Two Poems by S. Vaidheeswaran

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Translated by Ashokamitran

 

I too like the elephant

The moment I hear
the chimes
at the end of the street
I know it is Saturday.

Shouts of joy
all through the morning street.
Exulting children
along the gates of the rows of houses.

Flapping the fan-like ear
the elephant would turn
jouncing the grandfather’s
vest-like skin, into the street.

Its needle-sized eyes
enwrap the entire world.
Even by mistake
It never puts the coin
into its mouth,
and without favour.
It pats one’s head
whether it is fruit or money.
Justice in all its majesty!

For next door Alamu
the roadside Vinayaka
is the family God.
Yet she is mortally afraid
of the elephant
when it stands before her.

The plaintain fruits
she offers by stretching her hand
through the grills of the corridor
drop on the floor.

To me, it is not so.
I have a longing
to swing on its trunk
heroically embracing it and
calling out “Oh my comrade”
yet
the small mind I possess
doesn’t let me
a Bharati (1)
on a Saturday or any other day.

 

Footnote: (1) In an expansive mood, the Tamil poet Subramania Bharati hugged the trunk of a temple elephant which hurled him away resulting in the poet’s death a few days later.


 

Verdict

It didn’t bite you,
Then why did you kill it?

Sure it crept on your defenceless body –
But should your finger
demand its life for it?

Granting it bites you –
you are not going to fall dead
Then why crush the ant?

Does the silent end
of the dying ant
absolve your mind
of the sin of the
ant’s extinction?

Maybe killing an ant
is the easiest thing in the world.
Should you kill it
just because it is so?


 

About the author & translator :

 

S.Vaidheeswaran is one of the major voices in contemporary modern Tamil Poetry. Born in September 1935, he started writing in the 1960s. A poet, stage artist and musicologist, his first book of poems Udhaya Nizhal (The Shadow of Dawn) was published in 1970. His second collection, Nagarach-Chuvargal (City-Walls) was published in 1994. His third book, a short-story collection titled Kaal Mulaitha Manam (The Heart With Feet) was also published in the same year. He has also written numerous short stories and is also a painter.

Ashokamitran (September 22, 1931 – March 23, 2017) was the pen name of Jagadisa Thyagarajan, an Indian writer regarded one of the most influential figures in post-independent Tamil literature. He began his prolific literary career with the prize winning play “Anbin Parisu” and went on to author more than two hundred short stories, and a dozen novellas and novels. A distinguished essayist and critic, he was the editor of the literary journal “Kanaiyaazhi”. He has written over 200 short stories, eight novels, some 15 novellas besides other prose writings. Most of his works have also been translated into English and other Indian languages, including Hindi, Malayalam, and Telugu.