Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Sad Love Song

I happened to hear a song that I liked very much. I felt the need to translate it to English so that even those who don't know Malayalam may enjoy the lyrics. It is a rather melancholy poem and much of the alliterative beauty is lost in translation. But I've just done an exercise in translation of a more technical but equally morbid theme. So here I go....

When Death comes calling
Won't you sit a little while by my side?

So that my fingers, numb gathering embers
May come to rest, caressing you,
So that the last drop of  breath I inhale
May have the scent of you,
So that, My love, your face may lie submerged
Within my eyes that need open no more,
So that  your voice may seal my ears
That will not permit another sound,
And while my mind is still alive and aware,
May the pure, evergreen memories of you
Rain on my  head.

So that my lips, the open wounds of a kiss,
May heal shut with the sweet chant of your name.

O my love, please stay a while beside me,
So my feet may recall, as they go cold,
The paths they trod
In the journey that led me to love.

That's all I need for my remains
To be resurrected,
To rise, a shoot of grass
From the earth that buries it.

Here you can listen to the song sung by Unni Menon, Music composed by Shabaz Aman (at 4.14) and penned by Rafeeq Ahmed. And if you want a rather literal but painstakingly edited version, watch this.

I noticed the difference in the rendering by the two singers. The concluding lullaby like hum seemed to suggest putting one to sleep - an eternal one. One point leaves a question in my mind - why are the fingers numb after gathering embers? Why did the poet choose not to use the word burnt? Just a thought. Another question is why would he want to be reborn, considering he has found a love so fulfilling ? Translation presented a few dilemmas. In the original opening lines the speaker requests his love to sit beside him. In English, Please sounds like a plea, and therefore rather pathetic. I felt the man deserved dignity, not sympathy. Guilt made me introduce the plea in the penultimate stanza.  Also, in the 6th line I have used 'scent' to be as honest as the original, discarding the more fancy, 'fragrance'. Did I do justice?

Leaving you with another song by the same writer. Enjoy. (But if you'd rather savour the flavour of the earlier song, keep this for another time.) Ok now I'll shut up and leave you to the music.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


When the stand for my living room was purchased, I didn't quite like its chunkiness. My taste in furniture leaned towards delicate pieces with spaces under and around that a broom could get to. The one that occupies my home now is a broad wooden structure, a large part of it occupied by a flat screen. I appreciate its drawers, shelves, CD rack and the glass and mirror appendage to hold curios. But the thought of the dust living happily behind and beyond the cleaner's reach is annoying.

The stand redeems itself by holding a few beautiful well loved objects. They tell me stories. Tales that are happy while they are sad.

There's the clock, a little ornate, given to me by my Afghani student - a birthday gift. Here was a boy who found learning a joy. I remember how fascinated he was by the idea of a nonviolent struggle for independence that he had read about in his history books. Salem was very mature. He had to be. After school he laid tiles at the construction site with his father. After tenth his father had insisted that he stop school and work full time rather than incur expenses for education. Salem ran away from home to avoid that. Every class in our school had a sibling of Salem except when his parents had daughters. After plus two, one of his teachers got Salem a job in an office. And the first thing he did was admit his little sister in school. Today Salem is employed and  married. Three of his brothers are also employed and two of them doing U.G courses part time. He doesn't talk to his father anymore.

Then there's the collage done with pieces of glass. My friend and her son, who is also my friend, created it for me - from a broken bottle they found in front of their apartment in Kuwait.

There's the calm and peaceful bronze Budha purchased on a trip to Deolali. Fits nicely in my hand and weighs a ton. It could crack an intruder's skull (provided I can reach his head).

The ivory cow that belonged to my grandfather with its folds, features, curves and lines fashioned by an unknown artist holds mystery. All the characters in that plot are not known to me - my grandfather, the sculptor and the elephant that probably roamed the teak forests of Nilambur. They were intimately connected to it. And now the cow tries to fit into a stranger's house.

