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
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.
VAN GOGH’S ‘SHOES’
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 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.
WHAT THE ELEMENTS
HAVE TAUGHT ME
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.