Keywords: Malayalam poetry, Malayalam translation, aspects of life, concept of love, death, romantic imagery

Ayyappa Parliker’s Gotrayanam’ translated into English as Southbound) belongs to the period 1985 – 1989. Extolled as an. epic for its theme relating to. the heroism of man who rises above suffering, the poem is undoubtedly one of the best poems written by Ayyappa Paniker It is a narrative recounting a tribal leader’s exhortation to his followers. The group or `gotra’ is about to set out on a journey, metaphorically it is the journey of life itself It is to be understood that the journey refers to the Aryan movement from the north to the south. The group has to find for itself where Aryavarta or the promised Aryan abode is.

`Gotrayanam’ is significant for its sense of movement or dynamism. The people cannot rest until the destination is reached. Symbolically, this suggests that life is in movement, and when this stops, it is death. The leader who addresses the group relates to them about the different cultures, languages, societies and customs they might encounter in the course of the long journey. This long poem comprises 12 sections, the first section titled ‘Desire’ and the last one ‘Journey.’ Where the poem. ends, the journey begins. All aspects of life are touched upon in this poem — there are elaborations on fate, love, duty, devotion, life and death. In his advice, the leader reminds his folk about the importance of mutual bonding, the need to uphold traditional values, spirituality and morality.

In this poem, the major theme that Ayyappa Paniker highlights is the concept of love — he uses the term ‘sneha’ which combines the qualities of love, kindness, empathy and tenderness. `Gotrayanam’ is also a treatise on this kind of love, the only thing that is required for a good life, for peace on earth. This love will take humanity easily along their chosen course and help them overcome all the obstacles and sufferings in their path. The poem talks about the condition of man and emphasises that only he who dares to walk the untrodden path, risking the unknown can be a complete Man — the one born to make history, to put right existing conditions. There will be numerous challenges on the way, the clan might have to meet and mix with other tribal groups; after all, how can men exist without incorporating contraries? The importance of woman as mother is highlighted when the leader advises his followers to give special regard to mothers in the group — a family cannot be formed without a mother for the children, a society cannot be formed without the togetherness of families. The mother is a person, at the same time she is a social reality. The destination they seek is also their mother.

In the penultimate section, the leader has the vision of their destination — it is a village near the seashore in the far south. There in a country house, a baby will be born. And that baby, who is the poet, will sing this journey of theirs as `Gotrayanam’ and immortalise it forever.



Tomorrow we will set out

at sunrise: let’s

start with the right foot first

not forgetting the left.

Eyes toward the east, let’s

follow the mind’s compass.

Every blossoming pain we’ll

count our capital.

Not a step’s waver

at this departing hour,

not a moment’s repose till

the distant far is reached,

strong in heart and mind,

not one foot to falter.

Tree-bark, pelt of goat,

deer-hide; these let’s take

for their inscribed wisdom,

hopes for our future.

“Forget not our clan,

gift not the undeserving,

never forsake our caste

to turn into an outcaste,

do not forgo family rites

to be branded a black sheep,

never throw away

the idol, the conch and the lamp:

where dwells the Lord

there alone we thrive”

such counsels of the past

are dinned into our ears,

but the future that beckons,

can we ever resist that?

Unwinding the skein

we find more tangles; while

disentangling them, elsewhere

loom fresh knots; the future,

unknowable, stalks, waits

to kindle fear and love;

the soaring mount of darkness

becomes a stumbling block;

feeble-minded kith and kin

will persuade us to chicken out;

but, believe me, Mind.

I will not let you down;

this foot of mine, be convinced,

will only move forward.

Wayside hurdles, let’s

kick them off our tracks.

Day-time the sun our target,

at night the moon’s lustre;

on moonless nights

the radiance of the mind.

No time now to cool the heels,

no place nor occasion; walk

non-stop on these twin limbs:

first one foot, then the other.

Unknown to geography

is our destination,

unknown to history

the time of arrival,

unknown to philosophy too

whether we arrive at all:

only the movement matters;

thus the endless exodus.

Of impending death or birth

we have little fear;

for us action is the only mode:

the task, the struggle, the triumph.

