Tag Archives: Kannada Poetry

K. Sharifa’s Poems


K Sharifa : K Sharifa was born in Gulbarga in Karnataka and works as a Senior Auditor in Bangalore. A poet, a literary critic and a feminist writer, she has been a part of women’s and human rights movements. She has more than seventeen books and has received several awards for her works.

Poems of K Sharifa

 Kannada original:  K Sharifa

English translation: Kamalakar Bhat


Be a Woman, Once, O Lord!

It is rancid kitchens for us.

It is slimy postnatal rooms for us.

No chance for throwing tantrums.

O Lord, shouldn’t you once visit

the sunless cells that is our lot?


My son

who went to the town

died in a police encounter;

My husband

who went to war

came back as bloody rags;

And my daughter,

in unbearable shame,

hanged herself after being raped;

To know the depths of my pain,

O Lord, shouldn’t you be born a woman once?


If I step out to earn a meager meal

unseen holy hands push me behind the curtains

training the guns on me;

I shudder at the slightest sound,

go pale, become breathless, miss a heartbeat;

I am totally lost;

How shall I live, O lord?


To know my indescribable pain,

to know what it is,

O Lord, shouldn’t you become a woman once?

The man who has the world’s contract in his hands

has declared a war at the borders;

How shall I describe the nature of my pain,

my anxious moments;

So, shouldn’t you become a woman once?



Behind the Veil

 On either side of the two stately minars of the darga

rows and rows of shacks.

Sackcloth curtains hanging at the door —

no colours, no frills, just the gray sackcloth —

speak of her life’s colours.

On feast days, Ma would drape the doors

with embroidered curtains, colourful and adorned

with many-hued beads at the edges.

I too had crocheted pretty curtains

with threads of many shades.

How would I know

one day the same curtains

would be the veil to keep my face hidden?


The first time I wore the veil

the heat irritated me till I felt dizzy

and, instinctively I had thrown it away.

My relatives prevailed upon me:

this is the sacred dress of our faith, they said;

God won’t like it otherwise.

And they pushed me behind the veil.

When the veil’s net covered my eyes

the whole world appeared dark.

Even my schoolmate Seeta

found me a stranger.

I felt all my companions falling away from me.

The veil had built a fence around me.


Under the protective gaze, dreams became

burnt walls blackening the universe.

In summer heat, I was drenched in sweat and felt stifled.

My face shrouded

inside the veil, I became only flesh.



Overhanging Swords of Talaak


The walls are like in a fort

built with massive stone slabs,

beyond the walls the free pigeon,

within the walls is my caged life


Life trots on rocky rough road

while I am the cool flow from the Himalayas

He is like the seething geysers

I have no firm foundation

in the dilapidated corners


With three wives and eyeing a fourth

If I even look out the window out of boredom

He screams at me, scared:

“Where is my hookah, Begum?

Are you nuts? Drop the curtains.”

Beware, don’t let your eyes wander

Don’t forget the overhanging sword of Talaak!


No milky moonlight for me

No spring ceremony

From within the prohibitive walls

Of the hopeless cage.


When the prisoner shakes off and asks

“Don’t’ frighten me with the sword of talaak”.


The stones of the walls begin to crumble

A new power in my tired hands

Breaking the fetters, my question rises up:

“It is I you are born of

Don’t frighten me with the sword of talaak

You are but an infant in my lap.





Upon the civilizations

She built lovingly

Appears your cruel imprint


Upon the cultures

She molded

Why not let her own imprint?

Why not let her erect her own mansions?

Why not let her reveal the dawn of a new day?



No more may her images

Peep through his-tory

Let her sing a new psalm

Let her fashion herstory


Since ages she has been

your companion

always walking beside you

How can your history be

Complete without her?



