Saturday 31 May 2014

[Poem] The Piper

The trees in the park shimmer,
Everywhere, an even green,
the sunshine- clandestine!
 Formless lovers on rickety park benches;
leaves slither amid
supine, mass strewn, lawns,
Children run,
 past old swearing men
Summer draws them all in...

The faint music of a pipe
pulls me inward --
There, by an old stone pool
sits a piper...

People pass,
none look his way--
holding mobiles, bikes,
-- chasing dreams
Children lost, in Life's maze...

In all that shunning,
he pipes his song
eyes closed.
Composure in a fevered world.

A few small coins
dot the open case.
Is this all he plays for?

If you can close your eyes,
he will take you places,
You can ride the wave of his dreams.

He dreams,
Only, not like you and me;
He smiles as he knows the truth,
Life is never drawn,
With your own crayon.

I stop and revere
the unaffirmed sage.
I listen,
as the music stills the senses.

Life is still,
the world is still,
in that moment-
I know peace...

 A translation of this piece done by Srinivasan Balasubramanian:

பச்சைக் கம்பளம் விரித்தது போல பறந்து விரிந்த பூங்கா,
ஆங்காங்கே பளபளக்கும் மர(கத)தொப்பிகள்,
 இச்சை மிகுதியாகி இழைந்து கொண்டிருக்கும் காதல் ஜோடிகள்,
இடையில் நுழைய முயன்று தோற்றுப்போனது காற்று,
இலைகளினூடே எட்டிப்பார்க்க முயன்று ஏமாந்த சூரியனும்,
கட்டை பெஞ்சுகளில் மரக்கட்டை போல் கிடப்பவர்கள்.
எந்த இடத்திலும் விளையாட இடம் தேடும் சிறுவர்கள்,
இங்கேயும் இந்த இடைஞ்சலா என முணுமுணுக்கும் பெரியவர்கள்;
இப்படியாக இங்கே கோடைக்காலத்தின் தாக்கம்
குளுமை தேடும் மக்கள் கூட்டம்.

அத்தனை ஆரவாரங்களையும் மீறி ஆங்கே ஓர் குழலோசை
என்னை இழுத்தது, என் இதயம் நனைததது --
குளக்கரையில் அவன்,
அவரவர் கை பேசிகளுடன், வண்டிகளில் அமர்ந்தபடி,
ஆட்டு மந்தைகளாய் ஜனங்கள் கூட்டம்
தத்தம் கனவுகளைத் துரத்தியபடி
எவருக்கு இங்கே நேரம் இருக்கிறது இன்னிசை கேட்க?

ஆரையும் மதியாமல் அவன் ஊதுகின்றான் தன் குழலில்
கண்களை மூடி, தன்னுள்ளே ஒரு சுகம் தேடி
அலைபாயும் அந்த உலகத்தின் நடுவே, அமைதியாய்
அருகே உள்ள தட்டில் ஐந்தாறு காசுகள்
இதற்குத்தானா இந்த தெய்வீக இசை?

விசை கொடுத்தால் இயங்கும் பொம்மைகள் போல்
வீறு கொண்டு நடை போடும் மானிடனே!
உன் வாழ்வெனும் சித்திரம் உன்னாலேயா தீட்டப்பட்டது?
எதற்காக இந்த ஓட்டம், பரபரப்பு ஆர்பாட்டம்?
எத்தனை ஆட்டம், எத்தனை கூச்சல், ஏன் இந்த பரிதவிப்பு?

கண்களை மூடி அவன் இசை கேட்டீர்களேயானால்,
கனவுகள் விரியும் அவன் காணும் காட்சிகள் தெரியும்.
இந்த இரைச்சலை மீறி அவன் இசை அலையினில் ஏறி
பயணம் போகின்றான்; அவன் பல உலகம் காண்கின்றான்;
இயக்கங்களை நிறுத்தும் அந்த இசையில் மயங்கி,
அந்த இசை யோகியை, மனதால் வணங்குகிறேன் நானும்.
இந்திரியங்களின் இயக்கத்தை நிலைப்படுத்தும் இசை,
 சஞ்சலிக்கும் மனதை சாந்தப்படுத்தும் இசை,
 கண்ணனின் குழல் கேட்டு கவிழ்ந்து கிடந்த ஆநிறை போல்
மதுவை மிக உண்டு மயங்கிய வண்டு போல் -- நானும்
இயங்க மறந்து கிறங்கி கிடக்கிறேன்,அவன் இசையில்.
காலமும், இவ்வையகமும் கூட ஆங்கே கற்சிலை போல!

