Humble Offerings,

SAI I have nothing that belongs to me. What I have is your blessing alone. The things I hold as mine are words, actions and deeds.
SAI please accept my humble offerings..... Offerings at your feet BABA




CREDIT: Many of the uploads here are from SP Archives..Sincere thanks to UPLOADERS AT SP ARCHIVES...


These short audio clips are provided here only in the hope of enticing more audience for Carnatic music. Not to have any commercial advantage. venkatakailasam The intent is to spread the musical message of great Composers and Artists so as to reach as many listeners as possible. They are provided here for educational purposes and for the listening pleasure. Please respect the rights of the artists and do not copy or reproduce these in any manner for commercial purposes. Care is taken not to include commercial clips as the rights of owners are respected. However, any slip in this regard may be intimated to me by E Mail to enable removal of same. E mail: venkatakailasam

Friday, July 29, 2011

Oy BhAratiyArE!- Translation by ARASI-Chapters 1to 12

Some views on the music clips provided therein by ME

Re: Oy BhAratiyArE!--A Child's Eye View of the Poet » 06 Sep 2011 07:05

Just now had a chance of looking at the links V. Kailasam had sent me. Please go and have a look at his website. He has taken the trouble to post the translation there, interspersing it with songs which are mentioned there, sung by various vocalists. I was bowled over to hear NCV sing piLLaip pirAyattilE! Hadn't heard that one at all before! Spring cuckoo, have you?

It is impressive with the imbedded music.
Vkailasam may also add the lyrics to those songs.
He has even added a picture of arasi!
Good work!

He has done an impressive job with the in place linking to the audio. This kind of multimedia collaboration and production is possible only in this connected age.

Litento all ofg Barathi's songs at:

Oy BhAratiyArE!-Yadugiri Ammal-her childhood memories of Barathi-Translated by ARASI

Oy BhAratiyArE!--A Child's Eye View of the Poet » 06 Jul 2011 02:44

Arasi ( Rajee Krishnan )

I am filled with awe and excitement, sharing what follows with my fellow rasikAs here at Let me fill you in on what this is all about.
A dozen years ago, Dwaraki Krishnaswamy, a musician, teacher and composer in Bengaluru gave me a wonderful gift. She happens to be the grand daughter of Mandayam Srinivasa Iyengar, a freedom fighter and friend of Bharathi. When she told me that her mother Yadugiri Ammal had written a book about her childhood memories of the poet called bhArathi ninaivugaL, my first question was: where can I find this book? She said it had been out of print for many years but she kindly offered me the only old copy she had for me to read. I was so moved by the book that I asked her permission to photocopy it. Thanks to her, I could share the copy with relatives and friends. She said at that time that they were trying to get the book reprinted and I was happy. I don't think it happened
Soon after I translated Sanjay Subrahmanyan's interview from KAlachchuvaDu here at and it was well received, I felt that I should translate a precious book like this so that others will get a chance to read it. A pity, I could not locate my copy anywhere I felt sad.
Recently, while looking for old memorabilia, I came upon this little treasure and am I thankful!
Bharathi is mighty. A child is precious--a sensitive child, more so. The families in the community were one during the freedom movement. Great adults figured in the lives of children. Their lives were simple but their thoughts and imagination were fueled by the fervor of the adults around them.
Many books have been written about Bharathi but this one is unique. A fine-tuned mind of a child who was filled with curiosity and verve had the good fortune to interact with Bharathi!
Yadugiri Ammal wrote this book in 1938-39. It was not until 1954 that it got published by Amuda Nialyam. She knew the book was coming out but did not live to see the book.
Amuda Nilayam is very much there in Chennai's publishing world. How I wish to see this book in reprint!

I will type her introduction to the book as an epilogue since I prefer the child telling her story first!

As I did with the interview (and our young Srinivasaraghavan did with his grand story of Shreya and Hari, the CM idols), I will bring this translation in installments).

I write the introduction to Smt. Yadugiri Ammal's book with two opposing emotions. I am delighted that this book which for fifteen years has awaited a publisher, is in print today. Alas, just when her desire to see it in print was nigh, the author of this book left us which fills me with sadness. Yadugiri Ammal had done everything she had to, to get this book ready for the publisher. She was very happy when things started moving and even exclaimed: this book is going to be ready by the coming Bharathi Day!
She passed away on August 2nd. For someone who was ailing for a long time, she perhaps waited a bit more to make sure that her book about Bharathi was going to see the light of the day, after all.

