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 (geḷeyara gumpu: 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.
Here is the original Kannada poem sung very nicely by Shri Puttur Narasimha Nayak:
And here is my recitation of the poem:
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 absent-minded fool;
tell me, who taught you such trickery?
You who tried in various ways –
by hugging and by nuzzling me –
to offer 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 kohl-eyes,
an untrue happiness be made to play?
Can, after Mumtaz’s burial,
the building of the Taj Mahal
make true sorrow go away?
Friend and partner of my life!
when in the temple of my heart
you move with such a secretness;
how am I to think your laugh
the flower of a real joy;
when you are such an actress?
(Translated by Madhav Ajjampur)
Poem Details: From the collection “ಗರಿ,” first published in 1932.
Finally, here is my recitation of the English translation.
If you have enjoyed this translation and the recitations, I hope you will consider buying my recently-released book (!) of English translations of selected Bendre poems. The book is titled The Pollen Waits On Tiptoe. If you are living in India, you can buy the book by going to this page.
THREE IMPORTANT MATTERS:
1. If you are living abroad, you will, unfortunately, not be allowed to buy the book on Amazon India. Therefore, if you would like one or more copies of the book, please write directly to me (email@example.com) with your details.
2. Buying 10 or more books will entitle you an overall discount of 30%. To avail yourself of this discount, contact MUP directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. The book is also available as an ebook. The app hosting the ebook is called VIVIDLIPI and the book can be purchased at this link. (Since the publisher does not have an agreement with Amazon, I am afraid the book is not available on Kindle.)