Saturday 3 May 2014

[Play] For Children: Krishna Sudama

Krishna Sudhama

This is the story of two boyhood friends – Krishna and Sudhama. The play focuses on an important event in their lives that extols the greatness of friendship. We begin with a glimpse into their childhood at guru Sandipani’s ashram.

Guru: Today I am going to speak to you about the importance of friendship. This virtue you must learn to carry all through life. In this gurukula we have children hailing from rich families as well from poor ones, studying together. Take for example Krishna he is a Yadava prince and Sudhama here comes from a modest home, yet they share the same food and sleep on the same floor without any differentiation. They are a shining example of good friendship which all of you must emulate. I dearly wish that their friendship lasts forever.

So children will all of you promise to be good friends?

Children: Yes gurudev, we promise that we will always be good friends.

G: Very well, now children you can go for your lunch – guru ma has prepared something very nice for all of you.

Children (together standing up) pranam gurudev.

Guru mata: Krishna and Sudhama come here,.

K&S: yes mother

GM: My dear children after you finish lunch, I want you to go to the forest and bring me some firewood. I don’t have much left. I know you are responsible children, so, I am asking you to do this for me.

K&S: Yes mother.

GM: (giving them a bundle) Here is some puffed rice to eat in case you come back late.

K&S: pranam mata.

Narrator: When the children were in the forest, there was a storm it became very dark and there was water everywhere- Krishna and Sudhama climbed up different trees to take shelter for the night. As Sudhama felt very hungry he ate up the puffed rice which was with him without saving anything for Krishna. At sunrise, Guru Sandipani came to know about this, he rushed to the forest and seeing them, said:

San: Sons, you have borne a lot of suffering for me. Everyone wants to protect himself, but without caring for yourselves, you have served me. I am very pleased with you. May all your desires and ambitions be fulfilled!

Narrator: Years passed the children grew up- Krishna went to Dwaraka to become king. Sudhama married Sushila, a pious lady. They had 27 children and it became increasingly difficult to feed the family with his meager income. One day…

Sudhama: Sushila, I am very tired. Can you give me something to eat?

Sushila: Swami, Please drink this rice gruel.

Sudhama: Is this all? Is there nothing else to eat?

Sushila: Swami, the grain we have will not last much longer…. But swami, If you will listen to me I have a suggestion.

Sudhama: (Sits down. ) What is it? Sushila.

Sushila: I have always heard you speak of your childhood friend, Krishna. Is he not now the king? Can we not approach him for some help? Would he deny us help if you asked him?

Sudhama: (Smiles) Krishna!! My friend Krishna! But how can I ask him for help. It will not be right.

Sushila: But look at the way we are living now. If not for me at least for our children’s sake you must change your mind.

Sudhama( thinks) moves a few steps) What will my friend think of me?

Sushila: Ok, lets do it like this. It’s been a long time since you have seen him. So why don’t you just pay him a visit.

Sudhama: Alright. I will call on him. I also miss him very much. I will leave right away.

Sushila: Wait, Swami. I will pack something for your friend. (She ties up some puffed rice in his upper cloth)

Narrator: Sushila knew that the lord would understand Sudhama’s plight and bestow upon him favours without being asked specifically for them. Thus set out Sudhama to meet his dearest friend the king. Sudhama wondered whether his friend would remember him, whether he would recognize him now with his haggard appearance and tattered clothes.

(song )

After a few days journey he reached Krishna’s palace.

At Krishna’s palace-the guards stopped him.

Guard: Who are you? What brings you here.

S: I want to meet the king.

G: The king! (Looking at him up and down) What possible business can you have with him?

S: He is my boyhood friend; I thought I would pay my respects to him.

(Noticing the commotion Krishna comes running.)

Krishna: Sudhama, Sudhama!! Is that really you? After all these years you have chosen to remember me? (hugs him)

Narrator: The mere touch of Krishna's body was a transcendental experience for Sudama. He was rendered further speechless by all the attention that Krishna showered on him.

Krishna: Come inside Sudhama. You are an honoured guest. (Rukmini Enters) Krishna: Rukmini come! Look who is here, this is Sudhama my friend.

Ruknini: Dear sir, welcome. I have heard my lord speak so much about you. (Signals to get a pitcher and a plate and flowers) (Together K & R wash his feet)

Rukmini: Let me go and make all arrangements for his comfort.

