Malayalam Poetry : T P Rajeevan’s Poems



Malayalam Poetry in Translation – 4

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.)


Mom is Sleeping

This is the smallest house
in the colony.

In the smallest room
the smallest cot
the smallest mattress
the smallest blanket
in the house,
mom sleeps like a girl child
abandoned by father and mother.

The room is muggy
though the fan is switched on.
Mom doesn’t realize it.

This is the first time
I have seen her sleep.
At a time when we had
a bigger house
a bigger plot
a bigger room and cot,
I have never seen her sleep.

she had many reasons to stay awake.
The simmering rice pot
the kids playing in the courtyard
the cows tethered in the farm
dad, uncle, and we children
who leave saying will be back in a bit,
not to return even after many days.

Those things,
those selves are no more.

mom wouldn’t have slept
when I fell asleep,
and she would be awake before me.

Like rivers, lakes, trees, hills and fields,
I thought she never slept.

As I witness her in deep slumber,
I can see rivers, lakes, trees, hills
and fields sleeping.

Do they see dreams in their nap?
I will ask mom when she wakes.

(Note: In response to Ben Okri’s poem, My Mother is Sleeping)

(Translation of Amma Urangukayaanu, Page 48, Deerkhakalam, Current Thrissur)



Four legs
for each shadow

a wagging spotted tail
for each stillness

five sharp claws
for each silence

a mouth that opens into abyss
for each darkness

in each eye that rises,
the foetus of a rat.

(Translation of Poocha, Page 168, Deerkhakalam, Current Thrissur)



I dreamt about sleep
in my sleep.

In the sleep in my dream too,
I dreamt about sleeping.
In that sleep too,
I dreamt about sleeping.

In the dream..
I dreamt about..

though I woke up from sleep
and from the sleep in all my dreams,

though I kept waking over and over,

a sleepy life,
many sleepy lives went by.

(Translation of Unaral, Page 31, Deerkhakalam, Current Thrissur)


About the author:

Thachom Poyil Rajeevan, also known as T P Rajeevan, is an Indian novelist and poet who writes in Malayalam and English. In English, he has published a novel (Undying Echoes of Silence), and two poetry collections (Kannaki and He Who Was Gone Thus). He has also edited an anthology of poems (Third Word: Post Socialist Poetry) with Croatian poet, Lana Derkac. His published works in Malayalam include: two novels (Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha, and KTN Kottoor: Ezhuthum Jeevithavum); six poetry collections (Vathil, Rashtratamtram, Korithachanal, Vayalkkarayil Ippolillatha, Pranayasatakam, and Dheergakalam); a travelogue (Purappettu Poya Vakku); and an essay collection (Athe Akasam Athe Bhoomi). Rajeevan was awarded the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel KTN Kottor: Ezhuthum Jeevithavum, in 2014. He is also a recipient of the Madras Malayalee Samajam Award and K. Surendran Award.

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 . (