Bharathi arrived in Chennai in 1904 to be a sub-editor at SvadESamitran. Within two years, he became the editor of the weekly INDIA, the thunderous voice of Chennai Jana Sangam, a youth brigade. Its members considered Lokamanya Tilak as their leader. The leading among them were Bharathi, va vu chi (kappalOTTiya tamizhan, Chidambaram piLLai--Arasi), Mandayam Srinivasachari, S Duraiswamy Iyer and others. It was the Mandayam family which financed the publication. INDIA had fire-breathing articles, editorials and cartoons which ridiculed the British Raj and those who fawned on it. The journal created a revolution in Tamizh nADu politics.
It was feared that Bharathi would be arrested. The police did come with a warrant but something unexpected happened. Since the official editor for the journal was M. Srinivasan, he got arrested and went to jail.
The youth decided that they should run the paper from French India and fight for freedom. Bharathi escaped the police and reached Puduvai. Within weeks, Srinivasachari followed him. So did the press. INDIA which was silent for a few weeks, started its work with renewd energy. Bharathi's idea that they could fight the British Government from Puduvai worked and brought two more political leaders, Arabindo Ghosh and Va ve su to Puduvai.
The unity among these men who had left their land was very much evident among their families too. Srinivasachari's family was a support system for Bharathi's family. This was mutually so. After Va ve su arrived with his family, they became part of this family of friends.
Va ve su Iyer's wife Bhagyalakshmi has said this: Chellamma, Bharathi and Srinivasachari's families and our family were like one family. We went to the beach almost every day. Sometimes, Bharathi, on seeing the sea and the sky, would forget himeslf and start singing...

Yadugiri Ammal who is the author of this book is the eldest daughter of Mandayam Srinivasachari. When Bhaarthi was in Puduvai, she was a little girl. She moved intimately with Bharathi and gained his affection. In this book, she describes Bharathi as she had knew him then.
Bharathiyar's political friends like Va vu chi and his disciples like va rA and Bharathidasan, Bharathi's wife Chellammal and his daughter Thangamma have written books about him from their perspectives. Here, we see a child's perspective of the bard and the freedom fighter. She brings to us Bharati the man and the householder. Her homespun style of writing gives this work a distinct flavor.

A genius can be compared to a diamond's sparkle. It is difficult to discern its thousands of rays of light with the help of just one individual. Each sees its play of color from his or her own point of adoration. Some times, they may aver that their points of view alone count! It's possible that they are right, but an opposing point of view may not be invalid, either! To fully understand a genius like Bharathi, you have to bring together all perspectives and then try to understand him. Yadugiri Ammal has spoken of some important and valuable incidents in Bharathi's life from 1912 to 1918 in this work which contributes to our fully understanding the life of Bharathi.
Though it is a pity we have lost the author, we are fortunate in that her old father Sri Srinivasachariar, Bharathi's friend and publisher is still alive at this ripe old age, and lives with his son in Delhi. Bharathi's friends Parasu Nellaiyappar and Doraiswamy Iyer are too. It is the duty of the lovers of Bharathi to seek their help by asking them to describe the Bharathi they knew and publish a book about it.
This way, we will know all the facets of Bharathi's life.

3-9-54 rA. a. Padmanabhan

Yadugiri dedicates this book to the lotus like feet of her father.
(bhArathiyin thOZharAga viLangiya en pithA Sri.SrinivasAchAriyin pAda kamalangaLil ich chiRu nUlai samarppikkiREn)
Yadugiri's FOREWARD

Next only to the love of parents for their children, is the love gurus have for their students. The teacher's love and care for their wards is abundant, indeed.
About forty years ago, I had the great fortune of being Bharathi's disciple and a favored 'daughter'. I'm thrilled to share my experiences with you today.

At that time, patriots were called svadESis. Those who moved to Puduvai to escape arrest and those who went to live there even otherwise--were kaviyarasar BharathiyAr, va ve su Iyer, Aravinda Ghosh, the publishers of Bharthi's weekly INDIA--my father and Thirumalachari and others. There were frequent visitors too.
My father and Bharathi were close friends in Chennai, also our families.
Bharathi came to our house often. He would sing or recite his creations to us. There was no particular time or rhyme about his visits. Sometimes, I'd be occupied with my studies or will be reciting the nAlAyiram that my mother taught me. Whenever Bharathi came, my attention would turn to him. If I heard him sing upstairs, I would try to copy singing the first line of the verses. If Bharathi noticed it, he would ask me to come upstairs and give me the piece of paper on which the verse was written. I had safeguarded those in a book of mine. As luck would have it, the book was ruined by getting caught under a broken wall in Puduvai in the terrible storm in naLa varusham on kArthikai 6th (1916).
Since I was a mere child when I knew Bharathi, I did not have the capacity to appreciate his lofty thoughts which sparkled in all that he said. With what I can recollect, I realize that every word of his was precious--his thoughts were something which the world could learn from and some, beyond our comprehension.
It was my duty every time he came to see us, to offer him a Sembu ( little pot ) full of water and betel leaves and areca nuts. Va ve su came with bharathi regularly in the evenings, occasionally in the mornings. It was not so with Bharathi. He appeared at any time of the day.
There were many students, friends, relatives and others who knewof his greatness. They adored him and praised him no end. Yet, all put together, they could not bring him the peace of mind which could have made him sing his heart away without a care in the world. Still, Bharathi mostly spent histime adoring Nature and its beauty and in conversing joyously with others.
Bharathi was a fierce reformer. He used to say: 'tamizh world' has just opened its eyes and is like an infant, learning to turn on its belly and hasn't developed its ability in looking around in all four directions...
He was intense in wanting to uproot many old so-called traditions. Smt. Chellamma often differed from him on this. Chellamma kept her orthodox ways in the kitchen. While she was cooking, observing 'maDi', Bharathi, after washing his hands and feet, would enter the kitchen and handle the utensils. "paTRu! Don't touch them!", Chelamma would object. Bharathi would not care and an argument would follow but Bharathi prevailed. Chellamma would keep quiet after that.

