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K. Satchidanandan

K. Satchidanandan

Nationality: India
Email: satchida@gmail.com


K. Satchidanandan 

K. Satchidanandan , perhaps the most widely translated of contemporary Indian poets , has 23 collections of his poetry  in 18 languages including  English, Irish, Arabic, Chinese, French, German and Italian. His book While I Write : New and Selected Poems (Harper-Collins) came out in 2011 , Misplaced Things and Other Poems (Sahitya Akademi) in 2014 and The Missing Rib in 2016. Satchidanandan writes poetry  in Malayalam, and prose in Malayalam and English and has more than 20  collections of poetry besides several books of travel, plays and criticism  and translations of poetry from around the world and five books in English on Indian literature. He has represented India in many Literary Festivals and Book Fairs across the world including those in  Lahore, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai, Damascus, Berlin, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Wales, New York, Washington, Hay, Paris, Frankfurt , Bonn, Leipzig, Beijing , Shanghai, Rotterdam, Medellin, Sarajevo, Vilenica and  Moscow . He is a Fellow of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi and has won 34 literary awards  and fellowships including Sahitya Akademi Award, Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award five times, ( for poetry, drama, travelogue, translation, criticism) Gangadhar Meher National Award (Orissa) , Kusumagraj National Award ( Maharashtra)  NTR National Award ( Andhrapradesh), Kuvempu National Award ( Karnataka), International Poetry Peace Prize ( U A E ) ,K. K. Birla Fellowship for Comparative Literature, Sreekant Verma Fellowship for Translation and the Senior Fellowship from the Govt of India  besides Knighthood of the Order of Merit from the Government of Italy and India-Poland Friendship Medal from the Government of Poland. A film on him, SummerRain  was released in 2007. He figured prominently in the list of Nobel Prize probables in 2011.




Stammer is no handicap.

It is a mode of speech.


Stammer is the silence that falls

between the word and its meaning,

just as lameness is the

silence that falls between

the word and the deed.


Did stammer precede language

or succeed it?

Is it only a dialect or

a language itself?

These questions make

the linguists stammer.


Each time we stammer

we are offering a sacrifice

to the God of meanings.


When a whole people stammer

stammer becomes their mother-tongue:

just as it is with us now.


God too must have stammered

when He created man.

That is why all the words of man

carry different meanings.

That is why everything he utters

from his prayers to his commands


like poetry.






My mother didn’t believe

when, in 1945  I appeared to her

in a dream and told her

I would be born to her the following year.


My father recognized me

As soon as he saw

the  mole below my left thumb.

But mother believed to the very end

that someone else had been born to her

masquerading as me.


Father and I pleaded with her;

but dreams are not reliable witnesses.

She went on waiting for that

promised son till she died


Only when she was reborn as my daughter

did she admit it had really been me.


But by then I had begun to doubt

it was someone else’s heart

that was beating within my body.


One day I will retrieve my heart;

my language too.






The owner of these shoes died long ago,

only his memories remain.


Watch this pair closely:

they carry his sweat and dirt,

the slush he worked in ,

the garss he lay on,

the brownish stains of the burnt bread

and the rotten potatoes he ate

and  of the disgrace he ever lived in,

the tears that wet his knees

as he wept, his sad head between them

when a drought wrecked his crops,

the landlord called him an idler ,

the woman he had loved

ran away with a merchant,

his son died of cholera,

his daughter was raped,

or his wife took her own life.


Then memories: of the village lanes

he crossed many times,

the doors at which

he endlessly waited for some job,

of the churches that promptly

sent back all his prayers,

of the parents who died of plague,

of the flowers in the valley

whose names he had forgotten,

of the stolen wine a friend offered

on a Christmas night,

of the pale yet smiling face

of his beloved glowing

in the first night’s candle lights .


Those shoes went on sobbing,

until they were reborn as legs on

a Rene Magritte canvas.



Note: Van Gogh , the Dutch artist  ( 1853-90) did a series of still paintings of shoes whose originals I saw in the van Gogh Museum n Amsterdam. Rene Magritte, the Belgian surrealist ( 1898-1967) has an interesting painting where a pair of  shoes metamorphoses into legs.





The mad have no caste

nor religion. They transcend

gender, live outside

ideologies. We do not deserve

their innocence.


Their language is not of dreams

but of another reality. Their love

is moonlight. It overflows

on the full moon day.


Looking up they see

gods we have never heard of. They are

shaking their wings when

we fancy they are

shrugging their shoulders. They hold

even flies have souls

and the green god of grasshoppers

leaps up on thin legs.


At times they see trees bleed, hear

lions roaring from the streets. At times

they watch Heaven gleaming

in a kitten’s eyes, just as

we do. But they alone can hear

ants sing in a chorus.


While patting the air

they are taming a cyclone

over the Mediterranean. With

their heavy tread, they stop

a volcano from erupting.


They have another measure

of time. Our century is

their second. Twenty seconds,

and they reach Christ; six more,

they are with the Buddha.


In a single day, they reach

the big bang at the beginning.


They go on walking restless for,

their earth is boiling still.


The mad are not

mad  like us.







Earth taught me

to embrace all, to outlive all,

to know stasis is death and

to evolve from season to season,

to be on the move within and without


Fire taught me

to be aflame with desire,

to dance, dance, dance,

until all  desires turn  to ash,

to sanctify the world with grief,

to illumine through contemplation

the ocean’s womb and the granite’s heart


Water taught me

to ooze unannounced

from eyes and clouds,

to seep deep into earth, into bodies,

adorning both with tender leaves and flowers,

to strip myself of name and location

and merge with the magnificent blue

of memory’s final horizon


Air taught me

to sing disembodied through bamboo-clumps,

to prophesy through leaves,

to lend wings to seeds,

to be, at once, a gentle caressing breeze

and a speeding , howling, storm


Ether taught me

to be full with the full moon,

to be null with the new moon,

to be the red, red flush of dawn and dusk,

to be everywhere and to be nowhere


The five elements taught me

to be one with all,

to be detached from all,

to be changing forms forever,

until the day of my deliverance

from the world of forms.





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