Malayalam Poetry : Sreekumar Kariyad’s Poems



Malayalam Poetry in Translation Series – 30

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)


Where Does the Sun Go at Night?

On white paper
a girl etches a circle amidst hills,
imagining only the day.

She names the circle Sun,
draws the mud shack where she was born.

When the shack is done
she paints her parents adjacent to it,
her dear brother and his pet alongside.

Then nearby objects, trees
as if water spilled from a tumbler.
Friends as Gods.
Near to God, the demon with vengeful teeth.
Next in line, the scary ghost.
Eder sisters who slay and cook ghosts.
The oversized dotted blouses of those sisters.

Then, night dawned on her like an idea.
As if dark clouds marched towards her,
across the mountain range.
As if she was shrouded by that idea.
As if she was turning the page black.
As if sun and similar light sources were lost.
As if lost things are never found.

When a distant sunset
became the sight of a fading bee,
she asked the initial, primordial question:
Where does the sun go at night?
Where does it hide, vanish?
A question was raised..

(Translation of Rathrikalangalil Sooryan Evide Pokunnoo?, Page 23, Manju Poyilla Vruthangal, DC Books)

No More

We do not need Picasso anymore.
When we have God, why another painter?
Why another poet?
Definitely no more Tarkovsky to make films.

No more koels to sing or peacocks to dance.
No more spirit to spill from the brew pot.

Who else in this world
to speak authoritatively about the atom?
He knows about the absence of water, fire
and molecules of life in outer space!

Without observing the clock,
he knows the futile truth of time.
This world is a mere temple ground for him.
(He might mock that earth is cow dung.)

Illogical, our heads that turn into fodder,
that evaporates analyzing beginnings and ends.
(You cannot reach his world with a steam engine.)

No more Karl Marx.
Why do need a philosopher, a sage
if you have God?

no more oceans to generate dynamic waves.
No more pipes to blow, rivers to flow.
No more submarines to traverse depths.

(Translation of Venda, Page 38, Manju Poyilla Vruthangal, DC Books)

The Mentality of Those Who Knock on Doors That Do Not Open

You can guess
the mentality of those who knock
on doors that do not open.
It’s so mysterious inside.
As dark as the virgin darkness of universal truth.

When you imagine from outside..
alphabets and letters
are shoved into kids
in candlelit tables, a while later.

When you imagine from outside..
a grand old man
plays the tune of a lost nation
on an old piano hidden in his room.

the talent of kids that resides in
the insignificant sight of a cat preying on insects.
We can imagine too,
the sight of parents languishing
at the tip of a rose.
See, a revolutionary who contains a society
with the rented room of a gun he wields.
If not,
the circle completed by the urine and stool
of the one hanging from a rope,
segment of a line!!!

the tender breeze of eternal hope
always arrives to attend the door.
When you open the door,
an experience not too detailed, yet simple,
grazes you like a swing seat.
To ensure this isn’t a dream,
its mango wood
repeatedly lashes against your tearful face.

(Translation of Thurakkatha Vaathilil Muttunnavarude Manobhavam, Page 28, Manju Poyilla Vruthangal, DC Books)


About the Author

Sreekumar Kariyad was born at Kariyad, Ernakulam. He has won the SBT award for poetry in 2003. His poetry collections include Mekhapatanangal, Nilavum Pichakkaranum, Thathakalude School and Manjupoyilla Vruthangal.

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 . (