Da Ra Bendre shot to fame in 1929 at the Beḷagāvi Kannada Sāhitya Sammēḷana when he read out his famous poem “ಹಕ್ಕಿ ಹಾರುತಿದೆ ನೋಡಿದಿರಾ” (“The Bird is Flying – Have You Seen It?”) Enchanted by the ಮರುಳುಗೊಳಿಸುವ (maruḷugoḷisuva: ~ bewitching) manner of his delivery and his charismatic stance, Māsti Venkatesha Iyyangar – another giant of 20th-century Kannada literature and the father of the modern Kannada short story – was moved to call him a ಗಾರುಡಿಗ (gāruḍiga: mostly used to describe a snake-charmer but more generally a sorcerer; an enchanter), a characterization that stuck to Bendre for the rest of his life.
In this poem – itself titled “ಗಾರುಡಿಗ” (“Gāruḍiga”) – Bendre dwells upon this epithet, the associated imagery, and his own poetic powers. The original poem is a free verse ಅಷ್ಟಷಟ್ಪದಿ (ashṭashaṭpadi: oct-sestet) – a Kannada adaptation of the Petrarchan sonnet.
Recitation of the Kannada Poem:
This is a mantra; a way with words
defying meaning; its meter felicitous,
spontaneous; totemic, enchanting;
fashioned from the very quick of life;
the fletch upon the bowstring of the breath
is on its focussed way; part of an effortless
divine play; it swoops like Garuḍa himself:
is this a delusion? A drunkenness? Poison?
Death? Slumber! Crazy passion! A waking
shrouded in unmemory! The dream is now
reality — and all is pure and white as milk!
You snake! You weaving-stomached
creature! You have no ears, a pair
of tongues; with venom in your tooth,
you feed on air; though you descend
to the nether world, you continue to irk;
like a rasika you sway your head, but
all your praise is poisoned-spit! But keep
on, keep on — across my palm is the Garuḍa line!
Recitation of the English translation:
(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)
Poem Details: From the collection “ಉಯ್ಯಾಲೆ,” first published in 1938.
© Madhav K. Ajjampur