Kannada Poetry – Alanahalli Krishna


His Kadu is the quintessential modernist novella. Yet, in his poetry he is very unlike the Kannada navya tradition of poetry. This is Shrikrishna Alanahalli who but for his early demise would have been by now known to everyone with any interest in Indian Literature. He has written enough to make him an icon in Kannada. Several stories and three novels. His poetry both his own and what he brought from elsewhere, are all of considerable interest. But I am interested specifically in this poem, ‘Butterfly and the Master’. I think it is a very good poem. Here Alanahalli manages to mix wonder and politics. There is the signature point of view of the ‘boy’ (not child yet not adult) that like the butterfly itself is now transforming from being ignorant to becoming aware of the worldly matters. The assertion at the end of the poem to retain innocent beauty as against accepting the ‘truth’ of science is super. For the boy is here trying to defend not so much truth or otherwise but his own idea of beauty. The sterilised knowledge with its impersonality is violent to its object – is why I think the boy refuses to accept teacher’s truth.

Anyway, here is Alanahalli Krishna’s :

Butterfly and the Teacher

* Shrikrishna Alanahallialanahalli

Near the pond in my village,

on the fence next to the well,

just in front of my home even,

such colourful butterflies!

White butterfly with red wings

gray butterfly with black wings

golden bordered – blue, yellow

deep red, coal black, light green…

I would go catching them

each time the colours overflow

the colours turn into butterflies

and bloom in my eyes.

From here to there, there to here

bending, swaying, flying,

my mind following

each of the flight

with colourful butterflies in my head,

and butterfly-like feelings

I would catch them daily,

then let them fly off

or smear the hands with gold dust

or keeping a golden wing hidden among pages,

I would feel happy,

would be filled with pleasure.


Suddenly one day when I was in the class of

the new bald plated teacher

when he said: ‘insect turns into a colourful butterfly’.

What I heard was like hot lead poured in my ears

I sat shell shocked.

Insect, cheee, thorny all over

black like the wool of a bear,

by chance if you touch

burning itch all over the body

If you squash it in disgust

Just puss.

Can such a disgusting insect

become my beautiful butterfly?

or is it loud talk of the

bald plated teacher?

The way in which doing the daily lessons

made true the earth going around the sun,

What if this also turns into truth?

No, none of these bald plated teacher’s lessons

no need to learn

This lesson on how my beautiful butterfly

was only an insect.

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