Fear is the route of action,

fear alone the failure,

fear is soul-denial,

fear is sin and trouble.

Passion sans action leads

the soul to everlasting hell;

passion sans action breeds

lust, hatred, pride, fear.

Our forefathers never divulged

where the promised land was:

they might have thought

we would seek and find.



Tomorrow is the right time

to start: remember.

In auspicious houses stand

the nine prophetic planets.

All night let’s observe

the movement of the stars.

And then, comrades, we’ll

chart out the course

Pay respects to the polestar,

walk in the direction opposite;

as we go southward,

it’ll move downward:

the widening angle we measure

to find out the distance,

we measure shadow-lengths

to gauge the time of day,

through meditation deep

we master the time-triad.

How to internalise things

must be mastered first.

Position the thoughts well

before we open the senses,

for, however wide they open,

it’s the mind that monitors matter;

so let’s first cultivate

the powers of the mind,

and remember this learning

goes on till we die.

Reciting this to you,

I see the time-triad:

the unborn past

which we call the future.

And, friends, who have decided

to go south,

look, the dawn is at hand:

step forth, well-poised.

The patriarchs may resent

this southbound mission;

let’s leave them here

and move away.

Every step forward

rights memory a little:

the news of death in the south

should give us courage.

There the goddess of death

waits to receive us,

the goddess that lies

coiled in sea-folds.

The horrors of war, battlements,

awesome fears, pestilence,

bottomless black holes of the night,

mysterious thoughtless terrors.

Start moving, feet

firm on the earth:

not to turn back; for us

there is no return

to recall time past;

time is glued to one track.

No beginning has it, no end,

nothing but movement;

it comes, it is coming,

it has been coming—

this is its routine pace,

the present continuous tense.

Man is creation’s process,

not the product;

not a point, but a line,

the move is perennial.

Foes stand in our way,

those born with us;

by facing them alone

we attain fullness.

When time faces a dead end,

they will open the door;

through it once again

we achieve rebirth.

Deprived of enemies,

we are destitutes:

and our goals of life

are what we are not.



To fledge out as a bird

from the mind’s

faulty fluttering wing,

a lingering hope:

such is the fate of man.

In the belief that

happiness is

within the arm’s reach

the mind struggles in vain:

such is the fate of man.

Amidst the exultation over

hitting the goal

today or tomorrow

down there slip the feet:

such is the fate of man.

Always in my mind

on its diverse horizons

there’s a voice rent by pain,

a voice torn and rankling,

neither distant nor near,

but inside me, deep within men,

mine is that voice, its mine:

such is the fate of man.

To turn that inner cry into

a deathless stellar song

desire lies in non-desire:

such is the fate of man.

Along the path we tread are war,

disease, death, murder, deceit;

to-be or not-to-be riddles:

such is the fate of man.

Profit that’s utter loss,

success that’s defeat,

makes me your equal:

such is the fate of man.

Sweet are your tears

but salty are mine;

alien to another’s grief:

such is the fate of man.

Giving away one’s sorrow,

taking in another’s, grief challenges grief:

such is the fate of man.

The sweet music of labour,

bread won by the sweat of the brow,

words sanctified by the heart:

such is the fate of man.

Each day the sun lights up

a new village and fades

in another village:

such is the fate of man.

And in each village like hurdles

await us in advance

disasters and good tidings:

such is the fate of man.

No matter how many suns rise,

the earth has only one day;

turning around, it turns us around:

such is the fate of man.

The distress that attends

the blank return

of outstretched hands,

though turned into a smile,

he who loves life searches for

shadows in the dark

is angry, restless, lonely:

such is the fate of man.

But the one who can change

this sorry plight and

tread a different path,

we know, is the complete man.

Born to create history

or to correct destiny-in him

memory is not the created,

but creator himself.



Listen to me, friends,

you, who have taken the pledge

to venture out, what is it

that inspires us

to recreate the promised land?

Come, chiefs of the clans,

Gautama, Kashyapa,

Vasishta, Parashara,

Vishvamitra, Bharadwaja,

leaders of the clans to be,

come, line up one by one,

those ready for the plunge.

