In 1937, Da Ra Bendre published his long lyric-narrative (ಖಂಡ-ಕಾವ್ಯ) titled Sakheegeeta (ಸಖೀಗೀತ), a poetic account of the poet and his wife’s (ಸಖೀ) married life up to that time. In his introduction, Bendre says that he has, in the poem, “let spread the happy-sad vine of the ordinary married life upon the trellis of my personal experience.”
Written in a metre that he himself devised, this lyric-narrative is one of his best-known works. From my own reading, what is most striking is his prolific and remarkable use of ಅಚ್ಚಗನ್ನಡ (non-Sanskritized Kannada) and its various poetic possibilities – most particularly those of assonance, compactness, rhyme, and alliteration.
This verse is the very first of the forty-something verses that make up the lyric-narrative. As can be seen, it remains a poem in its own right while serving the purpose of a prologue.
(Note: The word sakhee hasn’t an exact English equivalent, which is why I have left it as it is. However, I have used the word ‘friendship’ to translate sakhya (ಸಖ್ಯ), the adjectival form of the word. Though not exact, I think it a fair approximation.)
As usual, here is my recording of the Kannada original. The tune, if one is discrernible, is my own.
Additionally, here is the video recording of my singing the original Kannada poem and reciting the English translation.
Sakheegeeta – Prologue (ಸಖೀಗೀತ – ನಾಂದಿ ಪದ್ಯ)
Sakhee! Shall I in detail tell
the sweet and sour of our friendship’s course;
shall I, unknotting the tangled heart,
embroider the tangles into a dress?
For now when I recall those sorrows past,
the glow of a night-star comes to sight;
what once was trouble’s now turned to song
that flows like a stream both fresh and bright.
They say that when Gangē and the sea
embrace, the mingled waters earn sanctity;
so too, I say, does the heart stay pure
as it blends both joy and misery.
So come out to the sea on its breaking waves,
to wet where the waters froth and foam;
let us ride on the cradling lap of the waves
in a raft or a boat or a catamaran.
And since all brine trumps a sapless life,
let our unfurled memories be the sail;
let us glide, let us swim, let us float, let us drown,
and drowning, sink to the home of pearls.
For when we’re just anklets on a cosmic wind
that dances its terrible cosmic dance;
who can know, O kāmākshi,
the span of this bond that is binding us!
(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)
Poem Details: From the collection “ಸಖೀಗೀತ,” first published in 1937.
Here is my recitation of the translation.