Malayalam - Sunil Jose
Translated by Ravi Shanker N
Abruptly, one day,
Mother began to speak
in the tongue of father.
Her demeanor became grave.
She sat and walked like father.
We were stunned hearing
(Un) Motherly words like
Globalization, GST, Reactionaries
and Ideological Perceptions
coming out of her mouth.
It was sister who cried at first
calling out to Lord Krishna
wondering what was happening.
Father, who used to read newspapers
sitting in his arm chair or tea shop, got ruffled.
We now had two fathers
in the kitchen and the patio.
We, the children, were perplexed,
unable to decide who more of a father was.
The father who wore a sari
excelled in the new transfiguration.
The language became more cocksure
without any stammering issues.
Things progressed so much that
she sat in the arm chair and called out to the kitchen
“A strong cup of tea, please!”
When I cried
“We don’t have a mother anymore”
the married sister consoled
“Don’t worry. Mother must have
become a father from constant experience.”
Even situations that demanded
more of a mother
could not bring mother back
from being a father.
At the same time
Father became more of a mother
like milk tea diluted with water.
We tried hard to contain this transformation
within the house itself.
Served dinner first to mother.
Arranged newspapers for her
around the arm chair in the morning.
Registered our love through
making the tea stronger.
Father reached the kitchen
without paying heed to the daughter.
He became more of a mother.
Washed clothes and swept the floor
Became the slice of moon
Waiting for father at the door step.
Mo(fa)ther spent her time
In the arm chair.
After tea and siesta
she went out saying
“I’ll be to the shop and back.”
Because it was
she didn’t forget to carry
the old fashioned umbrella of father.
Before the surprise of this
unusual journey could be fathomed,
she greeted Radhakrishnan Master,
who came that way, in father’s voice and
straightaway entered Dineshan’s tea shop.
Though there was no one else in the shop
the woman’s voice with a rough tone
scared him when she ordered “Strong tea.”
He mildly greeted her as Radhechi and
asked about her well being.
“Our Party will face a tough time in this election.
How many comrades sacrificed with their
Blood and sweat! Yet!”
He had to make sure that this was indeed
Radhalakshmi Chechi, mother to Ani and Suni.
When Anil and Anitha came enquiring after her
Dineshan pointed towards the side alley.
Descending the side alley at the western junction,
crossing the fields, to the right of the school,
sitting on the culvert, Mother was exchanging
pleasantries with the passersby.
Anitha sobbed. Anil shouted.
Took her back home walking.
Washed her hands and feet.
Sat her on the cot.
Father came from the kitchen with cool water.
Children fanned her.
Mother beckoned me near as I looked bonkers.
and winked at me.
Whispered in my ear.
“Don’t get scared. It’s nothing.
I am suffocating in this Mother robe and role.
Malayalam - Sunil Jose
Translated by Dr Betsy Paul. C
Jolting out from
an afternoon snooze,
in the middle of a day that
the cat in our house
Matching any accomplished orator
it went on addressing
all in the family,
fable, chair, bed, and, the cooker,
all the almirahs,
our family well, the pond,
cowshed, goat's pen, chimney,
the chirawa, the rat trap,
Jimmy the dog, and,
all those whom
it was acquainted with-
Naming each, and each,
greetings went on and on.
Not even exempting
the three hens which
the fox had spared,
the baby bull which
Ammini, the cow gave birth
that very day,
and, even, the washing machine.
I had my misgivings much earlier -
its seemingly innocuous
slouching and sprawling
schemed to learn, things.
On the third day after
I had noticed,
(as it stretched out,)
that unusual glint
of its eyes.
what secret does it hold -
with its wiped face
and, glistened moustache.
It remembered how
it miffed in the woods,
was tamed at home.
The topic for the extempore was-
“The relevance of a house cat
In contemporary Kerala”
as it was carving out
a long feline epoch -
sometimes dropping names,
deep reveries of silence,
(reminding one of
debates in TV channels) -
mother calling out
from the kitchen.
“who is it that
is making such a noise there?”
and, it opened its eyes
and, making a peculiar gesture -
By turning its face to a side
it shook off the past,
and, the present, and,
as though on trail of a fish scent
to the side where the kitchen was
Crying out, “miao, miao”.
Betsy Paul. C is a poet and teacher who writes both in English and Malayalam and has published poems in the Indian P.E.N., and in Poemlets, an anthology of poems. She is working as an associate professor in the department of English, St. Aloysius College, Elthuruth, Thrissur.
Ravi Shanker (Ra Sh) translates from Malayalam and Tamil to English and vice versa. He has published English translations of stories by Bama (Tamil), Mother Forest ( from Malayalam) and Waking is Another Dream (Sri Lankan Tamil Poetry). He has published poems in magazines, journals, and anthologies.