The blue pottery depicts a China man and his family and a stray dragon set in the backdrop of mountains and weeping willows  with a river and bridge in the foreground. I can only imagine their story. But seeing them, I remember our trip to China. What a grand country! (What we were allowed to see of it.) The mountains, the history and culture, the art, the ultra modern cityscapes of  Shanghai and Beijing, the picturesque temples - they left me breathless; as did their food. ( Me being a vegetarian, I couldn't appreciate the seafood aromas that scented closed spaces like eateries, or worse, an aircraft.) And Chinese babies are the cutest. With my nose stud, bindi and long plaited hair, I was a minor celebrity among the locals. Some of them befriended us with Nihows and requested me to pose for photos with them! I can't decide if it was they or we that were more delighted when they broke out into 'Aavaala hoon' or (strangely) 'Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy, Aajaa aajaa aajaa' on meeting us.

My favourite is a bowl of pine cones - rustic and natural, a reminder of my tryst with Trieste. Tagging along with my husband on his business trip, I had not heard of this place that he needed to work in. So we went there without any expectations. But as our train from Milan approached the little town, the landscape lay there simply offering its beauty. How do I describe it? Let me just say that there were trees, mountains and the sea looking their loveliest. The place seemed magical, there weren't crowds of tourists as in the other places we had just been to. Exploring the city on foot with a map and finding our destinations was exhilarating. And then we went to Miramare Castle. - The prettiest place I had ever seen, with a tragic romantic tale to go with it. We walked in the park that Maximilian had made and among the pine trees from different lands that he had planted. I filled my bag with pine cones, each different from the other. I resist the temptation to rhapsodize about the castle and its settings. Let me focus on the pine cones. Packing them in our small full cases would destroy them. So I lugged them around in a plastic bag on trains and planes and while walking around Rome, Venice and Frankfurt. I'm glad I did.

In a few days I travel again to another place that remains pretty despite age. In terms of temperatures it may be jumping from frying pan to the fire.But the ancient house with its sinking pillar, leaking rafters and peeling paint is just as welcoming and dignified as it has been for over a century or five.


Saturday, April 22, 2017


I stand at the familiar doorway
I'd entered so often
But something holds me back
In nervous excitement.

Within this threshold lie
Not only thoughts I owned
They also hold the happy ties,
Some remain; and some not anymore.

In these rooms I'd played
And shared my toys with friends.
And sometimes sat alone
With myself as my friend.

Inside, I know, nothing's gone,
Nor anything replaced,
And I don't know why I hesitate
To enter this happy place?

The home unchanged
The rooms unchanged
The toys and games unchanged.
What stills my hand upon the key
 is the thought,
Am I the same?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year 2014

Here we go again - another New Year, born pregnant with wishes, hopes and promise; adorned with fireworks and glitter, already scarred with news of rapes, accidents and dirty politics. As always, the cross section of each moment, New Year or not, stretches to accommodate the good, the bad and the ugly. And time moves on, relentless.

Notwithstanding the bad and the ugly, the human spirit endures - with a default setting that replenishes hope and positive thought. In that positive spirit, (cynicism was never me anyway) I wish that the good will outnumber and outweigh the bad this year. That changes for the better will sweep clean the 'dead habit' but will not throw away the wise and wonderful things of the past.

On a personal note, I look forward to happy events. I pray for courage, strength and efficiency. I remind myself of all the wonderful things in my life, nature, and personality.

May the world be a happy place for everyone  :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Pointers to Oriya Boy- Part Two

I've been asked by my loyal readers reader to write the second installment of pointers to Oriya boys engaged to marry Mallu girls ( and if you didn't guess it still - the girl in question is my offspring and the boy, my future son-in-law). I have also been warned by well wishers to be dignified and behave myself like a good m-i-l should. So there is a sort of clash happening - and I need to be watchful of myself. However, I feel fairly secure in the knowledge that the protagonist of this post will never read it :)

I had promised a module on tact, but that can keep.Today I will offer tips on giving her gifts.

