Translated from the Kunkana to the English by Rupalee Burke
Limbe panting at the fourth step of the stairs
How he once roved hills and vales
No sooner he hit the pillow would he fall fast asleep.
When his wife shook him from slumber
Awake he would
Weighing equal to a four maund male buffalo
With great difficulty
Mumble to himself: Truly!
None there is like me.
Seated at the dining table
Paneer-handi curry to eat
Uncovered basket with parathas in it
Chikus, apples and bread-butter too.
Everything but the heart missing.
Back then Shevla, bhopid, alim, ambadi, vans,
Umbra, anla, keri, karamda, timru
Flowers of all hues!
Pockets stuffed with siridoda blossoms
That’s what you would call a feast! Truly health-giving.
Here withered vegetables
Pulses cultivated with chemical fertilisers and rotting fruits
This is what makes the doctor proclaim
It is this … It is that …
Eat this … Drink that …
No way comparable to the bhagats, our own medicine-men
No matter what sickness, they cured without a fee
This mop of hair, do you see?
White as white can be
Rinsing hair with sticky mud
Those elders there bearing no trace of age!
Cannot think of sitting without a chair
Whereas yoking male buffaloes elders plough the fields!
Sweetness of ice-cream pales when it comes to
Goat milk thickened with drops of the karvat tree
Thoughts come by the dozen
Thoughts … Thoughts …
Shrugging them off, had barely put on the television
Not the television, wifey said:
Will need money, the roof is leaking.
Oh God …
How much can one earn?
There is no hunger! Yet no happiness!
One life, a million worries
Roof of teak leaves elders made in no time
In return for a meager charge.
Haunted by a host of thoughts … Sleep eluded the eyes
Memories of teacher arose in my mind
If you do not complete your work I will drive you out, he would say.
How much work I have accomplished yet no compassion-love.
Hard as stone are people here
None to call our own even within family
Feeling drowsy while turning sides
Trin trin rang the doorbell
Who is it? Wifey answered the doorbell.
Oh … Mother … Father … Mother-in-law …
Limbe sprang up from his bed
Why Mother … Father …
Indigestion … Digested …
Pain … Cured …
Mother had brought food tied in a bundle
Knot was undone
Ate to heart’s content
Wiped his mouth with his mother’s sari
Much like a bubble
In a hushed tone
Muttered: I am full!
That is where life resides!!!
- 100: BROWNFACESUBMIT NOW with W S Dunn 99: SINGAPORECOMING SOON with A Pang and J Ip 97 & 98: PROPAGANDAwith M Breeze and S groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones