There you are,

After a bath, wearing wet clothes,

Removing the knots from your hair

And combing it back with

A middle parting,

Slowly moving the hands

wearing bangles,

indifferently applying kohl to your eyes,

Putting a black mark on your forehead

Light the tip of your blossoming, glorious smile

Come near me and say four or five sweet words

Like the twilight devotional hymns addressed

To Goddess Lakshmi,

so simple and yet beautiful,

Let your words fill the air

May your eyes shine like the camphor lamps

May your words have the fragrance of Kasturi

Touch me with the tips of your fingers,

Caress my chest and wake up my inner being

Think we do not have another special twilight time

There is nothing left but one half of the night

Still, let us give meaning to that moment which

Comes as a surprise and make it special, glowing,

The raw firewood which refuses to burn

You kneel next to the fireplace, blowing, blowing

To get the fire going

Your eyelids swollen, your eyes filled with smoke,

Brimming with hot tears

The scattered ashes clinging to the strands of Windblown hair

The black soot smudge as you wiped your nose

With the palm of your hand

Below your hunched shoulders, a dirt and sweat mixture

And beneath that, three inch long scratches

In between your armpits your black blouse soaked in perspiration, the


tears showing,

All these I see

Shantha, let us forget

And make the few moments we have, our own

Let us sit in this small courtyard

And share the beauties of the wide sky

I shall look and sing

About the mountain, the elephants cannot climb,

a mountain, which cannot be scaled by humans too, where a thousand


bloom and fall down

And a deer that jumps from the sky

This is what I would sing:

“A thousand flowers bloomed and fell

on the mountain insurmountable by elephants

as well as human beings

A deer jumped from the skies

A sliver of moon on the horns of the deer

Deer with moon on horns,

Deer with moon on horns,

Prepare sandalwood paste and

Move rhythmically

Move with rhythm in this small courtyard

Dance around my Shantha”


No water to drink, not even to have s bath

You haven’t bathed the children as there

Was no water?

Where are they?

The children covered with dust

In this heat, without a bath, tired

Have they gone to sleep?

Are they the ones who are humming

and groaning

the children who do not know

the hows and whys of the world

Seeing the children thus exhausted

The withering mango trees on the wayside

Asked me:

“Traveler, where are you going?

To the heart of that village, afflicted

By the heat and tiredness?

Why are you going to a place,

caught by the bad fate

Of having not even the shadow

Of a crow’s legs?”

I replied:

“Shantha is there, waiting for me

like water that springs even

in the worst desert of bad fate,

Don’t you hear her scolding the children

Who wait and listen with sharp ears,

to my footsteps

‘Unruly children, let your father come,

you will get a sound beating’

What about children who sleep tired,

Not even getting sound beatings

Has our well too dried up?

All the wells have dried up,

The ponds, the small rivulet and the river

Have gone dry

I saw the boatman, who has no work

Sitting on the split mast of the boat

lifted and stationed on the banks

Her face buried between his legs

His eyes unblinking, stuck on the sharp edges of

The dried up sand on the river banks

He has forgotten to greet and make small talk

As soon as I came I saw

The cucumber plants, you planted and tended

With water drawn from the well,

Fallen on the ground, unable to spread the creepers

Even the moistness of the fields have dried up

No welcome croaking of the frogs

Those frogs who cry and croak

And force the rain to come

What happened to them?