Bharathi ate at anyone's house when he was invited to a meal. Religion or caste did not mean anything to him. Whatever he said in his verses, he observed in his life. His thoughts were translated into his deeds. However tough it seemed, he was tireless in doing this. He did not care what others said about his behavior either.

Bharathiyar sang his songs with such bhAvam. He sang majestically. It gave goose bumps to those who heard him. He has described his life in some of his songs. How many precious songs he has created in simple kummi tunes, folk tunes and in hindusthAni mode!
Nowadays, great artistes sing his songs in many rAgAs and varNa meTTus. Still, those who have heard him sing will not be as thrilled. His majesty and his becoming one with hi ssong is something no one can match.
Bharathi's glory has spread far and wide today. We hear his poems everywhere. I heart often aches to think that he did not live to see all this. Then I console myself. Though he is gone,.he has left behind his greatness in his writings for us to cherish him eternally.
We could not do much for Bharathi's peace of mind then. At least now, tamizh folks should make it their duty to support poets who still live among us.
I felt I should share wha I know about Bharathi with others. These impressions were written in 1938-39. They are going to see the print now. I am not a woman of today, a college-educated one. I was schooled at home by my father. I humbly request that 'periyOrgaL' (lofty readers) forgive me for my inadequacies and see only the essence of what I have presented here.

ma. gO. Yadugiri


Chapter ONE
The ElElO Song

Bharathiyar loved the music of snake charmers and washermen--songs which were sung by women pounding rice. He liked listening to fishermen and workers in the field more than he did to musicians in concerts.
Bharathi, Chellamma and six of us (children of both families) were walking on the beach of Puduchery. The fishermen had come ashore, their boats filled with fish. They were singing happily. Bharathi interrupted our jovial conversation with several shabhAsh-s in response to their singing.
I asked: This is funny! There is neither rAgam nor any sense to their singing. What makes you appreciate them so much?

Chellamma: You know him! He gets all excited when that man who carries the MAriamman image and beats that uDukkai (mini hand drum) comes to our street. He starts dancing! He loses his senses. This evening, hearing the sound and beat of the waves and their nonsensical music thrills him!
Bharathi went to the fishermen with a paper and pencil and asked an old man to sing the song line by line. He corrected some of his words and came back to us.

Bharathi: You make fun of me as usual--but listen to this. That old man taught me the fundamentals about this Universe.

Chellamma: Indeed! You are the student of every paRaiyan and fisherman. Yet, you refuse to be a Sishya of the guru at the maTam!

Bharathi: I do not want to believe in superstitious, far-from-the-truth dogmas. The fishermen do their work and we are not any different in the way we are made.
Me: Let not our fun-filled outing end in an argument! Oy BharatiyAre! Why don't you explain the meaning and the beauty of the fishermen's song?

With that piece of paper in hand, Bharathi started singing the song. His singing went on for more than half an hour and we were all lost in it. I can still hear that tune now...
My brother Sami said, "You haven't given us the meaning of the song yet. It's eight o' clock already!"
None of us were aware of the time.
Bharathi: Sami, before God, before the creation of this universe, what do you think existed?
Sami: We ask a question and you ask us for an answer?
Bharathi: I'm a crazy man who is both a guru and a student. If I am to tell you everything, how may I learn the things that you know?
Me: nAlAyira divya prabandham says there was water before everything came into existence.Our perumAL was afloat on a banyan leaf.

Bharathi: Yadugiri! You say your perumAL and ours are different? When are you going to give up these silly notions?
Me: I'm still young. I do not have that much knowledge. It's late. Give us the meaning of the song.
I tugged at his shirt.

Bharathi: At the very beginning, God took on the form of a fish.Then a turtle which lived both in water and on land.
He then changed into a boar which stayed more on land and less in water. As Narasimham, He was half man, half beast. How much relevance there is in this to our lives is what this ElElO song beautifully describes. Yes, bhAgavatam, purANam, pATTuk kachEri, but how oblivious you seem to be to the joy there is in this song!
Chellamma: Tell us more.
Bharathi: Aha! You seem to like this song now!
Chellamma: How could I make all this out in their garbled words!
Bharathi: By paying attention! To continue the story, Mahavishnu was born as a dwarf and then took the form of a human, the father of all men, an inspiring model--Rama, representing justice and righteousness. Then on to Krishna,
illustrating action which was carried out in dharma. He did so in this avatAr and also through Arjuna. As BuddhA, he taught renunciation and ahimsA. Now, as Kalki, he is going to unify all religions. We may not live to see it, but our descendants will. This is the meaning of the song.

Chellamma: Why isn't there the name of SivA in all this?
Me: VishNu is the one who took on the ten incarnations. He is the beginning.
Bharathi: SivA? VishNu? They are the same. Chellamma, you say SivA and Yadugiri says VishNu, I say they are all oneI
It's getting late. Let's go home.

How many years is it since this happened? Yet, I see it as if it is happening now, like a day dream...

* * * * *
ViTTu ViDudalaiyAgi...
(To Feel Freedom...)

