AN INTRODUCTION by KAMALA DAS
I don’t know politics but I know the names
Of those in power, and can repeat them like
Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru.
I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar,
I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one.
Mo pa konpran politik me mo konn bann nom
Seki dan pouvwar e mo kapav resit zot kouma
Zour dan lasemenn, ousa mwa dan lane, koumans ar Nehru.
Mo enn endien, bien nwar, pran nesans dan Malabar,
Koz trwa lang, ekrir
Dan de, rev dan enn.
Don’t write in English, they said, English is
Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak,
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone.
Pa ekrir an Angle, zot ti dir,
Pa to lang maternel sa. Zot pa kapav
Fou mwa lape, zot tou – kritik, konesans,
Kouzen-kouzinn? Les mo koz lang
Ki mo anvi. Lang ki mo koze,
Li pou mwa, so lanver ek so landrwat
Zot pou mwa, zis pou mwa.
It is half English, half Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest,
It is as human as I am human, don’t
You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing
Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it
Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is
Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and
Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech
Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the
Incoherent mutterings of the blazing
Funeral pyre. I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair.
Li moso Angle, moso Endien, kikfwa komik, sirtou onet,
Li imen parski mo imen – zot
Pa konpran? Li kriye mo lazwa, mo dezir, mo
Lespwar e mo bizen li kouma
Zwazo bizen sante e lion bizen kriye, sa
Parol imen sa, parol lespri ki
Isi pa laba, lespri ki trouve, ki tande e ki
Kone. Pa parol sourday ek kaylous
Bann pie dan toufann, lapli toransiel, ousa
Bla-bla dan vid dife ronflan
Krematwar. Enn baba
Ti pe vinn gran parski mo ti pe pouse,
Mo lekor ti pe sanze e pwal ti pe pouse.
When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me
But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.
The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me.
I shrank Pitifully.
Kan mo ti rod lamour san kone kifer,
Li ti ferm mwa dan enn lasam
Ar enn tilom sez an. Mem li pa ti violan,
Mo lekor zenn fam tris ti kraze.
Pwa mo tete ek mo vant ti fini mwa.
Mo ti pe koule san soulazman.
Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.
Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better
Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to
Choose a name, a role. Don’t play pretending games.
Lerla … mo ti met semiz ek pantalon
Mo frer, koup mo seve kourt, movi ar
‘Tifi pa fer sa’. Zot ti dir
Met sari, to enn beti,
Mazinn maryaz. Aprann koutir, kwi manze,
Okip lakaz. Swiv sistem, swiv kiltir,
Bann ortodox kriye. Aret asiz lor miray, louk par lafnet.
Pa bliye to apel Amy, Kamala. Si to’le
Nou apel twa Madhavikutty.
Swazir to nom, mazinn to rol. Aret fer vadire.
Don’t play at schizophrenia or be a
Nympho. Don’t cry embarrassingly loud when
Jilted in love … I met a man, loved him. Call
Him not by any name, he is every man
Who wants a woman, just as I am every
Woman who seeks love. In him . . . the hungry haste
Of rivers, in me . . . the oceans’ tireless
Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone,
Aret zwe katorz-vetwit, aret
Fer bebet ansaler. Aret fer senn kan lom la
Finn kil twa … Mo ti zwenn enn zom, tom amoure. Apel
Li Zom, zom ki bizen
Enn fam kouma mwa Fam
Mo bizen lamour. Li … enn larivier
Ki fonse, mwa … enn losean eternelman
Ouver. Twa ki twa, mo dimann tou dimoun,
The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and,
Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I
In this world, he is tightly packed like the
Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely
Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns,
It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying
With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,
I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys that are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.
Repons: mwa ki mwa. Partou-partou, kot pase
Mo zwenn misie mo-mwa-momem
Ki dan bien kouma kouto dan fouro.
