Malayalam Poetry : Savithri Rajeevan’s Poems



Malayalam Poetry in Translation Series – 13

Translated by Aditya Shankar

(Translator’s Note: The finest of contemporary Malayalam poetry represents the latest poetic sensibility that is on view today. A poem that is able to mend its language and meaning, and blend into the issues of our time will break the barriers of language eventually. In fact, as a translator, I believe it becomes the need of other languages to grow and adapt to the new shapes of meaning that a poem carves for itself. My project ‘Malayalam Poetry in Translation’ is an attempt to showcase the work of some of the finest poets writing in Malayalam. I believe it is only apt to clarify in this note that new poetic sensibility is in no way co-related to the age of a poet, but is a product of her/his poetic outlook and awareness. Also, the scope of this translation series is limited to a sample size and do not encompass the entire spectrum of contemporary Malayalam poetry. Every notable poet manages to continually reinvent his poetic landscape and the poets featured in this series are no exception.)



I love Gandhi.
Gandhi is not a toothless smile
not a statue where birds rest
not a bald head, round like the earth
neither a son of earth, crystallized into salt.
A silver spectacle
a walking stick elongated like a shadow
an elongating footfall
a fading ahimsa song.

I love Gandhi.
Gandhi is not Siddhartha who renounced the throne
or a half-naked fakir.
Not a weaver who endlessly spun thread
or a king who kept speaking the truth.

A Gandhi without coat
Ben Kingsley
South Africa
Hey Ram
These weren’t my Gandhi.

I love Gandhi.
Gandhi who doesn’t spin thread
Gandhi adorned in a coat
Gandhi unseen by Ram
Gandhi abandoned by Ram
Gandhi that subjects failed to see
Gandhi that did not become a statue
Gandhi who was shot
Gandhi who is immortal.
My Gandhi isn’t just these.

Gandhi is a lover
Gandhi is poetry.

(Translation of Gandhi, Page 68, Savithri Rajeevinte Kavithakal, Mathrubhumi Books) 



The glorious buffalo horn
that adorns my wall,
which head
does this belong to?

Where did
the body behind the horn
and the tail behind the body hide?

How do I see the buffalo
hiding within the walls
or behind it?

From then on,
my attempt was to imagine him.

In my imagination,
a hundred buffaloes.
But, all of them had horns.

My quest is for the buffalo of my horn,
that buffalo without horn.

How do I see the buffalo
that I cannot imagine?
I gave up on my attempt to imagine.
Though bodiless, tailless, legless,
I always hear the clip-clop of his hooves.

One day he will come,
cracking open the wall
adorning this horn
shaking this horn
filling this room,
this house.

(Translation of Pothu, Page 61, Savithri Rajeevinte Kavithakal, Mathrubhumi Books) 


Women and the Handicapped

I am a handicap.
Doesn’t matter if my journey
is towards the north
the western shores
the eastern mountain ranges
or even the south,
I have a reserved seat in the bus.
At the cinema or railway station
Ambalappuzha or Alappuzha
ration store or polling booth,
I have a slot to stand.

In marriage and death
laughter and thought
even at court,
I have protection.
my place is always amidst women.
I do not know,
but are women too handicaps?

(Translation of Sthreekalum Vikalangarum, Page 104, Savithri Rajeevinte Kavithakal, Mathrubhumi Books)


About the Author:

Savithri Rajeevan (born 1956) is a noted Malayalam poet and short fiction writer, based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. She holds a post-graduate degree in Malayalam literature from the University of Kerala and another from the MS University, Baroda, in fine art criticism. She has taught art history in the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanksrit, Kalady, and is currently an advisory board member of the Central Sahitya Akademi for Malayalam. Widely anthologized, she has published a volume of short fiction and four collections of poetry, most recently Ammaye Kulippikkumbol in 2014.


About the Translator:

Aditya Shankar is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated poet, flash fiction author, and translator. He edited Tiny Judges Shall Arrive (AHRC, Hong Kong), a selection of  KG Sankara Pillai’s poems translated into English. His translations have appeared in the SAARC anthology of poetry, Muse & Murmur, Modern Poetry in Translation, Ethics in Action and elsewhere. His poems have been translated into Malayalam and Arabic and published from 20 or more nations. His poetry collections include After Seeing (2006), Party Poopers (2014), and XXL (Dhauli Books, 2018). His short films have participated in International Film Festivals.  He lives in Bangalore, India . (