Monday, October 29, 2012

Three classical haikus


These 3 poems were part of my reading at the Urban Solace 100th edition of Tuesday's with the bard.

The poems were written with the theme of blending classical sangam Tamil poems with Japanese Haiku. I have been fascinated by how these two cultures look like distorted reflections of the same truth. Both these forms of poetry make use of a seasonal word. Both have strictly set rules of meters. Both rely on telling the reader less. Both rely on leaving their poems incomplete so that millions of readers in the future can complete it in millions of ways possible.

I won't go into technicalities of the forms of the poems. Technicalities bore me, as I am an impatient student. So let's dive straight into the poems.


காத்திருப்பேன் காலமுண்டு
இவ்வந்தியில் துணைவர் மூன்று
கார்மேகம் கருமுல்லை கொஞ்சம் தனிமை

This poem is set in the forest lands, named after the Jasmine flower in Tamil grammar. The forest is the land of separation in Tamil poetry. Women cry in the evening separated from their beloved midst the thick jungles, where the cakravAha bird also cries for its mate who is stranded on the other side of the lake.

The heroine of this poem is a haughty little woman who misses her beloved, but does not want to admit as much. So, this is what she says.

I shall wait, for there is time.
This eve, has wrought me three companions.
The rain cloud; the faded jasmine and just a bit of loneliness.

Hint - The jasmine is faded because she wore it in anticipation of her hero who has not yet turned up.


கார்மேகம் தழுவும் கொல்லிமலை தனிலே
காரிருள் பொழியும் குளிரருவி அருகே
குறிஞ்சிப் பூ பறிக்கக் சென்றாள்

This poem is in the cold mountains named குறிஞ்சி in Tamil grammar. The glittering caves, the full moonlight with flowing nectar lighting the path to the caves, the sweet and sour cry of the peacock for its mate and the biting winter wind that propels men, women and creatures alike to rush to their beloved makes the mountain the place for a romantic rendezvous.

This poem features a dignified friend of the heroine who ensures her dear friend's honour is protected no matter what happens. The hero who has been dogging our pretty heroine has finally won her heart. He aches to meet her, to hold her arms in his, to taste the ripe fruit of her lower lip. The heroine too burns with passion after having relented finally. She now relies on her beloved friend to tell this to her man, while keeping her pride intact.

In the kolli mountains embraced by the rain clouds
Beside the cascade that pours out darkness
She has gone to gather the kurinji flower

Hint - The kurinji flower blooms only once in 12 years. So the subtle hint given while telling where to meet the heroine is, 'her love is as rare as the kurinji flower and has bloomed only for you. So do not let it fade.'


மரமில்லா நெடுஞ்சாலை
மனமெல்லாம் வெறும் சோலை
எரும்பான நான் பிழைத்தால் மனை சேர்வேன்

There is no separate desert land strictly speaking in Tamil grammar. It is defined as the land that arises because the hills and the forests stray from their nature. Thus, when union and separation stray from their nature, we have the desert of discord. So it is that across the scorching heat, fighting ruthless bandits, braving perils as poisonous as serpents and scorpions, the hero and the heroine rue missing each other, missing their family and friends.

This poem is contemporary in setup. For the true deserts of today are our own roads and cities, bereft of life, bereft of imagination. The hero having suffered another day of drudgery at work, tries to rush back home. Alas! He finds his way blocked by a long trail of mechanical monsters. He sees no trees to remind him of his beloved's face. No cool breeze to remind him of her sweet words. So he sends her this SMS.

The road stretches long treeless
My mind is but an empty garden
As I crawl like an ant, if my soul lives I shall reach home/her.

Hint - The word மனை in Tamil can stand for both home and the wife.