Mo-mwa-momem ki bwar tousel
Gramaten, midi, tanto isi-laba,
Mo-mwa-momem ki dan goun, ki fongoyo,
Lerla gagn onte, ki pe mor
Ar enn ronfleman dan lagorz. Mo enn peser,
Mo enn sen. Mo mo konn adorasion
Ek traizon. Mo boner li to boner,
Mo maler li to maler. Mo’si mo Mo-mwa-momem.
02. JEWISH WEDDING IN BOMBAY by Nissim Ezekiel
Her mother shed a tear or two but wasn’t really
crying. It was the thing to do, so she did it
enjoying every moment. The bride laughed when I
sympathized, and said don’t be silly.
MARYAZ ZWIF DAN BOMBAY
So mama ti larg enn ou de larm, pa kwar li ti pe
Plore. Koutim dir bizen, alors li ti fer seki bizen
Dan lazwa. Doulinn ti riye ler mo ti sey
Konsol li; pa fer kouyon li ti dir mwa.
Her brother had a shoe of mine and made me pay
to get it back. The game delighted all the neighbours’
children, who never stopped staring at me, the reluctant
bridegroom of the day.
So frer ti souk enn mo soulie e ti bizen pey enn fiz
Pou li rande. Bann zanfan vwazen, ki ti pe fixe mwa,
Doula par fors,
Ti gagn li bonn.
There was no dowry because they knew I was ‘modern’
and claimed to be modern too. Her father asked me how
much jewellery I expected him to give away with his daughter.
When I said I did’t know, he laughed it off.
Pa ti ena dahej; zot ti kone mo ‘modern’
E zot’si zot ti modern. So papa ti dimann mwa komie
Bizou li ti bizen done kan li donn so tifi.
Ler mo dir li ‘kajani’, li ti kas enn riye.
There was no brass band outside the synagogue
but I remember a chanting procession or two, some rituals,
lots of skull-caps, felt hats, decorated shawls
and grape juice from a common glass for bride and
Pa ti ena jazbenn dan lakour sinagog
Me mo rapel ennde prosesion santer, detrwa ritiel,
Boukou bone-kippah, sapo fet, shal dekore
Ek zi rezen dan enn ver pou doula ek doulinn.
I remember the breaking of the glass and the congregation
clapping which signified that we were well and truly married
according to the Mosaic Law.
Mo rapel nou ti kraz ver; tou dimoun ti tap lame;
Savedir, peyna sape, nou ti fini marye
Dapre lalwa Moiz.
Well that’s about all. I don’t think there was much
that struck me as solemn or beautiful. Mostly, we were
amused, and so were the others. Who knows how much belief
Mo kwar samem tou. Mo pa kwar ti ena gransoz
Ki mo ti trouv zoli ek solanel. Tou ti amizan,
Pou nou, pou tou dimoun. Kot pou kone profonder
Even the most orthodox it was said ate beef because it
was cheaper, and some even risked their souls by
The Sabbath was for betting and swearing and drinking.
Mem bann mari-ortodox, tann dir, ti manz bef parski
Ti pli bomarse, e ti ena ki ti pran risk al dan lanfer ar
Saba ti zour spesial pou zougader, batar-malelve ek soular.
Nothing extravagant, mind you, all in a low key
and very decently kept in check. My father used to say,
these orthodox chaps certainly know how to draw the line
in their own crude way. He himself had drifted into the liberal
creed but without much conviction, taking us all with him.
My mother was very proud of being ‘progressive’.
Tansion! Tou ti regle, kontrole;
Pa ti ena derapaz. Mo papa ti kontan dir
Ki sa bann ortodox la ti konn met fren kot bizen
Dan zot prop manier grosie. Lombo ti glis ver bann liberal
San gran konviksion me li ti ris nou tou ar li.
Mo mama ti fier ki li pa ti enn konservater.
Anyway as I was saying, there was that clapping and later
we went to the photographic studio of Lobo and Fernandes,
world-famous specialists in wedding portraits. Still later,
we lay on a floor-matress in the kitchen of my wife’s
family apartment and though it was past midnight she
kept saying let’s do it darling let’s do it darling
so we did it.