Before I start with that, I must mention the way she does things for the people she loves. 'Out of her way' wouldn't begin to describe the trouble she takes or the thought that goes over each of her presents. She recalls what you had mentioned at some point of time, studies your life and personality, checks your background, enlists the help of your friends/ relatives, gets to know your likes and fetishes... before she plans the gift for you. The gift itself would be unique. She would never go for something picked up off hand at a store. She would have to comb through online options, trudge through quaint streets to find the absolute fitting thing for you. And if she doesn't, then she'll simply get down to making it herself. And she will walk to the parcel place, wherever that is, and send it to you with a hand written note (no, not a printed card- that won't do at all). For all you know, she might even land up on your doorstep, gift in hand.

So don't even try to compete with her. Nor can you compete with her father, who owns her love and loyalty even though he may give her jelly beans (a chilhood favourite that she has long outgrown) or the latest cell phone (which she is not really hankering after) .

But be not disheartened. For such a stickler in gift giving, she is a ridiculously easy-to-please receiver. Her only concern is the genuine feeling behind the giving. And what puts her off is showing affection without meaning it. If she gets mad, life can turn quite miserable - for you.  It is so much easier to get presents for girls than for boys. And she does have a weakness for certain things. I  shall mention the a few:

1. Pens. You heard right. She just cannot resist them. She prefers fountain pens (do they still make them?). Even gel pens, felt tipped ones, fine points, multi coloured ink ones - all make her eyes light up. Her collection includes those that she used in school.

2. Books. Poetry, stories, comics, biographies, travelogues, philosophy, cooking...... Just keep your eyes and ears open, for the writers that interest her. Don't seek the help of best seller list in magazines or newspaper supplements, but get her to talk - not very difficult, that ;)  I don't think she would appreciate self help literature or business stuff. But it is lovely to get books for one who loves reading - you can keep getting her books, and she will melt to mush every time.

3. Books. As in notebooks.  Yeah, I know it sounds funny, but she loves those beautiful notebooks you get nowadays. She admires them, touches and smells them, but won't buy as they are more expensive than she would want a notebook to be.

4. Dark chocolate. Though you'll have to find out the percentage of dark - she won't want the all bitter variety and the too sweet one would not be perfect.

5. Gifts made by you. This may sound impossible, but they are not. All you need to do is take all the things she loves, say photographs of the people in her life or the songs she loves, and put them all together in a collage. She does get sentimental about stuff like that.

6. Your time. It is inevitable that over time, a couple takes each other for granted, the novelty begins to wear. Other priorities like career or kids consume your time and attention, pulling you away from each other. So it is essential to make time to be together and take the effort to make those moments memorable. Whether they be planned or spontaneous, spent in serious talk or flippant fun, at home or a fancy place, the time together must be spent in mutual love and respect, even though you may find many irritating things in her and she in you. Gift her those enjoyable moments.

Hmmm ... I think I got a bit serious there. Anyway, whatever you give her with love, she will appreciate it and express her appreciation openly and thank you so profusely that you will have to ask her to shut up. But that's just the way she is. So don't you go thinking you are the greatest gift giver of them all. Never be complacent. Find, create, explore new ways to please her give her gifts.

I had concerns about posting this, it being of so personal a nature. But there is a general feeling that if you give a woman jewellery, you can make her happy. If nothing, this post will educate the ignorant that there are better ways to get to a woman's heart. It may not be the easiest way, for a man has to truly understand his partner to know how to make her happy.And all men are not lucky enough to have a mother-in-law doling out helpful hints.

Having said that, let me add that emeralds or rubies would make great gifts - she has already got diamonds :D


A Toast ...

..... to my unwanted audience:




Bang !



Take that, spam!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dirty Desert Rain

Dirty desert rain at dawn
You wet the dust on my tulsi leaves
And cake them brown.
They were reared with care
Watered with love
Fed with prayers.
Now look what you've done!
These tainted leaves -
What can they offer?

You descend at dawn when no one enjoys you.
You fall in winter when it's already cold,
Leaving streaks of mud
and gray brown slush
which you should have washed away.
Look at rains in other places -
They clean the leaves
And clear the dust
While all you do is make a mess.

The dusty leaves may fall,
New ones replace them tomorrow,
But they were young - the ones you killed
You think the plant gets over that sorrow?
Well, you've done the deed.
And you have left.
The why's remain -
Pointless, unanswered