There aren’t any children to play with her

November 13, 2014

She tells her granddad, you’re the student, and I, the Principal.
She instructs her grandmom to ensure he doesn’t play any pranks.
Her aunt and uncle are there to tease, quarrel, and to get what she wants.

To her great-grand-dad, who can barely hear,
she exhibits her singing with elaborate hand beats.

The Barbie doll, whose eyes have been plucked out,
wearing a cloth around the cavities,
was, till yesterday, Gandhari.
Holding a weighing scale made of coconut twigs,
she has, today, become the Angel of Justice.
She also has a pet name, Vizhi, meaning eyes.

While going to see a farm,
she calls the calf on her toyphone
to inform it, she was on the way.

There aren’t any children to play with her.
She alone isn’t fussed about it.
Around her, she has made everyone, and everything,
a child.

(Translation of my original post in Tamil)


Open those Swiss accounts

December 2, 2011

Audis run on subsidised diesel
Kingfishers fly on subsidised loans
Nuke firms give no guarantee
Tracts of land cost dirt cheap
We rule the lists of Fortune.
All is well, we are a free market,
I got my salary
and I am no communist.
Hey, Farmers of India!
Pull down those ropes.
Have you opened your Swiss accounts?
Walmart is coming
with plane-loads of dollars.
To dole out to you.

Stopping by the traffic lights

August 17, 2011

As usual, I am running late for my daughter’s school.

As usual, the signal at that minor junction turns red.

As usual, there is no sight of a policeman.

I stop my car.

The car behind me screeches to a halt.

As usual, the car to my right races ahead. And all the vehicles behind it.

The bus to my left hurtles past. And all the vehicles behind it.

As usual, the gentle honking, from the cars behind, gets frantic.

I remember the times when it used to irritate me.

Now, do I almost feel a sadistic pleasure within? Whatever.

There is a tinge of joy, when, hesitantly, a car stops beside me.

The signal turns green.

As usual, the vehicles that vroomed ahead are stuck at the next signal.

It is a major junction; and, it is manned by a traffic cop.

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!

A poem from a forgotten Tamil classic

July 30, 2011

An elephant chases him.
He tumbles down a pit,
swarming with snakes.
He grasps the grass
on the walls of the pit.
he sticks out his tongue
to taste the honey,
dripping from a beehive.
Such is the nature of
human joy.

– translated by me from Soolamani, a 9th century Tamil classic

ஆனை துரப்ப அரவு உறை ஆழ்குழி
நாநவிர் பற்றுபு நாளும் ஒருவன் ஓர்
தேனின் அழிதுளி நக்கும் திறத்தது
மானுடன் இன்பம் மதித்தனை கொள்நீ

Triggered by an article by Naanjil Naadan.

My friend Anurag Chabbra has translated this in Hindi – thank you Anurag:

हाथी पीछे, गड्ढा नीचे
साँपो के ऊपर इंसान
लटका, घांस को खीचे.
जीवन का रस ऐसा –
जिव्हा लपकती है फिर भी
टपकता मधू जो छते से.


May 25, 2011

Crows and sparrows are our caste,
the ocean and mountain our creed.
None but ourselves,
wherever we glance.
Nothing but joy and dance,
the more we see.

A poem by Bharati – translated from Tamil

A tiny tract of land – Bharati’s wish

March 25, 2011

A tiny tract of land, I want, Parasakthi,

a tiny tract I want. There,

with​ pillars exquisite, and the color

of the rooms pristine, amidst

that tiny plot, let a palace

be built. There, close to the well,

with slender branches,

and tender coconut juice,

a dozen or so coconut trees​,

I want nearby. Like

the glittering pearl, let

the moon lit the place.

Let the song of larks

ring on my ears.

Let the gentle breeze

enchant my mind.

For our songs to blend,

a virtuous girl be there.

In our joint intoxication, bestow

on us, poetry. In that

dense wilderness, Amma,

your protection I adjure.

I must protect this world,

With my poesy.


This is the translation of a song from Subramanya Bharati, the great Tamil poet. He happens to be extremely difficult to translate. Much of his rhyme, rhythm, simplicity,  sublime choice of words and impact is lost in translation. Nevertheless, this is a modest attempt to give glimpses of Bharati to the uninitiated.

More from Bharati here, here and here .