One Friday evening, Swaminatha Dikshitar's daughter Meena and I went to Bharathiyar's house in Easwaran Dharmaraj Koil Street. Chellamma was not her usual self. It was the end of the month. Meena left at six. Bharati was out. Chellamma and I were alone in the house.
A silence prevailed. After a few minutes, I started the conversation.

Me: Chellamma, what's bothering you? Are you not well?

Chellamma: Nothing ails me, Yadugiri. It's just as if a worm is eating through my heart. I need to share this with someone but you are a mere child. I don't want to burden you with all this.

Me: I don't mind at all. I will ask Bharathiyar--"is it mere lip service that you pay for the freedom of women? Can't you show it in your actions at home?"

Chellamma: My dear child! It's the month end and we still owe money to the milkman from last month. He demanded it yesterday and I could not appease him. Bharathiar was supposed to send his article to Swadesamithran today. I got his coffee and betel leaves after he bathed and kept the ink bottle, pen and paper ready on the desk for his writing. I picked the rice and then went to change into my maDi sari. I knew he wasn't in a mood to write. When I went back to fetch the rice, I found that he had scattered a portion of it to the sparrows. He was singing to them. I was in tears. He says, "Come Chellamma! Look how happy these sparrows are! Why can't you and I be just as happy? You nag me and I get impatient with you. Don't they teach us unity? What fools we are!"
I couldn't bear this. "why do you provoke me like this?", I burst out. I wanted to finish my cooking before the children returned from ANNi Amma's (Ponnu Murugesan Pillai's wife) house. You have scattered away part of the rice to the sparrows. How long is it going to be before we see some money? You haven't even started your writing yet. The milkman puts me to shame. The maid hasn't turned up the past two days. Shouldn't you be thinking about these? Instead, you ask me to be as happy as the sparrows! God is unkind. He punishes me by giving me children to take care of..." Then I went away to make the meal. When I came out of the kitchen, he was singing 'viTTu viDudalaiyAgi' to baby Shakunthala and she was jumping with joy. He was in a blissful state. The sparrows were pecking away. When they were all so happy, i did not want to spoil it and so I kept quiet. The dancing and singing came to an end around noon. Baby Shakunthala said, "Appa, come, let's eat. I'm hungry." Bharathiyar sat down for the meal in silence.
Then he said, "Chellamma, are you still angry with me? Look, I'm sending the sparrows song to the newspaper. You will have the money on the Ist of the month. Don't fear!"
Yadugiri, he's a good man, an innocent soul. When he gets the money, he will give it to me. But they won't pay him if he does not send his articles to them and it frets me."
I did not respond to it straight away. Then I said this to make her feel better: "What if it's a poem, so long as he has sent it away today?"
Chellamma said, "No wonder that you're his favored child! You come to his defense very easily!"
"You make me feel much better, anyway!", added the good woman.
Bharathi came home and asked, "Yadugiri, have you read my new song?"
"No, but Chellamma told me abut it. May I have a look?"
Bharathi fetched me the paper.

Chellamma: Every little word that comes out of your mouth is picked up by Yadugiri. She's a little child, but when I told her what happend this morning, she asks, "What difference does it make, a poem or an article, so long as it has been sent away today?"

Bharathi: She's absolutely right. You may not relish it now Chellamma, but wait and see. Yadugiri, I don't know if I will live to see it--you surely will. You are going to see that they will sing praises of me and revere me for these little verses. This land of tamizh hasn't opened its eyes yet. If it has, it is still in its infancy."
Saying this, Bharathi gave me the piece of paper. The last line of this song which I knew by heart, I remember to be 'vAnoLiyennum maduvin Suvai' which in the printed version reads as ' vAnoLiyin maduvin SuvaiyuNDu'. Did Bharathi change it? I don't know...
* * * * *
BhArata dESam enRu peyar SolluvAr
(This land called BhAratam)

 deleted copyrighted

On Sunday mornings, the 'svadESis' in Puduchery went for a dip in the ocean--leaving home for the beach at seven and returning by ten. My father, Bharathiyar, Iyer (Va Ve Su), Tirumalachari and Nagaswami (he worked at The India Weekly which was run by my father. He lived with the Iyer family at that time and moved to AravindAshram later).
Four or five of us (children) were part of this Sunday ritual. Then there were the plain clothesmen from the police, keeping a distance of a furlong from us, but shadowing us.
One Sunday, we were traversing Gowrla St where we saw a snake charmer in front of a house who was given a kAlaNA coin by the servant of the white man who lived there, asking him to move on.
"kAlaNA is enough for me to buy milk for the snake. DoraiyE! (addressing the owner of the house), offer me a handful of rice, so that I can eat too!"
Then he saw us approaching and played his maguDi again. The snake started dancing. As we passed him, he called to us: generous ones! I'm shivering with cold. I haven't eaten in two days. May God bless you!
We knew from our mother that the sea is a king (samudra rAjan).You don't go empty-handed when you go to see him.
She usually gave us a quarter aNA piece and a little packet of turmeric powder before we left for the beach. The snake charmer saw the kAlaNA in my hand and pleaded: Amma, give me that money and I can buy some iDlis and not go hungry!
I held on to my kAlaNA and walked on saying that it was meant for the samudra rAjan. Bharathi who was walking ahead of me stopped in his track. He pulled his anga vastram (top cloth)from his shoulder, wrapped it round his waist, drew his new vEShTi away and gave it to the snake charmer who blessed him and praised his generosity with all his heart. The man was also cross with me for my miserliness, I could tell.
We walked on to the beach. I threw the kAlaNA into the sea and smeared myself with turmeric. The elders held on to our hands once we stepped into the sea. Bharathi was holding my hand this time.
Bharathi: Yadugiri, why did you throw the coin into the sea?
Me: Samudram is a king. You have to throw a coin or a lemon in it before you step into the water.Otherwise, he gets angry.
Bharathi: Who told you this?
Me: My mother who knows everything. My brother gave away his kAlaNA to the snake charmer. You better hold on to him in case the sea gets angry with him!
Bharathi: Iyer is holding his hand. As for you, are you going to listen to what I'm going to say?
Me: Tell me.
Bharathi: Had you given the kAlaNA to the poor man, he could have fed his children with it. What's the use for this coin which is going to be buried in the sand? Had you offered some food to the sea, the fish would have eaten it. What can they do with the money?

