Illustrations by Rajasee Ray of Ladyfingers Co.
Translated by N Kalyan Raman from the original Tamil poems by Perundevi
You can read the original poems in Tamil here.
For Kandasamy and Latha,
this is their 68th parting.
The first two times
they had individually
The next eight times
they said goodbye to each other
with lots of good wishes.
Once, as he was looking on,
Latha cut her palm with a blade.
Once Kandasamy smashed and broke
the TV set when a song they had used
as their private code came on.
Once Latha did not wipe
a treasured trace of their parting:
her glasses wet with tears.
Once Kandasamy burnt to ashes
the shirt to which she had glued
herself during their first kiss.
Latha (four times) and Kandasamy (once)
had also sobbed and wept during their long-distance liaison
drenching and damaging their laptops.
Without meeting her at all, Kandasamy
only sent her emails – that was one half.
Latha failed to see him while
she was looking at him –
that was another half.
They had each parted from the other, suspecting
the other’s fidelity to their mutual love:
Latha thrice and Kandasamy thrice.
(These include the time
Anushka appeared in his dreams half-naked,
a scene that Latha witnessed
in its entirety).
Because Latha blurted out her suspicion
without keeping it in her heart,
Kandasamy got one chance to part.
Because he left her in that fashion,
Latha got one chance to start a fight.
Even when they were together,
Kandasamy had stayed away
from her seven times.
Latha was not so bad, after all.
Because another man had wooed her
that woman of exemplary virtue left twice on her own,
to punish Kandasamy.
They parted in their hearts too –
once because Latha wrote poetry
and eight times because Kandasamy
did not read her poems.
One day, to get rid of her nuisance once and for all,
Kandasamy stood before god and complained.
That very night, dancing possessed,
Latha won him back.
When their relationship went from gross
to subtle, he closed his Yahoo! account
(opened especially for her sake) seven times.
To compete, Latha deleted him from her list
and cut him off six times.
A few more partings elude
even their own memories.
“68 is a lucky number for partings” –
Kandasamy is trying hard to retain
these words of the astrologer, renowned for
picking lucky gemstones from planetary positions,
in his memory. This time, Latha does not look for
even a worm or an insect
to be her emissary.
69th, 77th and 88th
partings await them
May death, slated
for their 90th parting,
be not in a hurry
to jump the queue.
Translated by N Kalyan Raman from the Tamil poem, 68-aavathu pirivu by Perundevi
I’ve kept a hibiscus
as the screensaver
on my phone.
No matter if it is day or night,
the flower is constantly in bloom;
that’s nothing special, of course.
We can playfully
raise or lower
the brightness of the blue
sky in the background.
Why, we can even change
the very colour of the sky.
The hibiscus in this screensaver
has a shinier look and feels
more intimate than
the old hibiscus, pale red and crawling
with ants, in the backyard,
and its compact sky
fits right into my palm.
Translated by N Kalyan Raman from the original Tamil poem, Thirai Paadhukaavalan by Perundevi
Time this time
Though fleeting moments lie
hidden, always, within
eternity, let us not
know eternity as a collection
of moments when we
found the treasure,
heard of the accident or
first tasted the saliva of a kiss.
While blessing us with its one hand
of lifespan, with its other hand
drags us forward
After losing us amid festive celebrations
of goodwill, it retrieves us later
as sick or unwanted persons,
as refugees in flight from
nations, classes and genders.
Innocent flakes of time nod off to sleep every now and then;
whenever that happens, just as Gilgamesh who sought
the boon of immortality lost it
in uncontrollable sleep, we lose all.
Eternity, though, never blinks.
It reckons our every step
as pieces of bread offered daily
at the feet of sleeping Gilgamesh.
With some sharp and deadly point
of cruelty, charity, betrayal or love,
this tiny speck of time tries
to draw us inside ourselves.
With eternity, though,
we lost the battle
the moment we were born.
Translated by N Kalyan Raman from the Tamil poem, Kaalam ikkaalam, by Perundevi