Pack up in bundles

the load we have to take:

the heritage we pride in,

ditties to be sung en route,

fables and jokes

to be listened to with joy:

things to sustain us

through the long sojourn.

Refugees we are not,

we wish not to plunder,

neither buyers of land

nor sellers are we,

we are not merchants,

we go as seekers, pilgrims.

Spurred on by the star

that shines in fiery eyes,

we know and savour

the depths of compassion,

we cancel and recast

the calendar of wisdom;

together we’ll build

a new edifice of culture

The world we’ll recognise

as an ever-changing image,

and seek a foot-hold

along unfamiliar tracks.



The farther south we move,

Changes come galore:

the complexion varies,

so does the shape of the world;

costumes. languages,

friends and foes,

ends and means do change,

so change the very modes of change,

As we travel forth,

interests go diverse:

each moment in turn

may pose a challenge.

We have to face it

wielding our mighty bow,

and by its strength perhaps

seek an identity of our own.

As we watch the unfolding act

we shall call upon the

intercircling galaxy

to bear witness to it.

If we care for the earth

as we care for the cow,

the earth, like a cow,

will care for us too.

As we wait to see

the coming of dawn,

each day the sun will rise

to get a glimpse of us.

As a potter his clay

we’ll mould our future.

On the banks of rivers

we’ll sow rice and wheat

and grow lentils, gourds,

and various greens.

Amid the five fires

we’ll swelter in summer;

in the rains, meditate

neck-deep in water;

taste the woodland charm

in spring, like flowers;

as song and revelry

sprout in togetherness,

we’ll break into dance,

enact every play.

As each settlement has

its own way of life:

for man the traveller

travel itself is life.

With settled living

come king and kingdom;

with king and kingdom

come right and wrong;

mine as well as alien;

a new jargon is born;

selling, buying, profit:

the entire order changes.

The effort will be on

to cheat or escape cheating;

personal-societal links

will sink in complexity.

The One and the Supreme

will branch into many:

single god, many gods,

no god and so forth;

debates and disputes about

schools of philosophy;

absurd arguments about

truth and illusion;

men who form groups

need leaders and likewise;

leaders in their turn

need offerings and the like.

Today we are one race,

one clan, one tribe:

but as we leave here,

we encounter other clans;

en route other races

may merge with us,

we may take to them

prompted by nature.

Customs, rites and beliefs.

may intermingle: else

how can mankind ‘live?

Like a tree that grows

supported by many a branch,

like a river that swells

fed by many a rivulet,

unless the many clans merge

the race of man cannot grow;

nor can culture flourish

without interbreeding.

In every man do we find

two trends run parallel:

if one becomes the other,

time will stand still;

if the two do not match,

they will never unite;

when opposites meet,

energy flows for ever:

one, the everyday man;

the other unbound by time.

About the mind of man

we know no further;

but as time passes

we may learn even more.

When two people come close,

sorrows are shared; then

their strength is doubled,

and Time is freed from time.

Grief, tense and tough,

nurtures the soul of man.

A little love sure

is man’s best treasure.

Pain is its only source,

though the measure varies.

Shove away small griefs

with your finger-tip,

only the great sorrows

bury deep in the heart;

for them to sleep soft,

make your breast a cradle.

If compassion and song

mix with enough humour,

we can embark upon Life’s terrific trip.

The end of earth’s run

is our destination;

the end of Time’s run

Our ultimate goal;

till the earth under the feet

dissolves into nothing;

till the cradle of Time rocks itself to a halt.

Remember, as we leave

the place of our birth,

that birth itself was

a prelude to this long trip.

As we move in groups,

let the routes we take

suit us as we suit them.

The hope to reach the goal

is itself the goal, although

it is in perpetual shift

And the goal keeps changing

with the change of the mind

that directs the feet

along the chosen path.

Through change alone can

we perceive changelessness.

Halfway through the journey

the mind performs a somersault;

every journey is but

a continuum of the still point.

As we cross long centuries,

we see alterations plentiful:

names, forms and meanings,

concepts and congregations,

master, pupil, kith and kin,

leader and follower:

all these will change

into a chain of changes.

When death overtakes one,

another fills the gap;

forgetting the dead,

we plunge into revelry,

till sunrise wakes us up

to bid yet another farewell;

picking up the baggage

we, men, will move on;

what cannot be altered

we accept as dignified.