They might have died sitting

In the crevices of the ridges

Separating the fields

The moment I came I saw

People with leaf buckets and pots

Crowding round the

Dried up water source

At Kanhirappara

They were cursing each other

And showering four letter words

Folks who think that the

Next person was responsible

for their not getting water,

Shouting at each other,

their throats go dry

Then they cough and coughing

Continue scolding others

As the cough and shouting

Ger stuck in their throats

Then they sit down on the ground

Holding their beads in their hands


Even the sources of air are dead

The trees don’t move

The roots which went searching for water

Must have roamed aimlessly below the ground

And got destroyed

How long can they survive

Drinking the salt water of the ground below

The beetles have pushed aside the anthills

And swarmed out

Take one beetle in your hand and look at it carefully

Not one of them has an underbelly

With the hue of the rain cloud

Let me press my ears to your heart and listen

Let me soak in the wisdom of your fragrance

Let me drink the seduction of your smile

My woman, let us become one and melt together

Then, we can cut open the forehead of this desperation

And unfold a lotus flower,

Then, we can run from one open petal to another and perspire, turn

into the

colourful dreams of perspiration we can once again melt and go up,

As the sound of the clouds, as the rain,

And seep through the pores of earth’s air


Come like the eternal green contentment

Come as the river which is filled with love

Come as the pain, come as the strength,

Come as the Truth, come as my life’s music,

Come as the music of the universe,

Oh, Shantha,

The last lap of twilight is like the corpse

which crawls towards the severed head,

The eight directions with their mouths twisted in pain,

I am not able to look at anything

Here everything is ugly

Even in my inner mind as the good visions come

Crouching like thieves

They run away, stealing what little comfort remains

What is there to see, what is there to hear,

The eyes that flounder and fall on top of various sights

The disobeying ears that rush behind all kinds of sounds

The tongue which is ensnared

in the prison of different tastes

The nose which is open to all smells

The skin which sucks all touches and fries them

The mind which absorbs the needed and the unneeded

The bird which flies round and round

over the mind

All, these, making us go through experiences.

Look at this sky like

A face, made ugly with pock marks

The eyelids covering the blind eyes alone move

every now and then

There is no hearty laugh, no happy news

Only the groan emanating from lame dogs

Far away, on top of a hill stool a flowering forest, caressed by a kind


ln its shade, did we not sit, our eyes

glued to each other

Caressing the body of a small bud which sprouted,

indulging in Occasional love quarrels

pierced by a honeyed thorn and drinking the fullness

Of light

Don’t you remember sitting on the white sands

of the banks of the river,

which kept pleating its waves

and like a mischievous child

writing something and then rubbing it off

At night time, we ourselves turned into dreams,

along with the dreams which slept on the rocks

The mornings came, we heard the sounds of children collecting

flowers, and

smacked the taste of fruits

that are sweet thoughts

Drinking in the seduction of the forest we turned into magic colours

And spread our peacock’s wings and danced in a glow,

Happy dances filled with beauty

Fast movements, merging of colours, fast joining of feet,

The madness of quickening breath

The body melting and turning into

the rhythm of climaxing Tandava,

the intense burning desire of the river

In the end, the rosy dawn slipped and merged with

the banks of the river

Like the non-smelling air that comes from a sigh

Did we not wait, our ears alert,

for the same rosy dawn

Blossom once again, like a new dawn,

like an eye filled with surprise

Like the seduction of a forest,

Arise in my blood vessels

Arise like the infinite peace of the skies

Flow into me like the comforting Ganges

Come, Shantha,

like the awakening stream of music

From the prison of disgust,

From the inner verandahs fuming with anger,

From the small pox of words and looks,

From the illusion of mirrors,

From the threat of the clock,

From the distinctions of positions

From the assault of letters and figures

Stealing a moment, hoping for redemption,

I have come near you

Why are you so detached?

We have to search for enthusiasm

In memories or awakenings

You are not even perspiring,

There is not even the wetness of your perspiration

To cool my lips

Send a sigh at least and break

This detachment

I know everything,

I know that the son of the neighbour widow

Ran away in a fit of madness

I even know that the girl

Who used to run around like a lamb

Drank poison and died,

The houses where the hearths are not lit

Destroyed in a burning fire,

that too I know

The axe turning backwards and

piercing the wood cutter himself

I know that too,

I also know about the snippets of stories,

About young boys

Who turned and fled from the arrows that hit them

Unaware, unable to say anything’

