Poem of the week May 25

On the walls of a train on the London tube in 2001, sandwiched between 2 advertisements, I came across this poem.

I never forgot it.

It is a tamil poem, attributed to Chempulap-peineerar or Sembula Peyaneerar, a poet from the famous Sangam age of Tamil poets. The poem is found in the Kuruntokai, a collections of poems dealing with love and separation.

The english translation is by a great modern Indian poet, A.K Ramanujan, who wrote both in Tamil and in English. We had to study one of his poems in high school and it was one of the few poems I liked at the time. I will post it some other week.

குறிஞ்சி – தலைவன் கூற்று

யாயும் ஞாயும் யாரா கியரோ
எந்தையும் நுந்தையும் எம்முறைக் கேளிர்
யானும் நீயும் எவ்வழி யறிதும்
செம்புலப் பெயனீர் போல
அன்புடை நெஞ்சம் தாங்கலந் தனவே.

-செம்புலப் பெயனீரார்.

English transliteration:
“Yaayum (n)yaayum yaaraagiyaro
Yendaiyum Nundaiyum emmurai kelir
Yaanum neeyum evvazhi aridhum
chempulap-peineer pola
anbudai nenjamthan kalandanavey

Chempulap-Peineerar (Kuruntokai)

Red earth and pouring rain

What could my mother be to yours?
What kin is my father to yours anyway?
And how did you and I meet ever?
But in love, our hearts have mingled
as red earth and pouring rain.

A.K Ramanujan


“He doesn’t know who we are!” The Daily Show interviewed at the Paley Centre

They’re funny even when they’re serious, except Jon Stewart who sounds incredibly serious outside of the Daily Show. An interview at the Paley Centre in California with Jon Stewart , Colbert , Steve Carrell and writers of the Daily Show. This one’s about a guy’s conspiracy theory of orange juice.

Jon Stewart on his guests

About a guy who invented the “Gaydar”. Oh, it’s also about improv.

YDT: Yoga Dance Therapy

Through my own study and practice of yoga, I have come to understand how closely linked Indian classical dance is with yoga. Many of the postures, mudras and movements find their roots in asanas and pranayama. The preparation is not unlike the niyama preparation in Hatha Yoga. Most dances relate stories of the Divine such as the romance of Radha and Krishna. In some cases, the dance is the expression of the Divine, the Shiva Tandava being a famous example. These dance forms link back to Bhakti Yoga, perhaps the most prevalent practice in India.

I came across this story in the Hindu of a French lady who has conducted intense research on the links between yoga and Indian dance. Her study of Indian culture is very impressive. She has developed a practice called Yoga Dance Therapy that capitalizes on the overlap between dance and yoga. However, I am not clear on why one would need YDT. In the learning of Indian classical dance, one learns the yogic postures and mudras anyway. Indirectly, the dancer gets trained in yoga. Would knowing the exact relationship between the dance pose and the yogic aspect of it be a real benefit?

Yogic sojourn

Regardless, it’s a fascinating idea. Click on the picture for more on dance, yoga and YDT here.
YDT Web Site

Poem of the week – May 18

Some funny poems this week. Since they’re pretty short, I added more than one.

To Someone Who Insisted I Look Up Someone

I rang them up while touring Timbuktu,
Those bosom chums to whom you’re known as “Who?”

X. J. Kennedy (Peeping Tom’s Cabin)

The Leader

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

Roger McGough


Came across these explanations for the meaning of the following words:

resusticate: re+ susti+ cate, now susti in hindi means cheap, so when something is made cheaper again, it is usually to revive the use of something.  For example, if government makes khadi cheaper in prefereance to cotton, it is to revive its use amongst citizens. So resusticate is to revive.

ribald : almost as rebald which can be to loose hair again. If a person looses hair rapidly, its because he has some deep tensions. So ribald is deep or profane.

roseate= rose+ate. After jack died in Titanic, dis Rose gave up and stopped eating…..No…Why? Because she was optimistic of meeting him in the afterlife and in her dreams. So Roseate is being optimistic.

Hope that helps..

GRE Words

Poem of the week May 11

Early last week, on May 4th or 5th, I had decided to post a Tagore poem for this week’s “Poem of the Week”. I was delighted to discover yesterday, May 9th, that it was Tagore’s birthday by the Indian calendar.

Tagore translated many of his poems into English. In fact, that is how he won the Nobel prize. On a voyage to England in 1911, he fell sick. He took the advice of one of his companions on the ship, and used the time to translate a few of his poems from Gitanjali into English. He circulated these poems when he arrived in England, and in a very short time, his poems became a rage among the local literati. Momentum grew, and soon thereafter, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1912.

While most of his poems sound better in the original Bengali, there are a few poems that I have enjoyed more in the English translation than in the original Bengali. The poem of this week is one of them. It is from his collection of poems called “The Crescent Moon”.

On the Seashore

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.
The infinite sky is motionless overhead
and the restless water is boisterous.
On the seashore of endless worlds
the children meet with shouts and dances.

They build their houses with sand
and they play with empty shells.
With withered leaves they weave their boats
and smilingly float them on the vast deep.
Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.

They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets.
Pearl fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships,
while children gather pebbles and scatter them again.
They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.

The sea surges up with laughter
and pale gleams the smile of the sea beach.
Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the children,
even like a mother while rocking her baby’s cradle.
The sea plays with children,
and pale gleams the smile of the sea beach.

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.
Tempest roams in the pathless sky,
ships get wrecked in the trackless water,
death is abroad and children play.
On the seashore of endless worlds is the
great meeting of children.

Rabindranath Tagore (The Crescent Moon)

In this poem, one can see some of the genius of Tagore. Tagore effectively combined literary word play suffused with emotion, and deep philosophy. The poem uses the subject of children being engrossed in their play, creating with whatever material is available to them, oblivious to the ills and obstacles of their world, and happy to start all over again. Underlying all of this is the tragic farce of adults, who are after attaining treasures, fraught with anxiety and effort, while the lessons of detached joyful work lie right before them through the play of children.

Reams have been written about Rabindranath Tagore. Amartya Sen, another Nobel Laureate, who studied in Tagore’s school and university in Shantiniketan, Bolpur, has written extensively on Tagore. He was not just a prolific poet, but also a songwriter and composer (over 2000 songs), a playwright, a novelist, short story writer, founder of a school and a university that for a while was regarded as among the best in the Eastern hemisphere, freedom fighter, a land owner who actively managed his estates, and in his last years, a painter. What stands out is that everything he attempted or produced was of a high quality. One may or may not like all his works, and that is a matter of personal taste. But everything that he touched was well above average, if not among the best in its respective category.