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Archive for the ‘Malayalam’ Category

A Song of Poykayil Appachan

Friday, February 17th, 2012

No, not a single letter is seen

On my race

So many histories are seen

On so many races


Scrutinize each one of them

The whole histories of the world

Not a single letter is seen

On my race


There was no one on this earth

To write the history

Of my race in the olden days

What a pity!


Think of it

Regret fills within

Let me add something

In my own melody


The story of

A people who lived in Kerala

Since the ancient times

And how they became demons


No shame have I

To say the faults of my caste

Though all blame me

A cursed offspring on earth


How is it possible

That all blame us

Till the end

Of earth and sky


How can God

Who shaped everything

Allow this to happen

On earth today?


Translated from Malayalam by Ajay Sekher. Today is the 134th birth anniversary of Poykayil Appachan, the dalit social reformer of Kerala. 

More of his songs can be read in the book, Unknown Subjects: Songs of Poykayil Appachan. Edited by V V Swamy and E V Anil. Translated by Ajay Sekher. Kottayam: IPRDSS, 2008.

So Many Alphabets are Seen

Saturday, January 7th, 2012


Crisscross marks of the broom

Made of coconut leaf-bristles fill the tidied front yard

Bursting in laughter and fragrance

Stands the Ilanji tree at the margin of the yard

Clean after bath black kids wait

On the verandah looking for a come back

Clean kitchen pots and vessels bask in evening light

Along with spatulas made of coconut shells


Such small changes are seen everywhere you see

The home you left for work is not the one you enter after work

The children are also changed as you come back

With the wage of paddy in the corner folding of loincloth


Who cleaned and kept the littered house like this?

Who made the little dirty ones with running nose

Into smiling flowers with fragrance?


Yes, so many alphabets are seen

In their eyes.


Ajay Sekher's translation of the Malayalam poem “So Many Alphabets are Seen” by poet M R Renukumar. 

M R Renukumar is a poet, writer and painter from Kottayam. 


Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Waking up,
Sitting up with a yawn,
Rolling up the tattered mat,
Tucking up the torn mundu,
Walking along the hedges.
Not for a lark.
The muddy fields grimace,
The cows wag their tails.

Where is that long night –
The one they sang their fervent hymns about,
The one they said spring thunder
Would light up with brilliant flashes
Before the great new dawn arrived?

Hate, anger –
Glinting knives
Still whetted
On racing pulses.

They stood leaning against the good old walls,
The graying firebrands.
Out of the dry, cracked, poetry-less soil they had sprung.
Drained by the waters of compassion
They had grown dreams on their bodies.

They now watch
As texts are served on a platter. 


By Raghavan Atholi, translated by K.M Sheriff  who writes "He has forged a unique idiom and unique imagery, distilled from Dalit culture and experience. The fierce expressions and torrid images in Raghavan’s poetry appear destined to be lasting influences in Malayalam poetry. He has certainly been an influence on the rise of his younger contemporaries like S. Joseph and Renu Kumar in Malayalam poetry.”

The novel Chorapparisham by Raghavan Atholi  won the prestigious Vaikkam Muhammed Basheer Memorial Award in 2006.


Monday, May 24th, 2010

Before the garbage heap in the street
A hungry woman waits.
Turning her back 
On the parting day’s sullen face,
Clutching at her sinking wages,
A bundle of fodder
Wrenched out of the earth
Balanced on her head,
She waits.
Late into the night
In her pitch black hut
Guarding a cold meal
She waits.

The stones her hands broke up,
The furrows of tears
She cast her seeds into,
The team that groaned
As hand-to-mouth carts lurched,
Generations that staggered and fell,
Sons who never came back,
Clans that vanished in the wild,
Treacherous pathways that turned into quicksand,
Full barns,
Empty hovels,
A goddess shrunken into an old crone.

On the hedge
The child was nursed with tears.
Hopes went to rot in the ditches like coconut husk
And returned beaten and baked by the sun.
Rushing feet crushed the handful of rice
Spilt from the beggar’s cupped hands.
The parched throat cracked up
Before the battle for water was won.

This battered woman,
My flesh and blood,
My mother.
She waits for the light that went out to return,
For a handful of rice untainted with blood,
For a piece of land untainted with greed. 

By Raghavan Atholi, sculptor and poet. Translated by K M Sheriff.

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