been busy with a forthcoming  book on 70 years of independence. Of course, that period is already covered in my Puffin History of India vol 2, but this book’s focus is culture. I keep reading wonderful poets and stories in translation–some may be included in the book, some may not.

These two verses below are from Bidyutprabha Devi’s poem, Dilemma, translated from  Odia, the language of the state of Odisha [earlier spelt Orissa]. Bidyutprabha is recognized as one of the best Odia women poets. Only writers know how wonderful writing is.

‘Writing is the balm
for all my pain.
It’s the glory of my sorrow.
Writing is rain-soaked woods.
It’s the music of cloud bursts
during the month of Shravana!

I wish I could speak of
the joy that gathers in my heart.
Like a flame
in the mouth of storm,
my poetry
A luminous lamp!’

(Translation: Sachidananda Mohanty (First published in Kavya Bharati, 1997]:-

Posted in Books, Poems, Sahitya Akademi

Lament of the Flowers [ Pushpa Vilapamu] by Karuna Sri, [ Jandhyala Pappaya Sastri, 1912, -1992] translated from the Telugu

038

I came across this poem recently, in The Sahitya Akademi collections, and really liked it. It must be better in the original Telugu, but the translation is below:

—————————————–

Bent on worshipping you

I woke up with cock-crow:

Bathed, clad in pure white,

Entered an orchard to fetch flowers.

As I stood by a plant, held the bough

And touched a flower, lo: all the flowers raised

Their voices in chorus, wailing, ‘Must you kill us all?’

My hear sank, something flashed in me, as ‘Lament of Flowers’.

‘Will you nip us all and collect in baskets

As we play in the tender leaf-lap of our mother

And sell us to gain salvation? What use

Any worship, when you are heartless?

‘We are dull heads, you are wise;

You have intellect, imagination;

Has your heart turned to stone?

Doesn’t it yield a few flowers to offer to god?

‘While we breathe,  we air the identity

Of our creeper- mother—enjoy rocking freely

In her hands–and as the hour approaches,

Contented we close our eyes–at her holy feet.

We facilitate the air dashing scents; feast the bees

That court us with sweet nectar; please the eyes

Of the likes of you; why this selfishness and–

Stop, don’t snap us–Do you sever mother and child?

‘You’re fine–cutting other’s throats for your sake—

How mean of you to acquire merit thus? Will the Master of all

Accept this bloody offering? Won’t the all knowing Lord

Receive our poor souls? Why an intermediary?

‘Strangling our throats with a thread of wool,

Sending needles through our hearts, they bind us

To deck their fashionable hairdos—

Alas, pitiless indeed is your fair sex!

‘Squeezing us in presses to the last drop

Of life, you men make attar

With our heart’s blood to was the foul

Smell of your bodies, O murderer!

‘Alas! All those luxuriating beasts of men

Sprinkle us on their beds, trample our tender bodies

Under their heavy feet–crush and crush– and next

Morning throw us out, all faded and unpetalled.

‘Offering all our priceless tender sweet lives

At your feet, aren’t we lost,lost? Having

Plundered our youth, beauty, you sweep us away

With a broom! Do men have any ethics?

You are born in the land of the Buddha,

Why is natural love just dead in you?

O murderer, murdering beauty,

Tainted indeed is your human birth.

For God’s sake leave your worship,

Don’t cut our innocent throats!

Oh! What grace can you earn

Killing us with your own hands?’

Thus admonished by the flowers–so

I thought–I had no hands to pick them;

To report the matter to the Lord

Thence I came, all empty-handed.

[1944, trans K Godavari Sharma.]

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