August 1, 2017

Trees that thrive on this planet,

clusters of plants in bloom with joyous fragrance,

creepers that throng those trees,

healing herbs, weeds and grass and such:

By what profession do they live?


Men may not plough, nor sow,

not raise bunds, nor water their crop

but if the skies grant rains,

will not the land abound

with trees and various grains and grass?

There is not a thing I fear

Oh men, embrace my religion

and toil not!


Tax not your flesh and body

Nature shall yield food.

See, your task here is to wield love.

– Subramania Bharati

(Translated by me)


இந்தப் புவிதனில் வாழு மரங்களும்
இன்ப நறுமலர்ப் பூஞ்செடிக் கூட்டமும்
அந்த மரங்களைச் சூழ்ந்த கொடிகளும்
ஔடத மூலிகை பூண்டுபுல் யாவையும்
எந்தத் தொழில் செய்து வாழ்வன வோ?

மானுடர் உழாவிடினும் வித்து நடாவிடினும்
வரம்புகட்டாவிடினும் அன்றிநீர் பாய்ச்சாவிடினும்
வானுலகு நீர்தருமேல் மண்மீது மரங்கள்
வகைவகையா நெற்கள்புற்கள் மலிந்திருக்கு மன்றோ?
யானெ தற்கும் அஞ்சுகிலேன்,மானுடரே,நீவிர்
என்மதத்தைக் கைக்கொண்மின்,பாடுபடல் வேண்டா;
ஊனுடலை வருத்தாதீர்; உணவியற்கை கொடுக்கும்;
உங்களுக்குத் தொழிலிங்கே அன்பு செய்தல் கண்டீர்!-

– பாரதி


An ode to Maha Shakthi – Bharathi

August 28, 2013

Slay my lust – else
stop my breath.
Conquer my body – else
halt my thoughts.
Set me in a yogic state – else
slash my flesh.
Maha Shakthi – you
cause everything in this world,
from your divine solitude.

Break my bonds – else
end the burden of this life.
Unclutter my thinking – else
render my body dead.
Should I continue taking
chaff for grain?
Thou, who function
from deep within
every thing.

Will not all deceit melt away?
Will not tears of devotion flow?
Will not the heart gladden?
Will I not get rid of
the handicap of false pride?
In the torrent of thy Grace,
will not this mongrel’s
small appetite be sated.
Thou art unfathomable,
abiding in every thing.


[Translated from the following Tamil poem by Bharathi.]



மஹாசக்திக்கு விண்ணப்பம்

மோகத்தைக் கொன்றுவிடு – அல்லா லென்றன்
மூச்சை நிறுத்திவிடு
தேகத்தைச் சாய்த்துவிடு – அல்லாலதில்
சிந்தனை மாய்த்துவிடு
யோகத் திருத்திவிடு – அல்லா லென்றன்
ஊனைச் சிதைத்துவிடு
ஏகத் திருந்துலகம் – இங்குள்ளன
யாவையும் செய்பவளே!

பந்தத்தை நீக்கிவிடு – அல்லா லுயிர்ப்
பாரத்தைப் போக்கிவிடு்
சிந்தை தெளிவாக்கு – அல்லாலிதைச்
செத்த உடலாக்கு
இந்தப் பதர்களையே – நெல்லாமென
எண்ணி இருப்பேனோ
எந்தப் பொருளிலுமே – உள்ளேநின்று
இயங்கி யிருப்பவளே.

கள்ளம் உருகாதோ – அம்மா
பக்திக் கண்ணீர் பெருகாதோ?
உள்ளம் குளிராதோ – பொய்யாணவ
ஊனம் ஒழியாதோ?
வெள்ளக் கருணையிலே – இந்நாய் சிறு
வேட்கை தவிராதோ?
விள்ளற் கரியவளே – அனைத்திலும்
மேவி யிருப்பவளே!

Festering Remnants of Brahminic segregation

March 1, 2012

Are you a vegetarian?

This fairly innocuous-sounding question greets you, when you start hunting for a house to rent in Chennai. Skim the surface off the question, and you wish you never decided to come to Chennai. Its intent is plain. Are you a Brahmin?

Some of them may be genuinely looking only for vegetarians (and not necessarily Brahmins) to occupy their houses. Some of them are bold enough to specify “for Brahmins only!” on the advertisements or to their brokers. Many of them do not have the courage to be open about it and hide behind the vegetarian-question. But you can always sense their discomfort, in knowing that you are a non-Brahmin Vegetarian.