Narrator: He is bathed with sweet smelling perfumed oils, is given rich clothes and after a feast, the two friends sit down to talk. The ever playful lord knew the purpose of Sudhama’s visit yet chose to play upon him.

Krishna: What is in that upper cloth you are hiding?

Sudhama: Nothing, Krishna, it is really nothing.

Krishna: Come on, "I know my sister-in-law, Suseela, would not have sent you empty-handed. Give it to me at once!"

Narrator: Sudhama was too ashamed to give the Lord the small, tattered bundle of puffed rice! The mind reader that the Lord was - is He not the Antharyaami, the Self within every soul - he divined Sudhama's thoughts and the sense of shame and the simple, guileless devotion that went with it. He knew that it was this humility, deep-rooted in the soul of Sudhama that was preventing him from offering Him the bundle.

Krishna: "So, Sudhama, you do remember that I like sweet puffed rice the most. You must have told this to my sister-in-law. That is why she has sent 'so much' of it! Sudhama, do you remember the puffed rice incident during our gurukula days?"

Narrator: When Krishna eats the first mouthful, Sudhama’s hut is transformed into a palace. After the second mouthful the palace is filled with riches and the clothes and adornments of his wife and children are changed. When he is about to take the third mouthful ….

Rukmini: (Holding his wrist) that is enough my Lord. Should I also not have a share of what your friend has brought for us?

Narrator: Rukmini prevented him from taking the third mouthful as she is Lakshmi Devi herself and by this act of Krishna she would have been forced to leave him and stay in Sudhama’s palace. (pause)

After a few days of ecstatic stay with his friend, Sudhama left with a heavy heart to rejoin his family. In his journey back home he smiled a lot to himself recalling the several incidents that had occurred in the palace. But as he neared his home he remembered that he had not fulfilled the actual purpose of his visit. He was pondering over the possible excuses he could give his wife. He is pleasantly surprised to see his hut transformed into a grand castle.

Susheela: (decked in jewellery and finery) Swami, Look at the magic, your friend has accomplished. He has showered upon us untold benevolence.

Sudama: Oh, now I understand the significance of what transpired in Krishna’s palace and the ways of the lord, my friend.

Narrator: Despite all the wealth bestowed upon him, Sudhama chose to lead an austere life for the rest of his days.