Me: You are right, but my mother told me to do this. Doesn't she know?

Bharathi: These are meaningless gestures. In old times they threw money into ponds and tanks so that the karaiyALars who cleaned them got the money. Your throwing the coin into the sea is of no avail. The sea cleans itself with its waves. It does not need your help.

Me: BharathiyArE! In that case, find that kAlaNA. We can give it to the man on our way back.

Bharathi: Never mind. Don't do this again, though.

Me: By the way, what have 'you' done, giving your brand new vEshTi away to the man? What's Chellmma going to say? You could have given him the worn upper cloth instead!

Bharathi: Others give me things. He has no such luck. I didn't mind giving it to him, why does it bother you?

I could not answer him.
We went further into the ocean, up to our chests, holding on securely to the hands of the elders.
When we were home, the children went to the back courtyard (muTRam)to bathe in warmed up water which awaited us. Bharathi, AiyyA (my father) and others drew water from the big toTTi (rectangular tub where drawn water gets stored) in the front courtyard and bathed.
They were putting on dry clothes when we were back.
Bharathi: AnnA! Yadugiri was upset that I gave away the vEshTi to the pAmbATTi. (turning to me) Yadugiri, I gave away one and got two back from your AiyyA! Now, tell me who is the generous one among us?

Me: Fine! Bharathiyare!I loved the tune which the pAmbATTi played. If only you can sing in that rAgam!

Bharathi: I will teach you one tomorrow. Once again, tell me. Who's the most generous among us all?

Me: Aren't you all one? So, both of you are generous! I'm sorry I threw away the coin. I will not do it again.

Bharathi was very happy to hear this. He started relating what transpired that morning to others--in English.

He came the next evening and we assembled upstairs and heard him sing vandE mAtaram first. Then,
bhArata dESam enRu peyar SolluvAr--miDip,
payam kolluvAr tuyar pagai velluvAr
bhAratap pOr venRa kaNNanaruLAl--tuyar
bhAramaRuvar Selva bhAramuRuvAr.

He sang fourteen stanzas of this song.
I'm known for asking questions all the time. Iyer and Bharathi answered me with patience every time. I asked a few questions now: This is fine, but when will all this happen? Do we really need machines for making needles and nails? I think arms are important (Ayudam) and you make only a fleeting reference to them in this song!

Bharathi: The child raises tough questions. Let me think. How can we sew without a needle? Clothing is as essential as food for the people. You need nails to make boxes, hang pictures...

I notice that in the printed versions of Bharathi's verses, four of the following lines have been omitted:

bhAratap pOr venRa kaNNAnaruLAl--tuyar
bhAramaRuvAr, Selva bhAramuRuvAr

and later on in the poem,

bhArata rANiyin, kaNNanaruLAl--tuyar
bhAramaRuvAr, Selva bhAramuRuvAr

* * * * *

Manadil uRudi vENDum
(Fortitude, O Mind!)