Kouma mo ti pe dir, ti ena aplodisman e pli tar
Nou ti al tir foto dan stidio Lobo-Fernandes,
Spesialis rekoni mondialman pou foto maryaz. Bien pli tar,
Nou ti alonze lor enn matla dan lakwizinn flat
Mo boparan e malgre ki ti minwi pase, li
Pa ti aret dir mwa, pou fer, pa pou fer, gate-koko-sheri.
Be nou ti fer!
More than ten years passed before she told me that
she remembered being very disappointed. Is that all
there is to it? She had wondered. Back from London
eighteen months earlier, I was horribly out of practice.
Plis ki dis an pli tar li ti fini par dir mwa
Ki sa swar la ti rann. Samem tou
Ena lada? Li ti anvi kone. Kouma mo ti retourne
Depi Lond ena dizwit mwa, mo ti perdi pratik.
During our first serious marriage quarrel she said Why did
you take my virginity from me? I would gladly have
returned it, but not one of the books I had read
instructed me how.
Kan ti gagn nou premie bagar serye, li ti dir mwa Kifer
To ti defons mo virzinite? Mo ti pou bien kontan
Redonn li sa me okenn bann liv ki mo ti finn lir
Pa ti montre mwa kouma pou fer sa.
03. OUR CASUARINA TREE by Toru Dutt
LIKE a huge Python, winding round and round
The rugged trunk, indented deep with scars,
Up to its very summit near the stars,
A creeper climbs, in whose embraces bound
No other tree could live. But gallantly
The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung
In crimson clusters all the boughs among,
Whereon all day are gathered bird and bee;
And oft at nights the garden overflows
With one sweet song that seems to have no close,
Sung darkling from our tree, while men repose.
NOU PIE FILAO
Kouma’nn serpan zean ki tourn-tourne
Lor tron bos-bos pie plen ar sikatris,
Ki grenpe-monte pou zwenn lesiel tris,
Enn laliann file, anvlop for-sere
Koumadir trangle. Me san kil parad,
Nou pie filao abiy so kadans
Ar zoli fler rouz anpandan lor brans
Kot toutlazourne lavi zame fad;
E souvan aswar enn melodi dous
Anbras nou zarden ar enn zoli kous,
Alim marenwar ar somey kaylous.
When first my casement is wide open thrown
At dawn, my eyes delighted on it rest;
Sometimes, and most in winter,—on its crest
A gray baboon sits statue-like alone
Watching the sunrise; while on lower boughs
His puny offspring leap about and play;
And far and near kokilas hail the day;
And to their pastures wend our sleepy cows;
And in the shadow, on the broad tank cast
By that hoar tree, so beautiful and vast,
The water-lilies spring, like snow enmassed.
Gramaten, kouma mo ouver lafnet,
Mo pie filao dir mwa namaste;
Parfwa net lao, sirtou kan fer fre,
Enn zako size, vadire enn pret
Ki priye Sourrya; lor bann brans anba
So bann ti marmay pe fer zot zako;
Partou tann refren bann sante zwazo;
Laba troupo vas pe al manz kasia;
Dan lonbraz epe, lor basen ranpli,
Koste ar vie pie, bote bien garni,
Nenifar gayar larg so fler beni.
But not because of its magnificence
Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:
Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,
O sweet companions, loved with love intense,
For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear.
Blent with your images, it shall arise
In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes!
What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear
Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach?
It is the tree’s lament, an eerie speech,
That haply to the unknown land may reach.
Pa parski li gran ek li manifik
Ki pie filao finn ranpli mo nam:
Anba sa pie la lavi ti tamam;
Banane apre, lamitie mazik
Anba sa pie la fer mwa tris. Hay Ram!.
Fer mwa rapel yer kan nou ti ere
Anba nou gran pie – ziska larm koule.
Ki sa sante tris ki pe pers mo nam
Koumadir bann vag ki kraz lor gale?
