Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dog - a translation

Yesterday I came across this poem by Tamil poet Gnanakoothan. Though this was written in 1969, it seemed apt for the noise generated in social media now a days.


காலம் கடந்துண்ணும் எதிர்மனைப் பார்ப்பான்
எச்சிற் களையைத் தெருவில் எறிந்தான்
ஆள் நடவாத தெருவில் இரண்டு
நாய்கள் அதற்குத் தாக்கிக் கொண்டன
ஊர் துயில் குலைத்து நாய்கள் குரைக்கவும்
அயல்தெரு நாய்களும் ஆங்காங்கு குரைத்தன
நகர நாய்கள் குரைப்பது கருதிச்
சிற்றூர் நாய்களும் சேர்ந்து குரைத்தன
நஞ்சை புஞ்சை வயல்களைத் தாவிக்
கேட்கும் குரைச்சலின் குறைச்சலைக் கேட்டு
வேற்றூர் நாய்களும் குரைக்கத் தொடங்கின
சங்கிலித் தொடராய்க் குரைத்திடும் நாய்களில்
கடைசி நாயை மறித்துக்
காரணம் கேட்டால் என்னத்தைக் கூறும்?

My translation


After an untimely meal, Brahmin in the opposite house
threw his left over food out in the street;
In the deserted street two
dogs fought over it
As the town's slumber was disturbed by their barking
dogs in neighborhood too barked here and there
Since city dogs were barking
the dogs from small towns too joined them
Across the fields
as the barking noise weakened
dogs from other towns too started barking
In the chain of barking dogs
If you stop the last dog
and ask for the reason, what will it say?

It is a straight forward poem, if you consider the word Brahmin as a simple placeholder in the first line. If not, then the question arises - is he talking about caste discrimination and other social ills that the society hangs on to for no reason? May be I am reading too much into it.

Gnanakoothan is amongst the leading poets of contemporary Tamil literature. You can read his poems in his blog

P.S. Just realized that this poem may have been in response to Tamil writers Sundara Ramaswamy - Nakulan spat over Sundara Ramaswamy's poem Nadunisi Naigal (Midnight dogs) written in mid 1960s.

1 comment:

S said...

Interesting comment about Nadunisi Naaigal.

The poem has an interesting structure - roughly 4 words in each line except the penultimate line. Is there a particular name for this structure? The 'sandham' it creates echoes the barking of the dogs, I thought. The structure forms the 'sangili' of barks. The usage of words குரை,குலை,குறை was interesting. I have tried to incorporate that in an attempt.

After a late meal, the Brahmin next door
threw the leftovers out in the street.
In the deserted street, there came two
dogs that spat and fought over it.
As they barked, breaking up the town’s sleep
Far-off street dogs barked, here one, there one.
In deference to the barking city dogs
Small-town dogs too joined up to bark.
Over the wetlands, over the drylands
Hearing their bays braking in strength
Other-town dogs joined in the barking.
In this relay race of barking dogs, if you
stop the last dog
and ask him why, would he know?