After Christmas, in the tamizh month of Thai (January-February), KoDiyAlam Rangaswamy Iyengar and C.Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) came to Puduvai--both were close friends of my father. After spending some hours with Bharathi, Iyengar could guess that the poet was living in a state of penury.Tamizh annai's grace and Iyengar's enchantment with Bharathi's poetry brought a bounty. Iyengar gave the poet a few hundred rupees to help out.
They were critical times. Bombs went off in Delhi. It was a trying time for the svadESis. When the gift came, Chellamma got some jewelry made. With the rest of the money, she bought provisions for a whole year--paddy, lentils, tamarind, chillies and so on. There were no mechanical grain-processing mills in Puduchery. Womenfolk came to our houses to pound the paddy and winnow it to get the rice ready for cooking. For very twelve sErs of rice they pounded, they were paid a quarter paDi of rice and a paDi of broken rice (noi).
On the day a woman came to pound the paddy, Bharathi was writing a story--Golden Tailed Fox or A Fox which Lost its Tail about Annie Beasant, I'm not sure (the editor's note says that the title was The Fox with A Golden Tail).
Bharathi could not continue writing and Chellamma sensed it.
Chellamma: I will ask the woman to come tomorrow to pound the rice.
Bharathi: Let her do her work.
Chellamma: The sound of the pounding might distract you.
Bharathi: That sound prompts me to ask parASakti for a boon. Don't stop her.
Chellamma: First of all, ask parASakti to feed us well.
Bharathi: You like to see me enslaved? I have already given you the money I had. Do not burden me anymore.
Chellamma: Am I forcing you to do anything? You wanted to publish a book and I am saying, do it when we have the funds.
Bharathi: Chellamma, if you trouble me anymore, I will go away.
Chellamma: If you walk away, I will take a walk in another direction. Let someone else bring up the children.
Bharathi: You mean to say I'm not capable of bringing them up?
Chellamma: I'm not capable of asking parASakthi of any boons, as you do. I can only ask you for boons. Is that wrong?
Bharathi: Don't I know my responsibilities? And, why drag the innocent children into all this?
Chellamma: Am I blaming the children? If you say that you want to walk away, I'm saying that I can do that too.
Bharathi: Don't agitate me. Go attend to your work.
Chellamma went away to mind her work.
Bharathi was writing but his mind was not in it. His attention now turned to the paddy-pounding woman's song. She finished each line of her song with a 'hum!' in rhythm. Bharathi's mind lingered over it and he picked up his pen and wrote a song:
manadil uRudi vEND 'um'. He also finished writing the story and went out to dispatch them both.
In the evening, Bharathi said to me: I found a new mantra today.
Me: Teach me that mantra.
Chellamma: He asks parASakthi for her boons and we all have to ask him for boons!
Bharathi started singing the song. At first, the woman was stunned. Then she questioned him: SAmi, are you teasing me? We sing while we pound to distract ourselves from the hard work. Are you poking fun at me and my work?
Bharathi: AiyyO ammE! Don't get angry. Your song is different and novel from the ones I've heard. I have a magic song born out of your singing. Should you be angry?
The woman wasn't convinced. She said, "If the children do this, you are supposed to tell them off! Who is to reprimand you if it's you who makes fun of me?"
Chellamma: aDiyE! Iyer did not tease you at all. He made up a song like yours because he liked it and wanted to remember you and your tune! Don't fight like a mad woman. Go home happy with your rice.
The woman widened her eyes and asked: Does Iyer make up stories and songs (kadai kaTTuvArA?)? How surprising! He even sings like me! How soon he got the drift!
She left in wonderment.

To be continued...
Continuing Chapter FOUR (see post # 25)

Bharathi: I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Two arguments today...
Me: Who was the other one?
Bharathi: Who else? My wife!
Me: What's the point in your celebrating the freedom of women when you indulge in fights with your wife!
Chellamma: Good question, Yadugiri! Ask him if it's fair.
Bharathi: True. But there are times when you cannot interfere.
Me: What happened?
Chellamma: I asked him--if he can walk away, can't I do it too?
Me: Yes, if you have the freedom to do it, she has too.
Bharathi: You are still a child, Yadugiri! It's tough for you to comprehend all this. A wayward bull can be tamed only by placating it first. If you tug at it mindlessly, it will run out of your grasp. I may be able to leave but she has more responsibilities.
Me: You talk to me in riddles. What did happen?
Bharathi: You tell her, Chellamma. That way, you can unburden yourself.
Chellamma described the incident.
Me: Oy Bharathiyare, you think you love the children more than Chellamma does?
Bharathi: I didn't say that. Yes, we both love them but she's the nurturer and I'm the bread winner. I don't need any rules about how to go about my responsibilities.
Me: Then, Chellamma, you can cook whenever you feel like it!
Bharathi: No Yadugiri. It's not like that at all. Whatever we do, we have to do it well and we have to be understanding.
Chellamma: You say that I am not understanding?
Bharathi: Don't underestimate yourself. Your prodding helped. I've already sent the story to the printers!
Chellamma: I don't like to hear women complain abut their husbands.I get annoyed at them. Yet, there's a limit to everything. When you cannot bear it anymore, you feel like crying to an inanimate door even!
Bharathi: All that prodding this morning has resulted in productive work, after all. Come, let's all go to the beach!

The things that Bharathi spoke about at the beach that evening is something all the people of our land should know about.
Bharathi said: You women work hard at home, wearing yourselves out. It's a sin to look upon you without any respect. You bring up children. You carry out your responsibilities faithfully and are there for us when we need you.
We do not live in old times. Things are changing. If children are irresponsible, we have to guide them, not force or control them.
Yet, Chellamma was right. My kavidaip paiththiyam (Muse) possessed me. In the heat of things, arguments came about. We have tangak kiLis (golden parrots) for children, though we are not rich enough to adorn them with gold.
A poet's poverty is legendary. Tamizh has lost its prestige and pride. If we celebrate the tamizhk kuzhandai Lakshmi, grace will come to us. If the vITTuth thalaivi (the mistress of the house) runs the household in harmony and if the vITTuth thalaivan (the master of the house) can live a happy and healthy life, he will do all that she bids. What the thalaivi needs is some money. My Chellamma is capable of ruling the world, if only she had the means. The lack of it makes her ask me, fight with me. EVen after dealing with all this, she is there to feed me.
The one who thinks of the past is a fool. As we wash and dry our clothes every day, we should get rid of our own ills and troubles that way too. Just as the Sun rises every morning, we should see everything anew and rejoice.
Chellamma is my life, my treasure. She's bhAgya Lakshmi...
The land of the Tamizh people should know about Bharthi's angst. Supporting poets is one of the nation's responsibilities. Had we protected Bharathi from such heartaches, he would have lived a little longer...
Who knows of God's ways!

