Happiness – Sadness (ಸುಖ – ದುಃಖ)

A simple, sensitive, beautiful little poem. I don’t know that I’d have paid as much attention to it if I’d only been reading Bendre rather than looking for poems of his to translate and transcreate. Indeed, I’d venture that nothing allows for a more active, wide-ranging creative engagement with a poem as translating it. I suppose it’s why I continue to do it.

Recitation of the Kannada poem:

Happiness – Sadness (ಸುಖ–ದುಃಖ)

In the shimmer of the shimmering dawn
the flowers begin to show;
they show their beauty, spread their scent –
in the evening leave and go.

In the same way when youth is fresh
desire sends out its shoot;
flowering ripening fruiting passing,
it grows old and is lost.

In the blowing of the wind
no sadness can be found;
when children laugh their pealing laugh
there is always happiness around.

Recitation of the English translation:

(Translated by Madhav Ajjampur)

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

Afterword:

The first line of the original Kannada poem — ಚುಮು ಚುಮು ನಸುಕಿನಲಿ (chumu chumu nasukinali) — is a good example of the sonic difference between the onomatopoeia a phonetic language (like Kannada) and a non-phonetic language (like English) can deploy. It is obvious that a phonetic language has a much greater onomatopoeic range and can create sounds that a non-phonetic language cannot replicate. Examples include ಕುಲುಕುಲು (kulukulu) for light laughter, ಪಿಸಿಪಿಸಿ (pisipisi) for whispering, and ಪಳಪಳ (paḷapaḷa) for something  that glitters and dazzles.
In the case of this poem, you might have noticed that I’ve tried to compensate for this “lacuna” with a combination of alliteration and repetition, viz. “in the shimmer of the shimmering dawn”.
However, note that shimmer itself can be considered onomatopoeic (though the dictionary doesn’t say so explicitly). So too can the words whisper (the dictionary bears me out here) and glitter and dazzle. It’s just that, being non-phonetic, English finds it difficult to create, without compromising its peculiar temperament, the syllabic imitative words that phonetic languages can. (For instance, I chose “the shimmer of the shimmering dawn” over “the shim-shimmer of the early dawn” because the former seemed to better fit the English language’s natural temperament while the latter seemed a less-than-felicitous borrowing of a phonetic language’s tendencies. However, further consideration makes me see how the latter may be an equally good if not better choice.)

P.S: When I showed the translation to my mother, she observed (not critically but matter-of-factly) that the poem’s theme was rather “well-worn”. That’s true. However, the sensitive handling afforded the theme, the unusual third stanza, the understated presentation, and all-around assonance give the poem a singular flavour – not all of which could be captured in the translation.

© Madhav Ajjampur

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NOTE:

Dear Reader,

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 on Amazon India at this link: https://lnkd.in/g98ATsQ4. However, if the book is unavailable at the Amazon link or you prefer not to patronize Amazon, please write directly to me (mk.ajjampur@gmail.com) or MUP (mup@manipal.edu) to order your copy of the book.

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 (mk.ajjampur@gmail.com) with your details. I will do my best to arrange to send you a copy (or copies) of the book.

2. If you are in India and are looking to buy more than one copy of the book, please write directly to me (mk.ajjampur@gmail.com) or to MUP (mup@manipal.edu). Please also note that buying 10 or more books will entitle you an overall discount of 30%. To avail yourself of this discount, it is best to write directly to MUP.

3. The book is now 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.)

The Dance of the Bear (ಕರಡಿ ಕುಣಿತ)

One of Da Ra Bendre’s more popular, accessible (and underappreciated) poems. My introduction to Bendre’s poetry was when I listened to the sung version of this poem, many years ago. In the intervening years, I have travelled the familiar yet unfamiliar terrain of the Kannada language in ways I had never anticipated. But that is a story for another day. (Update: You can now read part of the story in the afterword.)

For now, I will only say that the memory and the rediscovery of this poem sparked my relationship with Bendre’s poetry. In particular, the first two lines of stanza 3 (which read “ತ್ರೇತಾಯುಗ ರಾಮನ್ನ, ದ್ವಾಪರದ ಕೃಷ್ಣನ್ನ|ಕಲಿಯುಗದ ಕಲ್ಕೀನ ಕಂಡಾನ” in the original) and the untranslatable onomatopoeic refrain (“ತನ್ನsನ ತಾsನನ ತಂದಾsನ”) from line 2 of stanza 5 continue to draw me into their eddy of feeling.

The poem itself was inspired by the poet waking up in a railway coach and “seeing” a large bear at the door. When he went out and looked, it had disappeared. He learned later that an accident had happened at the very station he had “seen” the bear, an accident in which a number of people had lost their lives. It was the poet’s belief that one of those people had appeared to him in the form of the bear seeking release for their aatma (soul).

As usual, I’ve included my recording of the original Kannada poem.

*****

To read and listen to more (including the entire translation), please buy my book, The Pollen Waits On Tiptoe.

If you are living in India, you can buy the book on Amazon India at this link: https://lnkd.in/g98ATsQ4. However, if the book is unavailable at the Amazon link or you prefer not to patronize Amazon, please write directly to me (mk.ajjampur@gmail.com) or MUP (mup@manipal.edu) to order your copy of the book.

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 (mk.ajjampur@gmail.com) with your details. I will do my best to arrange to send you a copy (or copies) of the book.

2. If you are in India and are looking to buy more than one copy of the book, please write directly to me (mk.ajjampur@gmail.com) or to MUP (mup@manipal.edu). Please also note that buying 10 or more books will entitle you an overall discount of 30%. To avail yourself of this discount, it is best to write directly to MUP.

3. The book is now 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.)