Translator : Ramachandra Deva
This is my translation of Gopalakrishna Adiga`s Kannada poem “Kupamanduka”. It was first published in Vagartha, no. 18, now defunct literary quarterly edited by Prof. Meenakshi Mukherjee, well-known critic, and author of Twice-born Fiction. Vagartha-18 focussed on Adiga`s poetry. It contained, along with this translation, an article on Adiga`s poetry by K. V. Tirumalesh, and translations of “Bhuta” (“Pasts and Ghosts”), “Prarthane” (“A Prayer”), and “Enadaru Madutiru Tamma” (“Do Something Brother”) by A. K. Ramanujan and M. G. Krishnamurthi.
“Kupamanduka”, written in December 1963, was first published in 1964 in Lahari, a Kannada poetry-quarterly, edited by Purnchandra Tejasvi and B. N. Shriram. It is interpreted variously as a poem addressed to a friend or God, lover, one`s own creative or better self. The original poem has a profound sadness–a deeply felt visada— in it, and a capacity to haunt the reader`s mind.
This is the poem:
Where are you now? Once hand in hand with me
You blew the sail, plump and round,
Got clearance at the checkposts, led me to distant lands, far off islands,
And then suddenly slipped out, and escaped.
You flew into the vast blue sky
Deserting me before I could open my eyes;
Halfway through the belching orchard I tripped and fell
On the shore of the lake drunk to the brim.
Burdened by my body, I lie here , an orphan;
Flower and creeper, plant and thicket, tree and bush
Mockingly gaze, turn away their face, and laugh:
Cruel jokes and constant watch.
The jack fruit tree, with yellow leaves, drunk in sun`s rays,
Stands lame, stuck in the ground;
The banana tree with overripened fruits rottens
Sucking life from its own offsprings.
Grain is ripe after the dread of thunder and rain,
Streams from well and lake are choked with moss,
The circling bull with wounded neck pressed to the yoke
Cries this is the end of the race.
Endless labour pain was the reward
For my endless faith in you.
Should I remain a dry well? Touch me,
Wake me up, open the choked springs boiling far beneath.
I go back, I want a magic blanket
to be wrapped around me;
Winding it tight I slide below the valleys,
I leap and run to the call of the sea.
I was at the sea shore every morning
Anxiously waiting at the sand`s edge;
The gold ray shovelling the ocean foam
Marched forward the chariot`s pinnacle.
You playfully rowed the toy boat
With the small sail, and then
The boat suddenly hit the shore, you bent,
Stretched your arms, lifted me up up and hugged me.
Riding over the waves of seven seas
We spent the day gasping, lolling and lazing;
Cargo of rainbow, coloured beads and domes
Weighed heavily on the boat, we touched the shore.
In the dark ocean, in a lonely house on an island,
We played naked , diving deep;
We were one, laid the golden eggs,
Egg after egg had your stamp alone.
Every moment was festive; at the ropes of the chariot
Mine were the arms, yours the chant;
The strength of a thousnad voices and arms
Originated from our mating.
Yet you are a rogue, I know:
In the village school, when the teacher was away,
You were the Bhagavata, beating castanets,
I, mighty Bhima, entering the battlefield,
Whilred the ruler like a mace;
Twentyfive toe-leaps and the mudpot was smashed,
The class roared in laughter, welt marks on back
Remind me of the story even today.
We, both the cheats, sat on the sea-saw;
You were slightly lighter, still,
Now and then the keel evened, I did not feel
The heaviness of my body pulling down my end.
The time has come when the ripened fruits fall and rot,
The roots of the green is eaten by the termites,
The chariot is slowly devoured by the insects,
The rope is old, it dries and breaks.
Heaviness grows everyday; my end
of the sea-saw rests in mud, your end
Is in the depths of the sky,
I, forty, bespectacled, cannot trace your ways and norms.
Still I hear your voice like a hundred water-falls,
A hundred roots go deep whereever I sit;
The buds wither the moment they sprout
Dissociated from your prime essence.
I am an ancient frog; I have drunk the water
Of seven ponds; to hop and keep hopping is my nature;
From ground to the pond below, from pond to the ground above,
I vacillated between the two.
I flopped on the groud, panting and swelling, swelling and panting.
At least now I should get down into the well;
I will hide myself in the womb of the clay,
Until I know myself when the swelling is done.
Then the body, light as air, yellow as gold
Will jig up and down in the water of the lake.
I will lean back on the green grass of the bank and croak;
Then the boat will approach, touch me and console me.
If I eat a fly, does that put the estate in order?
Does life come back to the banana tree?
Is the palmtree sad if I sink, or the jack tree depresed?
I spent much effort realizing this.
The jasmine which flowers your smile,
The mango grove whose shade displays your love,
The mud at the bottom of the pool which shows your affection,
I will play among these–this is my new resolution.