* * * * *

mUnRu kAdal
(Three Loves)

As on every Thursday, the band played in front of the statue of Dupleix for about an hour. The white kids danced around the band and that was a lovely thing to watch.
Bharathiyar did not like crowds that much. He led us away to the beach.
Thangam(ma): Appa, this music sounds strange. They play at such a high pitch. Is it possible for us to sing at that pitch? If we can, you think it's going to sound pleasant?
Bharathi: This music is very different from our music. It quickly jumps from low pitch to the high. In our music, we go up as if we climb the stairs, and descend the same way. They sing one note in the kIzhk kAlam and then they go up abruptly.
Thangam asked again: Appa, if we sing that way, do you think it will sound pleasing?
Bharathi: It depends on how you sing it.
Thangam: It's Sarasvati pUjai tomorrow. Appa! Teach us a song in this tune!
Bharathi: Yes, you can have a song in this tune.
The band started playing a new tune.
I said, "We can sing about Lakshmi in this tune?"
Bharathi said, "Why not? "
Chellamma: In Calcutta and kASi, they worship kALi. If you sing on Shakti, all our troubles will come to an end.
The band then played four lines in kIzh sthAyi and four in mEl sthAyi notes.
Bharathi: Chellamma, what you all say sounds good. Thangamma asked for a song about Sarasvati, Yadugiri wanted something on Lakshmi and you want one about kALi. I will sing on all the three of them tomorrow.
Thangamma: Appa, three songs in three different rAgams? You sing your verses in noNDich chindu, kAvaDich chindu,Anandak kaLippu and tunes in which the ANDis (mendicants) sing. I think I'm going to like a song where each verse is in a different rAgam!
Bharathi: You tell me how you want me to tune them.
Thangamma: We like the tunes this band plays!
It was mOOla nakshtram the next day. Some celebrate Sarasvati pUjA on that day (as we do in our house) and others on MahA navami day. We had a small kolu (dolls display for navarAtri) and we were just finishing our singing and were nearly ready for the finale,the Arati--when Bharathiyar arrived.
He said, "I'm going to sing for your kolu and you can observe your shAstrams afterwards."
We all sat down in a row, eager with expectation.
As he had promised us, Bharathi sang a verse about Sarasvati, Lakshmi and KALi, starting with the line 'piLLaip pirAyattilE'. These verses are known as mUnRu kAdal. He sang them in sarasvati manOhari, sri rAgam and in punnAga varALi.
We were thrilled to hear him sing our requests!
I think we can get a glimpse of Bharati's life in this song...

Sentamizh nADenum pOdinilE
(By the mere mention of my great land's name...)

Some Sangam (institution) in Chennai had announced in the papers, a contest and prizes for the best poems about our land.The cash prizes were three hundred, two hundred and one hundred rupees for the winners. We were all very keen that Bharathi should enter the contest.
He agreed. He composed Sentamizh nADenum pOdinilE and sent it away. Each word in that poem is worth a lakh of rupees (akshara laksham). Why? For each one of those ten verses, he should have been awarded ten crores, ten lakhs, ten thousand--at least a thousand? The Chennai sangam placed him third among the winners and sent him a hundred rupees. It didn't worry Bharathi. Va ve su was most upset. "Neither of the other winning poems were worth a line of Bharathi's poem which has sweetness, chandam, finesse and depth of meaning", he moaned. "They are poles apart from Bharathi's verse (malaikkum maDuvukkum uLLa vityAsam). They are like strewn flowers (the words), no strand binding them together! This land does not know the value of great poetry!"
Bharathi: As if you didn't know! They would have decided on the winners even before they announced the contest. All this is just for public display. Why do you rue? It's just our luck!
Iyer's constant regret was that there wasn't a figure in our times like RamanujA who spread the poetry of the AzhwArs--a giant like him to popularize Bharathi's poetry and to bring him into prominence.
Iyer nevertheless was thrilled when Bharathi's songs got popular, at least after his death--that the third prize winning song was heard in every corner of tamizh nADu, in several different rAgAs at that. There is no trace of the other two songs or the poets--the first and second prizes winners...

Continued from Post # 34

Around this time, we lost my little brother. He was just two. It was a stomach ailment. The medicines did not work. My father was broken-hearted. Losing money in the svadESi ship venture, the banning of his beloved journal India and all the atrocities of the British government had not shaken him. He was brave. The loss of his little child shook him up. He became weak. To divert his mind, Va ve su and Bharathiar spent most of their time with my father, conversing with him and playing chess. They will all go to Arabindo's house in the evening to discuss the VEdAs and upanishads, returning home at ten or eleven.
On the day my baby brother died, they buried him and returned home. Bharathi was perturbed. He pleaded with dEVi for a boon.
He wrote nalladOr vINai SEidE (under the heading kETpana) and sang it to the children.

