Monday, May 22, 2006

Unquenched flame

Category : Fiction, Translation
Original : Kamalhassan's short story in this week's Ananda Vikatan (paysite)
Need to know : That the narrator is Agni, the Lord of Fire

Unquenched flame

It was the day Rama decided to test her chastity. Ravana had been long dead in the war over her. He too had an unrequited love for Sita, like me.

In Asokavana, the maid used to bring me alive everyday night by feeding me oil and dry twigs, to keep them warm. All the guards would fall asleep in my warmth. Sita alone would be awake. Me too.

Sometimes after all of them fell asleep, Sita would stare at me intensely. I would get all excited and flutter wildly in my shyness. On day break, the breeze would cool down my lustful ardor to burnt embers.

I was jealous of Ravana for having kidnapped her. I once hung on to the tail of Rama's messenger and tried to burn Ravana and Lanka to oblivion. All I could do was to just burn down a few wax palaces.

I was the witness of Sita's chastity. On those night Ravana came to plead his love for her, I was always present. I glowed with anger when Rama's messenger brought Rama's ring and message. It was of no use, she saw the ring even more clearly, in my brightness.

Sita refused to talk to Ravana. To me too. She was true to her love of Rama. Never did she utter a word to me.

It was on the day when Rama decided to make a public spectacle of testing her chastity did she first speak to me.

"I , who never thought of anyone other than Rama, am heart broken today. Oh Agni, for days together you passionately looked at me with love. Let this chastity that I saved for my husband be yours Consume me" she said with fury.

Love is a peculiar disease. Like the love between a lizard and the rock it lives on, our love was unknown to anybody else. I used to lust for her passionately. But on the day of reckoning, my love for her dominated my lust. I knew that our union would be counter productive like my first love.

My first love was with the forest, the jungle queen. Then I was too young. My dad was very angry when I proclaimed my love for the forest. He threw me out. I went in search of my lover passionately. I embraced her with all the lust of my youthful fantasies. She was burnt to cinder, and so ended my love. I knew that the same would be the case with Sita too.

More than consummating our affair, it was my duty to save her, said my love for her. Sita came into my embrace more with frustration and anger at Rama, not with love for me. For her I was just a shoulder to cry upon. What she felt for me was just sympathy, not love. She was giving it away as one would give alms to a beggar.

"Why do you refuse to accept me, when I am willing" she enquired of me.

"My dear Sita, if love would increase on consummating, Rama's love for you should have increased manifold by now. Love has the strange habit of decreasing after being together.

If I get drenched in your love for me, I would die down to ashes, without use to anyone. You would either have to go back to Ayodhya or your parents' place. I don't think I would be able to embrace you finally, like I do others.

We two are of a kind. We are beyond rules. For your chastity to remain untarnished, and for my love to remain undiminished, we should not consummate our love.

I will let you pass through me, to your selfish Rama. As a result of this consummation that was not, I will bear a daughter in your form and name her Draupadi. Is that acceptable to you?" I asked her tenderly.

Her eyes shined with tears on hearing this. "Never have I felt a love like this, nor have I seen a man like you. It won't happen in the future too. After I walk out of your embrace, I would live on our memories alone. My chastity will go rotten in a country ruled by people like Rama. I will leave that with you, as my marriage gift to our daughter Draupadi". With those words she walked out my embrace, never looking back.

It was then I promised to myself, that I would make sure that Draupadi will not have to suffer husbands like Rama who questioned her chastity.


WA said...

Amazing story, haven't read the original yet though

Ravages said...

Chenthil, mailed you my feedback. You, I think, will agree.

WA, definitely try to read the original...

Kingsley said...

I haven't read the original either, but I've just been drafting a post on the Ramayana, so this is quite serendipitous.

It's an interesting story. I can see where the idea may have germinated from - in the Kambaramayanam (but not in the Valmiki one), Agni complains to Rama about how Sita was burning him up with the heat of her chastity. I always thought that had an erotic overtone. he's done a good job of weaving the whole into a story.

swami said...

Nice translation... But you seem to have avoided the pun in the title "Anaya Neruppu".

Adiya said...

its on par translation work with kamal Sir. Gud work man.. as ubtiquous is like the tamil version... u missed the inital thukada conversation.. :)

over all nice job.. to other man-kind in the spectrum... :)

I said...


ashok said...

The best of Kamal is yet to come...

Chenthil said...

WA - do read the original.

CC - accept your views.

Kingsley - do read the original. I am trying to locate the poem you mention.

Swami - the pun was untranslateable. so was the other one "koodiya pin kuraivadhu kaadhal".

Adiya - that was a consious decision to skip the thukkada :-)

I - thanks

Ashok - true, very true

Chenthil said...

Kingsley - got it. here

especially stanza 72,73 - Kamal's story is built around that. Thanks for the info.

Silicon Sillu said...


very good translation but i felt though to differentiate who tells what, like agni\sita ect.....if possible apply unique colors for text narrated by each character......

Silicon Sillu said...

read the kamal's original tamil story here.....

originally from

Kingsley said...

Thanks, "பாக்கியம் பெரும் பித்தும் பயக்குமோ?" (could it be that great joy brings insanity?) is one of my favorite quotes ever.

கொங்கு ராசா said...

kudos chenthil !.. that was good transalation (summary ?) :)

btw, i agree with 'swami'

Anonymous said...

Excellent job in translating it !
Kamal rocks ! So do u ! :)

Skylar said...

I find this story very illogical

If passing through fire implied "consummation by fire", then it seems ironical that Rama wants to send Sita to Fire (a hot Deva) to prove her chastity under captivity, knowing that by entering Fire, she won't be chaste anymore.

Anonymous said...

That was a very nice translation...
a good job..Keep it up..