Along with experiencing their fair share of ordinary troubles, Da Ra Bendre and his wife had to deal with the terrible grief of losing six of their nine children (including one when he was twenty and in his prime). Completely lost in his books, his poetry and his circle of friends (ಗೆಳೆಯರ ಗುಂಪು), Bendre left the responsibility of looking after the house entirely to his wife, a responsibility she bore with stoic fortitude. Never well-off, constitutionally frail, and constantly wounded by the deaths of her children, Shrimati Lakshmibai Bendre’s was an obviously difficult life. It is no wonder then if her smiles were often masks worn upon an inner grief. Not oblivious to her suffering, this is one the many (sympathetic) poems the poet has addressed to her – his wife and his sakhee.
A Grief That Can’t Be Hidden (ಹುದುಗಲಾರದ ದುಃಖ)
Hìding a grief that can’t be hid,
Behind the façade of a smile,
You came in laughter up to me;
Did you really think your love
Was such an àbsent-minded fool;
Tell me, who taught you such trickery?
You who tried in various ways –
By hugging and by nuzzling me –
To bring to me some happiness;
Is that really what you thought,
That I’m a lotus-eater of that sort;
That I am one who’s heartless?
Can by putting on a smile,
And by artful glances of the eyes,
An ùntrue happìness be made to play?
Can, àfter Mumtaz’s burial,
The building of the Taj Mahal
Make true sorrow go away?
O friend and partner of my life!
When ìn the temple of my heart
You move with such a secretness;
Hòw am I to think your laugh
The flower of a real joy;
When you are sùch an àctress?
(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)
Poem Details: From the collection “ಗರಿ,” first published in 1932.
Here is my recitation of the translation.