[Play] For Children: Dhruva Charithram

 I wrote this play a few years ago for children to introduce them to the legends of Indian myth.
Dhruva Charitham
Narrator: The story of Dhruva who attained the greatest exaltation serves as an inspiration to young children all over India. The play you are about to witness on the life of Dhruva appears in the Bhagavatham and took place a very long time ago. In that great age the king Uttanapada ruled over the entire world. He had two wives named Suniti whose son was named Dhruva and Suruchi son was called Uttama. Unfortunately the king showered his affections on the younger queen Suruchi and her son. The play focuses on one incident that took place in the young Dhruva’s life which changed him forever.
(Opens with the king and Suruchi seated on the throne the king playing with Uttama.)
Uttanapada: I must be the most fortunate king in all the three worlds. I have a beautiful queen and a wonderful son- do you know Suruchi – all his acharyas say that Uttama is a clever boy… (Picks up Uttama, places him on his lap and begins to hug him)
Enter Dhruv: (who comes running excitedly to his father) Father, father look what I found.
(The king does not pay any attention)
Dhruva: (in a pleading voice) father, please look at me for a moment! Father ...
(He tries to push Uttama away and tries to sit on the king’s lap)
Suruchi (getting up angrily): What do you think you are doing Move away you unfortunate child, can’t you see that the king is busy playing with Uttama.
Dhruv: But mother I only...
Suruchi: How dare you call me that way - to call me mother you should have been born to me. Now you will never be able to climb on to your father’s lap or for that matter onto his throne. If you want your father’s love, go pray to Narayana, that, in your next birth, you may be born as my son. That is the only way your father will ever love you.
(Dhruv begins to cry and runs out.)
Narrator: Suniti sits in prayer in front of an idol of Narayana. She is sad as the women of the palace had already told her of what had taken place in the king’s court.
Dhruv: (cries and buries his head in her lap) Mother is it really wrong to want to be with my father? Is it wrong to ask for his affection?
Suniti (tries to pacify the child) Sh sh don’t cry my child. This indeed is the result of sins in our past lives. The king your father has no time for me and treats me below the maid servants in this palace.
 Dhruv: But why did mother Suruchi speak to me like that?
Suniti: I am afraid that Suruchi is right my son. If you want to be treated like Uttama, if you want rule the world someday, the only person who can help you is Narayana.  
(They both sit in deep thought. The mother saddened by the events of the day.)
Dhruv: (getting up suddenly) If it is Narayana that I must seek, so be it. I shall leave right away.
Suniti: Wait Dhruva.... listen to me. This is not the right time ... Dhruva..
Narrator:  As the boy left the city, not listening to his mother’s entreaties, the sage Naradha perceiving his intentions came to meet him.
(Enter Naradha from one side and Dhruv from the other)
Dhruv: Pranam, gurudev.
Naradha: (keeping his hand on Dhruv’s head) Narayana Narayana, ah my little prince, may Narayana shower his blessings on you.
Dhruv: Gurudev, I need your guidance for what I am about to do.
Naradha: I really appreciate your spirit oh young Kshatriya. You are but a child yet you choose to venture into the wilderness then swallow the insults of your stepmother. But tell me my child, where will you go? Life outside the palace and that too in the forest will be abominable.
Dhruv (in astonishment): How did you read my mind gurudev? Tell me how I can live here after mata Suruchi spoke to me like that and my father... my father never said a word to stop her.
Naradha: Know this my child that honour and dishonour are but mere perceptions. You are but a child. You should be playing at this age not choosing the path that sages tread. Besides , the happenings in our lives are the results of past karma. You should be content with your life.
Dhruv:  But gurudev, even my mother said that I must seek out Vishnu..
Naradha: Remember my child that the god Vishnu is very hard to please. Rishis who have done penances in life after life still do not find him. Dhruva you have set out on a journey that you know nothing of. Go back home, this path is not for you.   Perhaps when you are older and when your heart is quieter you may seek the lord.
Dhruv: O gentle sage, my heart is broken beyond repair. I am a Kshatriya a wild and proud spirit. I am ambitious and now I want to be greater than even my ancestors. You are the son of Brahma , you travel through the worlds, please show me the path to attain my wish.
Narrator: Hearing the child’s sweet voice, seeing his resolve, Naradha was moved to tears.
Naradha: I can see that you are not one to be dissuaded. To find Vishnu you must go to Madhuvana on the banks of the Yamuna, he is always there. Sit in a yogic posture and worship him with this mantra – repeat after me – Om namo Bhagavathey Vasudevayaa
(Dhruv repeats after him. They both freeze in the posture of guru and shishya)
Narrator: Naradha described Vishnu’s form to Dhruv- how he was blue like the rain clouds, and wore a yellow silk robe. That he carried in his four hands the shanka the chakra the mace and the lotus. That his eyes were always slightly red and how his presence had a calming effect on people.
(Dhruv falls at Naradha’s feet and proceeds to Madhuvana.)
Narrator: Dhruva reached the Madhuvana and after bathing in the waters of the sacred river Dhruva began chanting the mantra.  He controlled his breath and thought of the form of the lord that Naradha had described to him. He found it easy to meditate thus. The first month he ate fruits that he found in the forest once in three days, the second month he ate on every sixth day grass and dry leaves. For the third month every ninth day he had a sip of water. The fourth month he neither drank nor ate anything. Soon he breathed once only every twelve days.
The devas were dismayed by his penance as it sent waves of fire into their realms. They tried to distract him but in vain. By the fifth month the child stopped breathing and only the chant of the lord’s name held his life to his body. As he stopped breathing all the gods as well as the creatures could not breathe anymore. They pleaded with Vishnu to rescue them.
So Vishnu appeared to the Young Dhruva within just six months of penance to no one else has the lord appeared in such a short duration.   
Vishnu: Wake up O brave one, you have indeed pleased us.
Dhruva: (falling at his feet) tries to speak..
Vishnu: How amazing indeed that one as young as you has sent the gods in the three worlds quaking and running to me...
Narrator: Dhruva was so overwhelmed by the presence of the lord that he kept on looking at him and the emotional swell in his heart was so much that he was unable to speak. Realising that the child was speech less, Vishnu gently touched his cheek with the panchajanya. At this the child began to sing the praise of the lord.
(A song is sung at this point)
Dhruva: I am a simple perishable being lord bound by my desires while you are the paramatma, primeval, changeless, birth less and deathless too.
Vishnu: (smiling) I am pleased with the beautiful hymn that you have sung in my praise.
I know why you began this penance, Dhruva you shall have what you wanted. But I shall give you more. One day I will give you an eternal place in the sky, higher than the Saptharishis . The Sun the moon and the galaxies will orbit around you. Even when the kalpas end and pralaya engulfs the world, your position will be spared.
Oh Dhruva, but this not why you began worshipping me. King you will be and rule over your father’s kingdom for 66thousand years.
Narrator: So saying the lord disappeared from his view. Dhruva stood there for a long time, awed by this encounter. Slowly he began the journey back to his kingdom.   
Narrator: Meanwhile king Uttanapada was sorry for his treatment of Dhruva. The sage Naradha went to meet him.
Naradha:  Why are you sad O king, what calamity has befallen you?
Uttanapada: Oh I am sinner Naradha; there is no man more heartless and weaker than I am.
Naradha: (smilingly) what is the matter my lord?
Uttanapada: How savagely I have treated Dhruva. He saw me playing with Uttama and all he wanted was a bit of my attention. But I cruelly banished him to the forest. I shall never see him again as by now a wolf or a tiger must have surely eaten him.
Suruchi enters excitedly:  What a joyful day it is... I just heard that our son Dhruva has entered the palace gates... They say he shines as bright as the sun himself....
(Suniti too enters the stage at this point)
(Dhruva enters. The king rushes to him and hugs and kisses him. Dhruva touches his father’s feet then touches Suruchi’s feet first)
Suruchi: May you live long my son.
(Uttama comes up ad embraces him)
Suniti: (after he touches her feet raises him up and hugs him) my darling child you have returned in such glory carrying with you the grace of the god of gods.
(Touches the feet of Naradha)
Naradha: You are no ordinary Kshatriya... which other person could hope to achieve what you have in one lifetime even in a hundred lifetimes? 
(Everyone freezes)
Narrator: It is said that a beautiful palace sprung up from nowhere that was to be the abode of Dhruva. It had pillars of gold and floors paved with precious jewels.  It had crystal walls inlaid with green emerald.  When he reached manhood his father crowned him king.  Dhruva always carried the image of lord Narayana in his heart and ruled the earth justly for 36 thousand years.  Later he was transported in a vimana to occupy the highest position ever -a jewel among all the worlds a constant star in the northern sky.  It is around his station in the firmament that all the planets revolve. 