During the heroic acts of old kings who indulge in new

Hunting games

I also saw the parents waiting for their son

Who went in search of water to quench thirst

I saw the dead corpses scattered and

putrefying in this village

As there were no one to burn them

Like a black cloth, detachment

Has smothered this village

Please release at least a sigh

And break this detachment

Please sweat over this dry silence

Child, nothing will be alike any time

Something may happen sometime,

Breaking open the black rocks, the sources of water

May begin to flow

So, let us at least talk to each other

Let us laugh, otherwise cry, or

Exchange meaningless words

If we cannot do any one of these,

We may also decay like the

Heart of this village

The putrefying corpses will

Be scattered all over the village

Our corpses’ decaying smell

Will lay eggs in our own noses

From those eggs the whores of destruction

Will bloom and descend

In our impure blood they will dance and grow

So, let us try to have a conversation

Let us break the black husk of silence

And get out

Let us protest against detachment

Oh, we are lying under this black palm tree

Our legs imprisoned in the iron chains

all that we see, hear and know

is done through the links of these chains

My woman, I am seeing even you

Through these chains

Emit a sigh at least and

Break this leg chain

Oh, the wet heat of your sigh

Has just caressed my face

The drops of perspiration

Have sprung on your forehead

I can hear your heart beats.

The wholesome woman,

With beautiful eyebrows

The woman who has been

shaped out of black leaves

You wake up, wake up

Wear the lightning on your

Cloud black hair

Have your long eyes filled

With rays of light,

Wearing palm leaf ornaments

In your ears

Sporting stone garlands on your neck

Come, enter

Katammanitta temple

Wake up, you wake up

Climbing the netherworld steps,

The army of parayas is coming

Moving to the rhythm bursting from the Para

Here comes the army of Parayas singing

Wholesome woman, the one with

Beautiful eyebrows

The woman who was born on the

Forest tree


To enter the Kadammanitta temple

In the empty stomach of the caverns of despair

Shedding its skin, the fire serpent raises its hood and dances

In the heart of the field awaiting the rainfall

The sound of the small drum resonates

Panting from waiting for the tender shoot,

the banana tree shrieks in a loud voice

wholesome woman, the river of water,

woman who disturbed the black palm tree,

Wake up, you wake up

To enter Kadammanitta temple

Translated from Malayalam by Vasanthi Sankaranayanan

Translator’s Note

Born on March 22, 1935 in a small village Kadammanitta in Southern Kerala, Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan graduated from Changanassery College in 1958 and migrated to Kolkata in search of a job. He was an auditor in the Postal Accounts Department from the year 1959 to 1967. He stayed in Madras as a bachelor and later as a married man, involved in Trade Union work and other hobbies such as reading and writing. Meeting with M. Govindan, a significant writer and critic of Malayalam Literature was a landmark in his life. He continued writing perms throughout that period. From 1967 he lives and works in Thiru- vananthapuram. He has won for his poems awards such as The Asan Prize and the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award. His wife is Shantamma and children Gitadevi and Gitakumar. His poems are influenced by folk themes and tunes and the myths and legends of Kerala villages.

The poem “Shantha” appears in an anthology of Kadammanitta Ramakrshnan’s published by D.C. Books, Kottayam, in the year 1993. Those of us who know Kadammanitta and his background are aware that this poem is addressed to his wife “Shantha”. We know of male poets, novelists and short story writers who have written through their chosen form of literature. euologies to their ‘lovers”. The term “lovers” should be carefully examined and analyzed. lnvariably, it signifies “romantic love”, a love which excites the imagination, expressions of lyrical beauty and feelings of tenderness and passion. Often, it is a case of “forbidden love” or ’unattainable love”. The male psyche and the male definition of love has instilled into us that it is the ideas of danger and adventure implicit in the forbidden love and the tragedy in which unattainable love ends that adds poignancy to the emotion of love. Following this argument, the male aesthetics has divided love into two kinds – the romantic love which they secretively nourish for the “forbidden and unattainable love” the recipient of which is the “other” woman, or the mistress. The second type of love is contained, sane, more lasting, but on the whole lacking colour, passion and adventure which is for the woman, who is needed to sustain familial relationships, the woman who has to take care of and share the unpleasant chores of life, the wife, the wife who is a permanent fixture, a person whom one can take for granted, a person to whom one can always come back when one is weary of the stresses of life or the pangs of unrequited love. Following this argument, the creative as well as the ordinary male has found a formula for relationships with women—the mistress to excite the creative urges, and the wife to sustain the familial duties. Elsewhere, I have called this tendency as the “one man, two women syndrome”.