Cultures blossom forth

and in their rich ripeness

merge with the alien

to achieve self-renewal.

Once loyalty to caste

may be rigid, inviolable,

another time caste itself

will turn into an outcast.

Nothing is constant

except the inconstancy:

so let’s move forward,

not to be left behind.

Although subject to change

is every little object,

the concept of evolution

Will also keep evolving.

In his chosen profession

every person shall excel;

and each shall rise to heights

in tune with his own skill.

The lotus of the heart

waiting for the sunrise,

on its petals is tenderness

receptive to every wound,

every word an arrow

penetrating the core

to coagulate the pain

into a drop of blood,

the silence saturate

of the stamen within

hurt even by moon’s light,

full of sandal grace:

what life do we have,

bereft of this delicacy?

A life-giving drug it is

for the vitals on the move,

perpetual resuscitation

on reaching the destination.

The honey of cactus too

is sweet, not bitter;

the song born of grief

is panacea for that grief.

Unless the moon is there,

no patch can be in it;

unless the sun’s light shines,

where is shadow or shade?

Recall the age-old tale

told by the forefathers:

the earth has no seed

without an unguent in it;

it was what they got

for the long penance they did.

When time favours,

what they have said

will come to be of use;

let’s wear that innocence!

Not seeing the root

even after the seed split,

not seeing the leaf-burst

even after the root was out,

the forefathers with fervour

found a way through prayer:

if within the seed there is

no unguent, but only grain-

long ago they found it out,—

no root or leaf will sprout!

Bereft of love’s unguent;

the demons came to be born;

a long penance we undertake

for a little tenderness.

Root may turn into leaf,

and flower into fruit; yet,

to fondly recall and

fondle, this tenderness will help.

Like a magic formula for it

let’s chant this all the time:

When the hands are exhausted,

then the feet shall take over;

when the feet begin to falter,

then the hands shall lend support;

when the hands and feet are tired,

the mind shall give the lead;

and when the mind is flustered,

then the soul shall keep guard!

Routes may be marred by disputes,

routes may block themselves,

routes manifold, routes of deceit,

routes that lead to corruption;

caught between the right and the left,

fall we may betwixt the two;

couples may part, and slip to a fall,

or bid farewell with a thunderbolt;

all the same we must leap forward,

unperturbed by things half-seen, half-heard!

When the eyes fail,

the ears shall keep watch;

when the ears fail,

the eyes shall take care!



Look there, in the east,

the horizon is a blush;

the stars adjacent

look pale in waxing light.

Listen to the jarring wheel-rumble

of the south-bound sun-chariot.

Light with an open beak

tongues the darkness.

Darker grows the sky

as the distance deepens

What shall we take with us

to sustain the left-over life?

To the coming generations

what shall we bequeathe?

Let Fire be refined

and in the heart enshrined!

Light for the trip it will be,

and warmth when it’s cold,

an aide in the cuisine and

a divine presence in sacrifice.

Let Fire be propitiated

and fully internalised:

it promotes the growth

of fruit-groves within,

spurns evil contact,

through burning purifies;

praised be the mind

and the fire of the mind!

Whatever in this world of the senses

And in the stage beyond the senses,

Whatever is on the horizon

And beyond the horizon,

Whatever is within evolution

and beyond evolution,

in hands and feet and eyes,

in ears and in the heart,

whatever is poetic, coveted,

learn that it is fire,

Fill up the mind

with hymns of fire;

fill up nerve-cells

with infinite pulsation;

bring it up in scattered visions

like a mine of diamond;

fondle it in volcanic mouths

like the desire of love;

hymn it out of love as Lord

in the centre of the lotus;

with songs of praise keep him

a slave at your feet.

Fire is the seed of science,

the vedic essence, the word’s juice,

machine, magic and enchantment:

all are sparks of fire.

Great griefs fire turns

into mystic powers;

unfold every wound

into a full-blown flower;

when the scar disappears,

the wound may throb within,

and in the flowing water

make the red lotus bloom;

like the blood dripping

from the melting petal,

the river’s cool water

sows the line of blood within.