Of course, the story that we cook only vegetarian food at home, and I occasionally eat meat in hotels, complicates the picture. I told my wife not to bother narrating this tale after listening to her the first time. So, we were just vegetarians, and I insisted that the brokers tell the landlords that we are non-Brahmin-vegetarians to avoid questions, later, on the missing thread or the non-Brahmin dialect.

Though many of my closest friends, since school days, have been (and still are) Brahmins, I have never felt excluded from their company. The first time, I was exposed to this exclusivity of the Chennai Brahmin club was when I went to a few carnatic music kutcheris alone, ten years back. Now this rude shock…the blatant display of casteism in the heart of the capital city, amongst, probably, the most educated elite of Tamilnadu…100 years after the Dalit Kanagalingam was bestowed with the Brahminic thread, by the Brahmin-born reformist-poet Bharati (who himself had forsaken the thread) in obstinate, sacrilegious defiance of the orthodoxy of that era.

This, sadly, is enough fodder to keep the crass anti-brahmin rhetoric of the Dravidian movement alive.

P.S. : We are finally going to be in a small apartment complex, as tenants to a generous Brahmin family. In the words of the broker, who was confused to hear that we are vegetarians but not Brahmins, “it is a nice apartment with only brahmin residents”.

A small sample of ads from Google search:


I know no fear – Bharathi

October 26, 2011

I have no fear,
I have no fear,
I know no fear.

When united
the world stands
against me,
I have no fear,
I have no fear,
I know no fear.

When rubbish
I am dismissed as,
and trashed,
I have no fear,
I have no fear,
I know no fear.

When a life
of begging
I must resort to,
I have no fear,
I have no fear,
I know no fear.

When everything
I love
is lost,
I have no fear,
I have no fear,
I know no fear.

When the eyes
of pretty women
pierce me,
I have no fear,
I have no fear,
I know no fear.

When I am fed
poison by my
closest friends,
I have no fear,
I have no fear,
I know no fear.

When an army arrives
with spears
smeared with flesh,
I have no fear,
I have no fear,
I know no fear.

When the sky
shatters and descends
on my head,
I have no fear,
I have no fear,
I know no fear.


My translation of the song “Achamillai achamillai” by Bharathi.

On this Diwali day, I am inspired to do this translation, thanks to Mahirl Malar ( my 3-year old daughter). Last night, she was refusing to step of the house, in fear of crackers. I told her to recite ‘Achamillai’ song, everytime she hears a loud burst. She started doing that in her inimitable way, and tone, with wild gestures of bravery. Voila:  she dragged me down for a walk to watch the big boys having a blast.

The day has dawned

October 11, 2011

The day has dawned

thanks to my penance.

The damned dark moments

have all disappeared.

Spreading its rousing

fresh golden rays,

it’s risen with splendor:

the wisdom, the sun.

– part of a poem by Bharathi, translated by me and posted on Facebook.

Here is a wonderful rendition of the song by Bombay Jayashree (Pozhudu pularndadhu).

Yadugiri’s biography of Bharathi

September 11, 2011

I came across this wonderful biography of Bharathi by Yadugiri Ammal. Yadugiri knew Bharathi, when she was a child. And, this biography sketches the portrait of the great poet from a child’s perspective. While this book was written much later in her life, Yadugiri has showed remarkable restraint in narrating only incidents that she had seen on her own. She had kept the child, who adored Bharathi, alive in her 40-year old mind, giving us also a glimpse into the life of the reformer, revolutionary, swadheshi, and, above all, poet.

The translation by Arasi is quite good.

Part I

Part II


Light and darkness – A poem by Bharati

July 30, 2011

The skies are brightly lit
by sunlight.
So are
the mountains,
the oceans with warring waves,
the land, and the trees,
the woods, and the banks
of the rivers;
from where did
this darkness spring,
sinking only
man’s heart?
– Translated by me from a Tamil poem by Subramaniya Bharati

வானமெங்கும் பரிதியின் சோதி;
மலைகள் மீதும் பரிதியின் சோதி;
தானை நீர்க்கடல் மீதிலும் ஆங்கே
தரையின் மீதும் தருக்களின் மீதும்
கான கத்திலும் பற்பல ஆற்றின்
கரைகள் மீதும் பரிதியின் சோதி;
மானவன்தன் உளத்தினில் மட்டும்
வந்து நிற்கும் இருளிது வென்னே!