Friday, March 7, 2014

P.Lankesh - Mother { ಅಮ್ಮ -kannada poem ] Translated by S. N. Sridhar

By P. Lankesh 
My mother, a fertile black soil.
There the expanse of green leaves, feast of white flowers;
The more burned, the stronger; the more pained, the more flower and fruit;
When babies kicked, her limbs thrilled;
Set down the laden basket, groaned, and shut her eyelids, never to open.

She lifted a hundred kilo of maize, impressed Father, won a bracelet;
Watered with a mug each clump of clay,
Seeded pepper, pea, maize, lentil field by hand,
Flower among flowers, unripe fruit among unripe fruit
Looking after the lentil field,
Spent her youth wearing ragged saris.

She died.
How old was this bent-backed old woman?
How many new year moons, flurry of festive sweets at the stove?
How often did she wander, village to village,
Searching for the lost aged buffalo?

She was no Sati, Savitri, Janaki, Urmila, ideal wives of myth;
Nor Shanta, Shweta, Gambhira of history books;
Nor the hallowed wives of Gandhiji or Ramakrishna.
Did not worship god;
Did not hear sagas of the gods;
Did not even wear vermilion, though married.

Like a forest bear,
Carried little kids,
Brought up her husband, pinched pennies;
Scolded, grumbled, quarreled like a hurt dog;
Pettiness, crookedness, scratching about like a monkey;
All in the name of welfare of the clan.
She would rise up in flames only
If the son strayed or husband went to another.

The forest bear has no need of your Bhagavadgita.
My mother lived
For grain, brambles, toil, kids;
For a roof above, rice, bread, a blanket;
To walk among peers with head raised.
To her, admiration, tears of gratitude;
For bearing, nurturing; for living in the soil
And for going away, coolly, still talking,
As if from home to the field.

Translated from Kannada by S.N. Sridhar (March 2014)

S.N. SridharSUNY Distinguished Service Professor
Professor of Linguistics & India Studies
Director, Center for India Studies 
East 5350, Melville Library
Stony Brook University 
Stony Brook, NY 

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