Water for us is purity,

the very life of our life;

fire is father, water mother,

air spouse, earth children,

all the rest is ether;

these are the five elements

Of these five are born

the six old passions;

unless these be buried within,

this journey will be futile.

The mind, the fires of desire

encircling it in a bind,

a thousand fork-tongued

serpent-hoods of venom;

the body, its joints twisted,

made callous by cravings;

face, breast and groins:

the luxuries we cherish,

the smartness that stinks

if left to itself for two days,

the spy -work that corrodes

whether master or pupil:

these are curses for us, also

powers that lend support;

if we ever lose them,

we can’t move back or forth.

When on a long journey,

do not go empty handed:

beauty and virtue

should be safely stored;

each should provide shade

and support for the other.

where beauty is slighted,

virtue gets decayed;

where virtue decays

beauty goes out of shape.

Hands and feet are parallel

in their movement and use.

When the sun confronts in the east

to our right is southbound

Stand firm on the left foot,

stretch forward the right one;

stand firm on the right foot,

and stretch out the left one;

two feet should suffice

if either is not a fake.

And with these two feet

the three worlds we shall measure.



In the beginning dreamlike

and still stands the universe:

the dream leads us on

to the climax of action;

action drags us down

to the depths of anguish

To get out of pain

love prepares the way:

so hold on tight

to the string of love;

clinging to that arose

the notion of the tribe;

when the string snaps, creation

is fulfilled in dissolution.

Ages will pass like this;

the wheel of time will throb

again as the lotus folds

a dream sprouts within

whose many-hued splendour

will provide us joy.

Every creature has its own

befitting habitat; so

will find its own happiness

in the freedom from action

The inborn taste

of every household

derives from the structure

of the houses they live in.

The cave-dwellers turn

beasts of prey, while

those living in the open

become gentle by nature.

Those that live in burrows

happen to be full of venom.

Those that dig and hide

are mentally retarded.

Those in nests blindfolded

tend to become owls.

The solitary lonely ones

spit cruelty and anger,

while those living in groups

never gain self-reliance.

Exceptions there may be

to prove this general truth

This way we see the myth

of truth that is history.

Grieving in times of grief

and enjoying good times,

the birth-rebirth cycle

leaps and bounds across.



I still remember a bit

although ages have passed:

in the dark cage flickers

the tension of a night.

That day we, the pupils,

went up to the master;

though unplanned, together

this question we posed:

What are we to do now?

If it’s only to pass the days,

tell us, master, tell us,

why this birth at all?

We keep seeing always

bits of some big dream;

can we together give it now

a label of creativity?

Like knowledge without action,

action without knowledge too

is fruitless and futile,

like thought without a focus.

Tell us now whatever

matters you have pondered on.

Time, with every pulse-beat,

takes a forward bounce.

Look here, before you

is the fervour of youth:

betwixt birth and death

dances time, the enchantress.

To embrace, to enfold,

to embody the creative process,

riders through the ages should

arm themselves with faith.

To work in unison

faith in self is the spur.

He who cheats himself

is sure to cheat others.

Avoid deception hence,

deception is destruction.

Betray not

the rhythm of your breath,

betray not

the hand that helped you,

betray not

the trust reposed in you,

betray not

for land or fame or life.

No success is greater,

I know, than defeat;

and no defeat there is

as great as success.



Once—I shall tell you,

listen, ear and mind open. —

said the master—the noble tale

of the shepherd in the woods.

The old tale shall be told,

as though it happened long ago.

Seeing and hearing it, you will think it really occurred.

Others are actors, yet

through imagined experience,

through empathy, we enjoy

its aesthetic flavour.

Long ago, a shepherd,

staff in hand, led his cattle

to roam about, himself turned

in search of pastures.

Before him descended

a demon and said:

“I shall give you enough fodder

for all the sheep you have,

if you offer to give me

one sheep everyday.”

Hearing the little lambs

bleating close to him,

to the demon he said,

“No, no, that cannot be.”

The demon disappeared,

but with a perturbed mind,

for a pasture he wandered

and ended up in some desert.

