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.