Mo pie pe kriye dezespwar dime
Ki, fotespere, dimoun pou tande.
Unknown, yet well-known to the eye of faith!
Ah, I have heard that wail far, far away
In distant lands, by many a sheltered bay,
When slumbered in his cave the water-wraith
And the waves gently kissed the classic shore
Of France or Italy, beneath the moon,
When earth lay trancèd in a dreamless swoon:
And every time the music rose,—before
Mine inner vision rose a form sublime,
Thy form, O Tree, as in my happy prime
I saw thee, in my own loved native clime.
Enkoni me pa etranze lafwa.
Mo finn deza tann sa sante bien tris
Dan pei lweten, dan lepor bien ris
Kan nam-dilo pe dormi dan lazwa;
Kan bann vag kares laplaz douniya,
Isi ek laba dan lanwit plennlinn,
Kan later manitize san mofinn:
Sak fwa sawal la met so lafaya,
Dan mo prop lespri enn form lev latet,
Se to form, mo pie, kouma mo ti get
Twa dan mo lanfans, dan pei anset.
Therefore I fain would consecrate a lay
Unto thy honor, Tree, beloved of those
Who now in blessed sleep for aye repose,—
Dearer than life to me, alas, were they!
Mayst thou be numbered when my days are done
With deathless trees—like those in Borrowdale,
Under whose awful branches lingered pale
“Fear, trembling Hope, and Death, the skeleton,
And Time the shadow;” and though weak the verse
That would thy beauty fain, oh, fain rehearse,
May Love defend thee from Oblivion’s curse.
Akozsa mo’le dedie mo sante
Pou twa, zoli pie, adore par bann
Ki nepli isi – lavi nepli rann –
Ki mo ti kontan, ki mo bien manke.
Mo souete ki, kan mo nepli la,
Twa to pou parmi bann pie imortel
Kouma pie Wordsworth; to pa pou tousel
Parski anba to brans ‘si pou ena
“Lafreyer, Lespwar, Lamor ek Maya”.
Mem si mo poem mengi ek fatra,
Lamour pou anpes Fitir bliye twa.
04. A FARMER’S GHOST by Anju Makhija
Behind the trunk of a mango tree you were seen
vigilantly guarding rice fields; later,
collecting dung, rounding up cows,
you munched dry rotis, beat your daughter-in-law.
A farmer never leaves his land, they said,
till rice is safe from man and beast.
When bins are full, rice mixed with dry neem,
he will leave. The old man is dead, not asleep.
NAM ENN TIPLANTER
Deryer tron enn pie mang to la
Pe vey karo diri; apre
To ramas kaka-vas, okip bann vas,
Manz farata sek, bat to belfi.
Tann dir enn tiplanter zame kit so later
Tank so diri pa ansekirite.
Me kan bann ferblan finn plen, proteze par fey lila sek,
Li chal. Bonom la finn kat, pa pe dormi.
That night, I read about witty Veetal,
short-tempered Zhoting, man-eating Hadals
and other Konkan spirits in The Times. Next night:
ghostbusting, to dispel tales spreading like flames
in the night. Dark face, still as a scarecrow,
leaning against a haystack, you were seen
by all but me. Disconcerted then, now I see the point:
dispelling superstitions city folk like;
but, to believe the imagined to be true
can be a way of life, a fact, a truth.
Sa swar la mo ti lir lor movezer,
Lespri malefik, lakesoungwa,
Mardeviren, minisprens. Leswar apre:
Fer nam tire pou met stop ar zistwar ki file
Dan lanwit. Figir sek, fix kouma bonomlapay,
Pe apiy kont pake lerb, zot tou ti trouv twa
Apart mwa. Sa lepok la mo ti dekonserte, aster mo konpran:
Kifer konbat siperstision ki dimoun lavil kontan;
Kwar dan seki nou mazine kouma laverite
Li enn fason viv, enn realite, laverite pir.