[Translation] Suttum Vizhichudar dhaan

Suttum Vizhichudar dhaan
This is a very popluar love poem by the Mahakavi, so appealing because of its simplicity.The poet is engaged in an argument with his silent beloved, who holds herself back. But the poet's passion is awakened by her very presence as he admires her eyes, her voice, her youth and he helplessly plants a kiss on her cheek.
The mention of stars, the sky and cloth reminded me of a love poem by WB Yeats- He wishes for the cloths of Heaven...

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven - William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Original :
Suttum Vizhichudar dhaan Kanamma Suriya Chandiraro
Vatta kariya Vizhi Kanamma Vaana Karumai kollo
Pattu karuneela pudavai paditha nalvayiram
Natta nadunisiyil theriyum natchathirangaladi

Solai malaroliyo ninadhu sundara punnagai thaan
Neela kadalalaiye ninadhu nenjin alaigalaladi
Kola kuyilosai unadhu kuralin inimaiyadi
Vaalai kumariyadi kanamma maruvakadhal konden

Saathiram pesugirai Kanamma sathiram yedukadi
Aathiram kondavarke Kanamma sathiramundodi?
Muthavar sammadiyil vaduvai muriagal pinbu seivom
Kathirupenodi idhu paar kannathumuthamondru...

Your enticing luminous eyes-
Are they the Sun and the Moon?
Have those rounded dark pupils,
borrowed their hue from the skies?
 A silken night blue saree diamond studded,
Twinkling like stars visible in the darkest hour of the night.

 Do garden flowers lend
their lustre to your alluring smile?
Do the waves of the blue ocean
Echo the quivering of your heart?
Does your voice derive its sweetness
from the song of the cuckoo bird?
Your blooming youth Kanamma,
Stokes the fire of my passion!

You quote scripture and demure,
but beloved, do we really need them?
 Can scripture truly contain the obsessed?
Solemnize, we shall, our vows later,
In the presence of elders.
But now, impatience rules...
See- here's a kiss on your cheek...

A rendition of this poem by Bombay Jayashree: 

I thank Srinivasan Balasubramaniam and Shekar Raghavan for their inputs.

[Translation] ஆண்டாளின் நாச்சியார் திருமொழி - கற்பூரம் நாறுமோ

    What form does bhakti take? In deep veneration it evokes intense spirituality. Can one express romantic love towards the divine? Great s...