K Satchidanandan



A man walks with a door along the city street; he looks for its house. He had once dreamt of his woman, children and friends coming in through the door. Now he sees a whole world pass through this door of his never-built house: men, vehicles,trees, beasts, birds,everything. And the door, its dream rising above the earth, longs to be the door of Heaven; imagines clouds,rainbows, demons, fairies and saints pass through it and shines like gold. But it is the owner of Hell who awaits the door. Now it just yearns to be its tree,full of foliage swaying in the breeze, just to provide some shade to its homeless haulier. A man walks with a door along the citystreet ; a star walks with him. (Translated from the Malayalam by the poet)


Angels do not live on moonlight. They know nothing about relativity. They make light of the law of gravity. Since they have wings in place of hands They cannot properly handle even a cup of tea, count change or set a blown fuse, not to speak of sending an SMS. Angels hate to take part in funeral rites. All that stuff about their standing guard to the sick and singing lullabies for those sleeping on the streets is nothing but bluff. Their relationship with God is in jeopardy. In fact they were banished from Heaven for their lethargy and indulgence. Names like Gabriel and Raphael they picked up after they were abandoned on earth. They are suffering from diabetes and B. P . as they had long been on an excess of manna. Human drugs have failed on them. Veterenary doctors think their wings are fake. But they are real as they get entangled in microwave towers : it is their wail that we just heard on our mobiles. Angels envy men : thought is anathema to them. They survive only as they are gay. Once I saw a wingless angel riding the back of a local train. Its eyes were no more than sockets and the cheeks had no cheeks in them. Seeing it try hard to sing aawaaraa hoom * with its sooty lips to the accompaniment of the train’s whistle, I wept. (Translated from the original Malayalam by the poet) awaaraa hoom : a Hindi film song popularised by the actor Rajkapoor, the words mean, “ I am a vagabond”.


Thorns are my language. I announce my existence with a bleeding touch. Once these thorns were flowers. I loathe lovers who betray. Poets have abandoned the deserts to go back to the gardens. Only camels remain here, and merchants, who trample my blooms to dust. One thorn for each rare drop of water. I don’t tempt butterflies, no bird sings my praise. I don’t yield to droughts. I create another beauty beyond the moonlight, this side of dreams, a sharp,piercing, parallel language. (Translated from the Malayalam by the poet)


Don’t lock the door. Go lightly like the leaf in the breeze along the dawn’s valley. If you are too fair, cover yourself with ash. If too clever, go half-asleep. That which is fast will tire fast : be slow, slow as stillness. Be formless like water. Lie low,don’t even try to go up. Don’t go round the deity : nothingness has no directions, no front nor back. Don’t call it by name, its name has no name. No offerings: empty pots are easier to carry than full ones. No prayers too: desires have no place here. Speak silently, if speak you must: like the rock speaking to the trees and leaves to flowers. Silence is the sweetest of voices and Nothingness has the fairest of colours. Let none see you coming and none, going. Cross the threshold shrunken like one crossing a river in winter. You have only a moment here like the melting snow. No pride: you are not even formed. No anger: not even dust is at your command. No sorrow: it doesn’t alter anything. Renounce greatness: there is no other way to be great. Don’t ever use your hands: They are contempalting not love ,but vilolence. Let the fish lie in its water and the fruit, on its bough. The soft one shall survive the hard, like the tongue that survives teeth. Only the one who does nothing can do everything. Go, the unmade idol awaits you. (From The Northern Canto 1994) (Translated from the Malayalam by the poet)


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 stammers, like poetry. (Translated from the Malayalam by the poet)


In Delhi’s cold I recall my mother, the first warmth that had enveloped me. I could not take mother to Kasi, not even her lullaby. That remorse has a compartment in every train that shuttles between Delhi and Benares. Standing on the banks of Ganga with my lifemate I thought: could have brought at least mother’s ashes for Ganga. There was no shortage of ashes, nor of dead bodies; but mother had lived and died in Malayalam. ‘Ram nam sach hei’ would have turned her an alien. Yet the Lord knew her with her coolness. Didn’t she hide in that unoiled matted hair?* Here, she flows in front of me. Let me wash my feet in her. It may not expiate my sins; but is cool like affection, soiled. Reaching home in Delhi I turn on the water-tap: Here comes Ganga, purified. How did mother manage to pass through this pipe? “O, I took a magic potion: Death. Now I can take any shape, can go anywhere.” I scooped her up in my hands: And got cooled, In Delhi’s heat. (Translated from the Malayalam by the poet) *Remember Siva hiding Ganga in his tangled hair.