There without any water,

he roamed and panicked;

then came to him a figure,

half bird and half beast:

“I shall give you grass and water

for all the sheep you have,

if you offer to give me

two sheep everyday.”

Hearing this, the mother sheep

came running and said:

“Sell us and give the little ones

the sunstenance they need.”

Looking at the mother sheep,

the little lambs bleated:

“No, no, that cannot be;

you may sell us instead.”

Unable to do either stood

the shepherd, silent and sad.

In a wink of his eyes

the bird-beast vanished.

As the sun grew

hotter and the environs reddened,

the dream-fantasy of heat

assumed a monstrous form;

his head touching the sky,

he began to cry aloud:

“Bound to instant death are you,

your sheep and all you have:

learn this and look for ways

to save either of the two.”

With a view to save both of them,

he offered the answer:

“Spare them both, please;

and take me instead!”

Will the men of the future

try to get at its true meaning?

As the shepherd fell dead,

flower-beds sprang around;

in the cool stream pranced

and gambolled the flock.

Saying this, its meaning untold,

the master sank into meditation.

Remember this, my comrades,

as we get ready for the trip.



Once, later on, as I was

walking alone in the woods

I felt someone calling me:

was it the whistle of the wind?

A human voice it wasn’t,

but the language was human;

and as I walked along,

I heard the call again;

it was calling me:

the right name, the right tone.

As I opened my mind,

eyes closed in wonder,

I saw entwined within

a creeper of dreams

a lioness poised well

to leap forward.

Farther away an elephant

lay like a lump of darkness.

A lion-tailed monkey

gazed at both in glee

A bird was there

combing the monkey’s hair.

“Who was it that called me,”

someone asked from within.

As I stood embarrassed,

my throat a little sore,

I just managed to see

the lioness leaping forth,

the limp of darkness bursting,

and the owner of the tail

vanishing with his tail:

only the bird kept singing;

but the mysteries heard in the song

cannot be copied in words.

Someone is beckoning me

as a seed waits for the future;

I can’t help going there,

since repose would be death;

the mind of man cannot stay back.

Alone throbs the polestar

ever in the same direction,

the seven lights of the Great Bear

move in a circle of ritual reverence,

all other stars

floating around it,

the sky without beginning

or end merges into the milky path,

the hunter’s arrow

aims at the deer’s head,

stung by the scorpion

the sky turns poison-blue,

afraid of the shadow planets

the sun and moon go into hidings;

seeing and not seeing these,

we have to take the way unseen;

like the river that goes

in search of the unseen sea.

Avoid the routine route

and carve out a new path.

Darkness in front of us,

the blazing goal within:

uncertain is the goal for us,

and the signs are divergent.

Vast is time, space, place,

and unknown is birth, death:

Hence our mothers too

should go with us on the trip:

only from the womb of the past

can new regulations emerge.

A thousand temples may be deemed

equal to a pilgrim-centre;

a thousand pilgrim-centres

are tantamount to a cow;

a thousand cows may be

thought equal to a mother;

so we must take the mother

well equipped for the trip.

Without a mother children can’t

constitute a family;

unless families mingle

no society can exist.

If tomorrow we fade away,

mothers will the future keep;

so shall we offer them

an auspicious status.

An individual she is,

a collective truth as well:

where we ultimately reach,

remember that is mother.

To add to the rainbow’s lustre,

to render the twilight sky tender,

to melt darkness with light:

our companions the brides must be.

Like androgynous deities

shall we go with them:

although shedding futile tears,

bride and groom are a meaningful bind.

At sunrise we get up and pray:

quarrel no more!

at sunset we smooth the waves

and say: no more quarrel!

Every wound keeps praying:

no quarrel, no more!

In love and in fight,

in sleep and when awake,

let us get along with them,

our beloved deities.

For the one who brightens still

the remembered song within

like the foetus in the womb,

like the seed in the soil,

or the one whom my thirst will thrill

long after I have set,

for the single star that throbs

where the sky descends,

for the golden-bodied moonlight

that wafts the sandal breeze,

for the glory of the gentle glow

in the vast sky of sunrise,

for the singer in the dream

sprinkled with golden perfume,

for her I made long ago

this song of benediction:

With my hand on your head, I bless you.

