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 meter 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.
Sakheegeeta – Prologue (ಸಖೀಗೀತ – ನಾಂದಿ ಪದ್ಯ)
O sakhee ! Shall I in detail tell
The sweet and sour of our friendship’s course;
Shall I unknot the tangled heart
And 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 Gangé and the sea
Embrace, the mingled waters earn sanctity;
So too, I say, is the heart turned pure
When it hosts both joy and misery.
So come out to the sea on its breaking waves,
To bathe 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 but anklets on a cosmic wind
That dances its terrible cosmic dance;
Who can know, O kámákshi,
The span of this bond that is binding us!
(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)
Poem Details: From the collection “ಸಖೀಗೀತ,” first published in 1937.