Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vallamai Tharaayo

My interest in tamil poetry stems primarily out of Bharatiyaar lyrics I learnt as songs that my Sir expained beautifully in trying to make us feel "it" and express the emotion when we sang them.
Hampered greatly by my limited knowledge of the literary style of the language (some will argue that my spoken style isn't great shakes either....though I vehemently disagree!), I find that other stuff takes me forever to comprehend.
Anyway, I am going to rave in this post about one of Bharatiyaar's most famous songs, engraved in the collective conscience of tamil movie audiences by a despodent looking Kamal Hassan singing it in Varumaiyin niram sigappu. Nalladhir Veenai seidhe is a wonderful song that is essentially devotional. Bharathi asks the goddess Sivasakthi to grant him some "things" and what is most striking is not just the "things" he asks for but the tone , which is almost as if he demands that she give him what he is asking for.
nalladhor veenai seidhe - adhai
nalam keda puzhidhiyil erivadhundo ?
solladi sivasakthi - ennai sudarmigum
arivudan padaithuvittai
Having made a beatiful Veena-
would you throw it to dust and let it rot?
Tell me oh Sivasakthi-
Why have you bestowed me with sparkling wisdom?
vallamai thaaraayo - intha
maanilam payanura vaazhvatharke
solladi sivasakthi -
nilachumayena vaazhnthida puriguvayo ?
Give (me) skill so this society
may live a fruitful life
Would you rather, Oh Sivasakthi ,
that they spent it being a burden to the land they tread?
visaiyaru pandhinai pol - ullam
vendiyapadi sellum udal kaettenn
asaiyuru manam ketten - nitham
navamena sudar tharum uyir kaetten
I ask for a body that does the bidding of my soul
much like a ball
I ask for a clean heart and a spirit that is kindled
anew each day
dasayinai thee chudinum
siva sakthiyai paadum nal agam kaeten
asaivaru mathi kaetten - ivai
arulvathil unakkaethum thadaiyullatho ?
I ask to be able to sing your praise
in the most difficult times (when my skin is on fire)
I ask for unshakeable wisdom
Tell me Oh sivasakthi- what stops you from bestowing on me all this?
I love how it starts...ok I love it all. The imagery is so powerful and I think thats what makes most of his poetry so inspirational. Here its almost as if he is chiding the Goddess. He says - Does it make any sense to you that someone would put all that energy into crafting this beautiful Veena and then just throw it in dust? Well if that doesn't make sense to you then all this energy you have put into creating this beatiful Veena that is the human form is a waste if you don't also give me all these other things. Without them , my existence is a burden on this land.
And then after a long list of things he wants, in one sentence he summarises the pride he feels in this human form, the admiration he feels for the almighty that crafted it and his perception of the enormity and omniscient presence of this entity when he says "What stops you from granting me all this?" meaning that while all this will enhance my already beautiful form so that I will also be useful to myself and others....I don't see how you could have missed my creator, you who knows everything and you, for who this new list of demands is not a big deal.
While higher being like Bharathi have more abstract demands, all I am asking for at this point is the will to keep awake and not goof off :)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Separation revisited

Among my favorite poems, and indeed the only one I remember fully is this poem that I had written about quite long back in this post.
A conversation with a friend yesterday brought it up again and now two years hence and a little wiser (I would like to think) about such things, I felt the need to revisit it and add to it.
The poem is titled 'Separation' and has been penned by W.S.Merwin.


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

-- W.S. Merwin

It is a fresh perspective on separation....why do all of us have the need for something or someone to be constant in our lives....this is a repetition of what was said in the last post but every relationship/interaction teaches one a lot....but from some we learn a lot more...we see new parts of ourselves that we fall in love with. Here is a poem that says,
just being with you has made me a different different that its as if you changed something at the core (gone through me) . Indeed unless the change is that dramatic, one doesn't think much of the separation.
But then he says, "everything I do is stitched in its color" and to me that seems to mean that I have accepted this separation and I acknowledge that in everything I do henceforth I see a little of you because of the person I have become from knowing you.

Through this conversation I somehow got reminded of one of the verses from the Yaksha Prashnam episode of the Mahabharata. The pandavas while on exile, are looking for water and find a pond to which they go one after the other and don't seem to return. Yudhistira then goes forth to investigate why the other four haven't come back and finds them lying dead by the lake.
He then hears a yaksha speak to him and the yaksha says Yudhishtira can drink the water only if he answers some questions first.

The set of 20 something questions are Hindu philosophy in a nutshell. But the one I particularly got reminded of in the context of the above conversation is this one:

The yaksha asks Yudhishtira : What is the most surprising thing?
To which Yudhishtira answers thus:

Ahanyahani bhootaani gacchanteeh yamaalayam
Sheshaaha sthavaram icchanti kimaashcharyam ataha param

This translates loosely into: Everyday many living being die (go to the abode of Yama) and the rest of us see this and yet the rest of us live and behave as if we are immortal.

I have since been puzzled at the connection that my head seems to have made but I think the connection comes from the fact that in the bigger scheme of things what matters is that you were associated with someone , for however short a time and the separation in itself is necessary perhaps for life to go on.

This last thought , of course, is not very concrete since I am still thinking of the reason for the connection!

Saturday, April 05, 2008


A poem I read on orkut of all places.....but something that seems perfect.
Somewhere along the road
you meet up with yourself.
Recognition is immediate.
If it happens at the proper
time and place, you propose
a toast:

May you remain as my shadow
when I lie down.
May I live on as your ghost.

Then you pass, knowing you'll
never see yourself that way
again: the fires which burn
before you are your penance,
the ashes you leave behind are
your name.
Enough said.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wedding declarations, Love and Sonnet XVII

Yesterday was a very happy day........... two of my favorite people called and we conferenced after what seemed like was like being back in school in one of those pajama parties...ah how sweet nostalgia smells :D

Anyway, I learned that one of them was getting married and so was another person from the favorites list :D A third favorited person told me later in the day that his wedding plans are also concrete! My list of "favoritest" people in the world is not very long...ok maybe it is longer than most people's but then again my argument is that most people have tiny lists because they have never really given it as much thought and so when you ask then they are coming up with it impromptu and of course they are missing some people. Anyway , back to the point, under the Friends section I have 7 names and with these declarations that makes 6 of them married/going to be married in the next year/ know for sure who they are going to marry though wedding has to wait for various other reasons.

and just the thought filled me with happiness such as I had not felt in a long long time. I am a sucker for happy endings and happy beginnings and it of course reminded me of Neruda. :D:D

So this post is going to feature a poem that was popularized by the movie Patch Adams. While the movie uses it beautifully, I am rather miffed by the fact that now people remember the nice lines but no one remembers that Neruda wrote them!!!!! While all his Love sonnets are awesome , if I were to pick a favorite ( I promise I will not use that word again!) it would have to be Sonnet XVII. It talks of the ideal love. I am almost certain true love feels this way and if it doesn't then I don't think I want this illusion to break.

Anyway, on that ultra sentimental note, here it is. Here is to all of you people on my list , to a happy life ahead and lots of good cheer and laughter....always.

(Ok now quickly make babies so I can do my evil laugh.:D )

Love Sonnet XVII

by Pablo Neruda

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so close that when you close your eyes, I fall asleep.

Check out Robin Williams in a tear jerking scene reciting the last paragraph from the movie here