Stroking your forehead, I bless you.

Touching your long eyebrows, I bless you.

Looking into your blue eyes, I bless you.

Closing your eyelids, I bless you.

My hand patting your eyelashes, I bless you.

Kissing your golden cheeks, I bless you.

With a kiss on your red lips, I bless you.

Hugging your full bosom, I bless you.

Putting a garland on your neck, I bless you.

Stroking your lovely tresses, I bless you.

Embracing your fragrant body, I bless you.

Pressing my face on your soft belly, I bless you.

Holding your whole body close, I bless you.

Seeing your twin thighs, I bless you.

Remembering their joints, I bless you

My hands clasping your hands, I bless you.

Stroking your feet again and again, I bless you

I shall always sing this for her

who gave me a sense of completeness

through this tie from head to foot

shall all grief wither away.



That village on the seashore

so far away in the deep south

will turn out to be a mother

for our sons and grandsons .

There in that village

on the bank of a river

where the water runs clear

in a house under a ceiling

will the child be born.

A girl who magnifies

the glow of sheer will-power,

the fish-eyed one who enjoys

softening Aryan valour,

she will give birth

to a son for our son:

he will describe this journey,

as the southbound trip of our tribe.

The way we now look forward,

he will direct his vision back,

recite and record the tale

of the journey to the south.

Between far-flung tribes

he is the connecting link;

\the vision we now have

he will acquire in good time.

Of the tribe of Gautam

he is the everlasting chain:

Soft-tempered like Vishnu,

Valiant like Shiva,

recording with the same pen

Shaivite and Vaishnavite truths,

he will hold under his feet

all ages, and in meditation

see in his mind this moment,

millennia behind.

With the eye of my mind

time’s seashore I do see,

the radiant waves that await us

in the far distant south,

the bed-chamber of the flower-born,

reclining westward,

the eternal evergreen land

with no change of seasons,

the vale in riotous bloom

where hills away like waves,

there I visualise our future;

there let us hasten.

Come along, O pilgrims,

come, visionaries, friends,

who pledged their word

for the moment of

splendour, it is time for take-off,

touch the earth in salutation,

circle the orbit in imagination,

bow to sun and moon in mediation

with raised eyes take in

the entire heavens and walk:

let life stand glorified

even when death haunts you;

let light be remembered

when night’s beauty you perceive;

keep the urge to be wakeful

even when you celebrate sleep.

The lust for living

is the one supreme passion.

seen through its eyes

everything looks beautiful;

from that view destruction

and loss may look like gains.

We may be by pity moved,

when in pain, hit by arrows;

never forget to bless and pray

for the hunter who shot us down.

As the wound becomes deeper

it begins to emit compassion.



This auspicious moment

the foot-tingling moment

the love-borne moment

the blessed moment

the moment of the movement simple and lucid

the moment of time’s momentous explosion

The anxiety of the waters

on the brink of the rapids

The beginning of creation’s retreat

after the climacteric of the last deluge

The curiosity of the emptiness

left behind by the burnt-out star

The magnificence that clasped hands

confer on the sense of touch

The blindness resulting from the dazzling vision

in the eyes linked by love.

The lord of creation’s alarm

at the end of apocalypse

The heart-throb of the sun

at the sudden outburst of dawn

Come, friends, we are about

to be born together as one

On the paths that we cut

the future will spell out our names

The moment has come

when the song of the grand embarkation

flows through the veins and the lips-

step forth, O comrades!

Whatever keeps rising to dizzy heights

is the Himalayas

Whatever keeps flowing and causes to flow

is all Ganga

Know that for the mighty mountain of snow

the ever-flowing river is holy ablution

The two together for these on the move

form an auspicious dream vision

At the crimson touch of that vision

the horizon is awake

The very first ray of dawn

thrills and enthrills the earth

And in the rhythm of that thrill

take your first step forward

Recite the hymn to the sun

put that first foot on the earth

When such a blazing moment may

descend on us again, we don’t know

It’s the southbound trip—

onward march, O comrades!

Draw strength from grief,

unbind the spell

and sound the drums

to tell the tale of man.

Translated from Malayalam by Chitra Panicker

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