Malayalam Poetry : Sebastian’s Poems



Malayalam Poetry in Translation Series – 26

Translated by Aditya Shankar

More than any other genre in Malayalam literature, poetry has articulated the profound contradictions of the Malayalee psyche, its moral trepidations and its desire for liberation from the oppressive ideologies of discrimination like those of  class, caste and gender. Poetry has insistently refused to be a mere entertainer or a leisure-pastime, involving itself seriously in social struggles and sharing the agonies and aspirations of individuals of all social layers and persuasions. This is also the reason for its unique vibrancy and popularity that we seldom find in most other languages of India. 

(Extract from the article ‘Malayalam Poetry Today’ by K.Satchidanandan)


House of God

How much space
do we need
to construct a playhouse?

A courtyard corner,
the base of a cashew tree,
a few twigs,
palm leaves.

How many truckloads of gravel
do we need
to construct a house?

How many
tons of steel rods,
floor tiles,

the sunbird
constructs its house
in the dwarf white orchid tree
in a haste
without a plan or estimate.
as per the secret instructions
of God.

(Translation of Daivathinte Veedu, Page 25, Attu Povaathath, DC Books) 



Grieved by the monsoon
that refused to shower,
the crippled crow told
the squirrel on the jack tree branch:

Let’s go buy some rain.
Where? The squirrel quipped.
Wherever, retorted the crow.

The squirrel scurried and
the crow flew
across seven seas and land
to arrive at a place.

shops and markets that sell rain
hyper and super malls
that sell a variety of rain.

Squirrel bought one kilo rain.
Crow, two kilos.

By the time they returned,
the monsoon had left without showering.

As the squirrel’s one kilo rain
and the crow’s two kilo rain
was about to shower,
the winter that came
in the vacancy of monsoon
did not allow this to happen:

This is our time.
Rain only during the rainy season,
winter yelled at the squirrel and crow.

The depressed crow and squirrel
struggled to find a reservoir
for the rain they hauled from afar.

The garbage that had piled up
on the streets of cities and villages blared:

We shall keep them,
We shall keep them.

(Translation of Sambharani, Page 20, Attu Povaathath, DC Books)



The mirror spoke:
You look at me
to see yourself.
Your mannerisms,
smile, expressions
I laugh; covert, hush.

How unbound,
your love for yourself.

Your angry self
never came into my sight
lucky, you have never
seen your true avatar.
One day I shall expose
the multitudes of you
preserved in my deeper
layers. That day, you will
cease your me-ness.

(Translation of Tharippanam, Page 54, Attu Povaathath, DC Books)


About the Author

Sebastian is a noted poet in Malayalam. He started writing poems from his school days.  He won the SBT award in 2006, Yuvakalasahiti Deerapalan Chalipadu award in 2009 and Mullanjezhi award in 2012. 

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 . (