Don’t Look At Me This Way (ನೀ ಹೀಂಗ ನೋಡಬ್ಯಾಡ ನನ್ನ)

Da Ra Bendre’s life was not an easy one. Born in Dharwad into a family of Vedic Marathi-speaking Brahmins, he lost his father at an early age and grew up in poverty (albeit under the loving guardianship of his mother and maternal grandmother). Married at the age of 23 to Lakshmibai (nee Rangubai), he and his wife were to experience the death of six of their nine children (five in infancy and one, tragically, when he was 20). This poem – about the death of an infant daughter, Lalitha – details the mute grief of his wife and the poet’s despairing response.

Contrary to the popular narrative, this song was not one that sprung spontaneously from the poet’s lips upon seeing his wife. Rather, it came to him as a “sight” as he travelled in the railway carriage that was taking him home to his wife and infant daughter. In other words, it was the (wrenching) vision of a future that was very near.
As far as Hindu poetics is concerned, it is the stream of the rasa of grief (ಶೋಕ ರಸ) that flows here. I have had my father tell me that this lament (as sung by Rajkumar Bharathi) never fails to bring a lump to his throat.

However, since Mr. Bharathi’s version contains only the last three stanzas of the poem, I have ventured to sing the whole poem in the same tune as the original. I hope the result is palatable.

Don’t Look At Me This Way (ನೀ ಹೀಂಗ ನೋಡಬ್ಯಾಡ ನನ್ನ)

Don’t look at me this way;
because if you look at me this way,
in what way do I look at you? || Refrain ||

This worldly-ocean, I know, is filled with countless obstacles of woe,
still I can say, though I don’t know where, that on the other side’s a shore.
So let the sleeping infant lie, what’s next is god’s refrain;
his will I cannot change; so why look and look at me again?

Those lips of yours that were as red as parrot’s beak fruit-dipped;
where did their colour go? By which ill-wind were they stripped?
Looking at those cheeks, that brow, those eyes, it seems as if death’s
hand itself had stroked your face; a nameless fear enters my breath.

My wedding-watered hands you took, thinking them cool and tender;
and still you clutch at them; though now they glow like ashen cinder.
“But if the sky should topple, what fate awaits the ground?”, they said:
did you believe the sky would never fall; that I myself was god?

Woman! whose eyes once glittered like milk-bedewed kavaḷi fruit;
Tell me – are these eyes I see now yours in truth?
For looking on your face my life itself exclaims in fright:
‘Here comes the full moon’s corpse, sailing in the morning light!’

A rain has filled within your eyes; why then this crazy laughter –
as though a gust of wind can stop a raincloud set to scatter?
So go on, cry, let loose the flood, don’t laugh away such hardship;
blink and let the tears flow; don’t block your sobs with bitten lips.

Here is my recitation of the translation.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

Poem Details: From the collection “ನಾದಲೀಲೆ,” first published in 1938.

Afterword:

Like with so many poems I translated or transcreated at the time, Sunaath Kaaka’s wonderful Kannada explication proved extremely valuable. Thank you, Kaaka.

Author: Madhav Ajjampur

I'm Madhav, from Bangalore. I write my own poetry in English and translate Da Ra Bendre's poetry from Kannada into English. (You can read my poetry at https://madhavajjampurwritings.com/). My favourite poets include Yeats, Tagore, Bendre, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, and Gerard Hopkins. If you'd like to get in touch, do write to me at mk.ajjampur@gmail.com. I'd be very happy to hear from you!

10 thoughts on “Don’t Look At Me This Way (ನೀ ಹೀಂಗ ನೋಡಬ್ಯಾಡ ನನ್ನ)”

  1. ಮಾಧವ್, ನನ್ನ ನೆನಪಿದೆಯಾ? ಜಯಶ್ರೀ ಮೇಡಂ. ಕನ್ನಡ ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯವನ್ನು ಈ ರೀತಿ ಬೆಳಕಿಗೆ ತಂದು, ಪ್ರಚಾರ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಿರುವುದು ಒಂದು ಹೊಸ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ. ಮೂಲ ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ಧಕ್ಕೆ ಬರದಂತೆ ಬಹಳ ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿದೆ.
    ನಿನ್ನ ಬರವಣಿಗೆಯಿಂದ ಇನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಕೃತಿಗಳ ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಷ್ ರೂಪಾಂತರ ಬರಲಿ.
    All the best👍👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Jayashree Ma’am,
      ಖಂಡಿತಾ ನೆನಪಿದೆ! ನಿಮ್ಮ ಸ್ಪಂದನೆಗಾಗಿ ಬಹಳ ಧನ್ಯವಾದ. ನಿಮಗೆ ಇದು ಹಿಡಿಸಿತು ಅಂತ ಕೇಳಿ ಖುಶಿಯಾಯ್ತು. ನಿಮ್ಮ ಹಾರೈಕೆ ಹಾಗು ಮೆಚ್ಚುಗೆಗಾಗಿ thanksಉ. ನನ್ನ ಈ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನಗಳ ನಿಮ್ಜೊತೆ ಹಂಚುತ್ತಿರುತ್ತೀನಿ. 🙂

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      1. We actually don’t get that feel when we read a translated poem it more difficult to feel it when we know the actual poem but this case is different,Thanks to Madhav .Brother this attempt is so amazing justice is conveyed to the actual poem .Fine art keep writing and inspiring !

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you very much for writing, Amith! I’m very glad you enjoyed it so much. If you can, do look through some of the other translations on the website – I’m quite sure you’ll find a few others you enjoy. 😊

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  2. Wow..amazing translation and also recitation Madhavji…ಬೇಂದ್ರೆಯವರ ಭಾವ ತೀವ್ರತೆ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಅನುವಾದದಲ್ಲಿ ಬಹಳ ಶಕ್ತವಾಗಿ ಮೂಡಿಬಂದಿದೆ. ಅಭಿನಂದನೆಗಳು.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t like to read translations. The end product is always insipid,lifeless divested of the principal rasa, the language itself.
    But your attempt is successful and it manages to keep the reader involved till the end. Thank you for bringing DARA again for us.
    I wish you success in your future attempts too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Mr. Bhende! I’m very glad to know you liked the translation/transcreation. Given that you liked this, I think you may also like “Basavanna’s Chronicles” and “Jogi”. 🙂
      Also – thank you for writing to let me know you enjoyed it. So few people actually do.

      Like

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