This elaborate explanation of the male definition of his relationships with women has been given to show how Kadammanitta in his famous poem has veered away from this oft-followed principle and created a new kind of love poem, a love poem addressed to the wife. Here, the recipient of the romantic as well as familial love is one and the same person, the wife, Shantha. It is very non-patriarchal attitude- the finding of creative as well as practical fulfilment in one person, one relationship, one woman. In doing so, he has wiped off the wife/mistress distinction and has paid homage to the woman and her undying spirit. The poet or the man is not only aware of the hardships the wife undergoes in doing the household chores – the cooking of food, the looking after and caring of children – he appreciates without a feeling of superiority or smugness the value of these sacrifices. Doing these chores does not in any way diminish her charm and attraction for him as a life partner. In fact, even when the surroundings have lost their beauty and peace on account of the urbanisation and commodification, he finds comfort, solace and inspiration from the presence of his wife, Shantha. The very meaning to life, the hope of life is his attraction and love for Shantha. The love he feels for Shanta does not arise out of a sense of duty or necessity. It arises from the romantic past he has shared with her and which has sustained his creative energy at all times. In fact it is the romantic memories of a shared past that energises him. The poet is thus erasing the duality of patriarchal love for women (the wife/mistress syndrome) and is actively imploring the wife to participate in his creative endeavours.

He does not shut her out of his creative realm and thus create a wedge between his creative life and ordinary life. For him the creativity stems from a thousand little events that form part and parcel of the daily life. This linking of the creative life to the ordinary life and emphasising that it is the ordinary life which gives inspiration to the creative life demystifies the whole male idea of “romantic love” which in any case is outdated, and looks upon life as a whole, pulsating, emerging and on the whole optimistic experience.

The poet links his life, his relationship with his wife, that of love, happiness and creativity to his village, Kadammanitta. He is very rooted in his attachment to his village life and its salutary points. He decries the meaninglessness of modern life, where children do not have enough water to drink or bathe, the air itself is polluted and suffocating, withering all forms of life, including those of plants, and dries up all sources of life and energy.

He is also protesting against detachment, for him it is the death of passion, the death of creativity, the death of life itself. He does not see any virtue in that. It is a form of indifference to life and therefore avoidable. He is very modern in his outlook and is perhaps raising his voice against asceticism, negation of life which is a part and parcel of ritualistic Hinduism. He compares Shantha to the Devi (Mother Goddess) of Kadammanitta temple. Through this linking he is establishing the connection between the Earth, the Goddess or Eternal Woman, to the living personification or representation of both, the woman in his life, his life partner, the source of all his inspiration, his wife.

Rarely has a man given such undiluted attention, importance, respect and love to his wife through his creative efforts. lt is not just a dedication to his wife, but a dedication to all women, who are wives, mothers, lovers and muses. Therefore, I see in this poem a real respect for the woman and thereby an underscoring of the feministic principles. The language used in this poem is lyrical, but not obtuse or inaccessible. lt has a flow of its own like a slow village brook which goes at its own pace, occasionally hitting a stone and bursting into a spray of water. The simplicity is also attributable to the fact that the feeling or emotion behind the poem is far more important than the twists and turns of language to arouse “linguistic curiosity”. Language is just an instrument to express feelings and when feelings are so genuine and beautiful it finds its own language and pace. It is a poem which can be recited dramatically or even sung. The emotions are intense and universal. Therefore, from a content as well as the form points of view, it becomes a landmark.

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