Put an end to your

his-stories accommodating her


Let the hands that write be hers

The mind that thinks be hers

And the heart that feels be hers

As she creates her own story





Dalit Poetry in Kannada: Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy


I have earlier offered a translation of Kannada Dalit poet Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy. He is a senior writer and a good poet. Experimental and sharp, his works are surely important. Recently I discovered his website which has lot of pictures and details about him.from: mudnakadu.com

Some of Mudnakudu    Chinnaswamy’s poems are  available in translation by Prof. Rowena Hill here

I must apologize for spelling his name incorrectly in my previous post. Thsi time around I have corrected it.


If I was a tree
the bird wouldn’t ask me
before it built its nest
what caste I am.
When sunlight embraced me
my shadow wouldn’t feel defiled.
My friendship with the cool breeze and the leaves
would be sweet.
Raindrops wouldn’t turn back
taking me for a dog-eater.
When I branch out further from my roots
Mother Earth wouldn’t flee shouting for a bath.
The sacred cow would scrape her body on my bark,
scratching wherever it itched
and the three hundred thousand gods sheltering inside her
would touch me.
Who knows,
at the end,
hacked into pieces of dry wood,
burning in the holy fire,
I might be made pure,
or becoming the bier for a sinless body
be borne on the shoulders of four good men.

A Poem about Mother

Lankesh + Ramdas

A phenomenal prose writer Lankesh was not specially known for his poems except for his ‘Nilu’ poems.  But this one has moved so many people. Earthy in its perception of the mother, the poem so well captures what most of the modernist Kannada writers were doing: indexing the shift in the consciousness from rural to urban. The poem was translated by KV Tirumalesh, himself a great poet. It had appeared in Kavi Bharati- Triennial of Indian Poetry, March 1987.


* Lankesh (Translated by K.V. Tirumalesh)

Like a wild bear
She tended her children,
Cared for her husband and cared for the money.
She would howl like a hurt dog,
Groan and fight.

Mean, crooked and fretful like a monkey,
Guided only by the welfare of the family,
She would be a fury
If her son went out of her hand
Or husband went after another woman.

The jungle bear doesn’t want your scriptures;
My mother lived for a few morsels of food;
For work and for her children’s sake,
For a roof to live under,
For a sheet to cover,
For that upright walk
Among her equals.

For her are these tears of gratitude
And admiration – for bringing me up.
Bringing me to life
And for that departing – as if
It were to the fields that she went
Talking quietly
This woman of the earth.

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.

Abdul Rasheed – Kannada’s Basheer


Rasheed is a rare poet. Believe me he will prove to be one among the best. His poems as well as his stories. His eyes see the unseeable obvious. His heart hears the the faintest of voices.

from: mysorepost.wordpress.com

from: mysorepost.wordpress.com

His story ‘Kirti Patake’ (Rag Flag) is one of the best short stories I have read in the recent years. When you read him you will remember Vaikam Basheer. A few good translators should come up and carry him across to other languages. This story occurs on 6th December, the day of the Babri Masjid destruction. The oblique manner of evoking that farce through a lovable character’s entirely funny escapades is superb. Symbolic yet warm, satirical yet humble, intensely literary yet eminently readable – that is how this story is.

He is a fine poet too. Read his poems to see how intensely a poem can be personal. That is to say density of the personal details makes the poem totally objective. He creates a felt world, but does it through an intelligent weaving of details so that the poem grows into an intricate pattern. Vibrantly romantic, such poems of Rasheed defy the requirements of the current fashons.

This blogger in his ignorance has attempted a translation of one such poem:

A Personal Poem

* Abdul Rashid

Your sweat-filled chest

And the grains of sand from the sea inside your toe nail

And the feather caught in the curls of your hair

The scratch marks on your back that you have yourself made

And my grief at not being responsible for any of these.

Your alert indifference,

the grace of the fingers while you stretch your body,

and your generosity of yielding in small measures and withholding,

your crazy confidence that I can be put to sleep

by your flirtatious fingers in my hair!

I blabber and go back to sleep,

see all and cease to be,

touch and see if everything is in place,

returning after sending you away…