My mother got sick with grief. The medicines did not work and they tried to heal her with herbal medicine. To get her out of the house, Chellamma and the children took my mother to a kuzhAik kiNaRu (huge well fitted with a giant tap--like a shower) called pATALa gangai to bathe. On some days, we left early at six and had our oil baths.
Chellamma insisted that my mother should join us every evening to spend some time by the sea. We were at the beach until nine at night.
Va ve su kept my father company. On a cardboard chess board, they played with chess pieces which were made out of cardboard again, with the first letter of the piece's name printed on them. My father ailed from headaches and chest pain. Iyer and Bharathi stayed by him.
One evening, we left for Villianur to bathe in the river. It was on the day of a festival at the temple. ArudrA dariSanam? A lad called Swaminathan came with us as our guide. We stayed at his relative's home there. The next morning, we bathed in the river, looked round the place and had lunch there. Around two in the afternoon, we engaged a cart and left for Puduchery. The wheel of the cart broke when we were three miles away from home and we could not find another cart. The maid carried my baby sister Ranganayaki and we walked home, chatting all the way.
Bharathiyar was surprised that Chellamma could walk all the three miles. After that day, if Chellamma ever complained about aching legs, he would tease her by asking, "enna Chellamma? Did you go all the way to see ArudrA dariSanam?"
Those were the times when the two families were together all the time. Six more months went by, with pAtAla gangai in the morning, and evenings at the beach.
About this time, Astronomy became a craze among us. There was a telescope in Puduchery. It was available to anyone who wanted to look through it at the skies.
This is how we spent our time...

* * * * *

PeNgaL viDudalai
(Freedom for women)

On the morning of the festive day of mASi Magam, women, men and children of our families went to the beach to take a holy dip in the sea when PerumAL Himself--the utsava mUrthi idol from the VishNu temple was at the beach to have a bath in the sea. It is a beautiful sight to see in Puducheri.
That evening we were playing at the beach and Bharathiyar came around with little Shakunthala in tow who is the same age as my sister Ranganayaki. They both loved to play together.
Shakunthala: What did you have for lunch?
Ranganayaki: kottavaraikkAi (cluster beans) kaRiyamudu (vegetable), coconut and curd pachchaDi and paruppup pAyasam (dessert).
Shakunthala: What's so special today?
Ranganayaki: We bathed in the sea, worshipped PerumAL and ate dessert.
Shakunthala: What festival, you think?
Ranganayaki: I don't know!
Shakunthala: Silly you! It's mAsi Magam today! MAsi Magam!
Listening to all this, Bharathi burst out laughing. Then he said: Come here, little ones! You both speak like sweet parrots. One a golden parrot and the other an iron parrot! Who will be which?
Shakunthala: I'm the golden parrot! RangA is the iron parrot.
RangA: I'm the golden parrot, she's the iron one!
Shakunthala: No, it can't be! It was ' my' father who asked us to choose!
Ranga: Let's not fight over this. Both of us can be thangak kiLis (golden parrots)!
Bharathi was exultant. He picked RangA up and went to my father. "I spoke mindlessly, hurting the children's feelings and this little one of yours set everything straight!"
From that day on, Bharathi called RangA thangak kiLi.
Ranga said to my father, "I was right. We both are fair of complexion." Then she turned to Bharathi and asked him: Why don't you pick Shakunthala up too?"
"Come, Shakunthala!" said Bharathi, beckoning to her. "Ranga has turned you into a golden parrot!"
Shakunthala said, "I won't come. If you want, you can come and pick me up!" Bharthi hoisted her up and then put her down so that the children could continue their play.
I finished doing my homework. Then Bharathi asked: Do you want to hear about this hilarious incident which happened this morning? After the festival, I thought lunch was going to be late and thought it was a good idea to take the children to an eatery (hOTTal) when we left the beach. Shakunthala ate like a good girl. Thangamma made a big fuss. "I just had a holy dip in the sea and will not drink at this echcil (polluted) table! I asked the waiter to bring a maNai (plank) for her to sit on the floor and to bring some iDlis. The waiter brought water in a glass and Thangamma refused it saying, too many others have sipped from it. The waiter brought water again in a bell metal tumbler (from which one can drink without the utensil touching one's lips). By this time, the idlis were cold. He brought fresh iDlis again. The eyes of the customers were all on Thangamma. When we came out of the hOTTal, I asked her: ennamma? Why all that drama? I don't want to take you out to an eatery again. Are you an old lady to observe all this maDi (sticking to strict religious codes)? Thangamma replied: Do I have to be an old woman to say I won't drink from a glass which so many others have sipped from? I felt sick in my stomach when I saw the man put all the dirty glasses into a tub to rinse them. I would have happily gone hungry, waited an hour for the meal. I wouldn't have died! He even dropped a glass in it which a leper drank from. These eating places are very dirty. My periamma (aunt) shuns even a piece of jack fruit sold in the bazaar. The fruit has to be cut at home. She would not have approved of this place at all! What Chellamma cooks is fine by me. I think that's the healthy way to be.
Yadugiri: Thangam is not used to hOTTals. Our mother says we can't even buy the cashew and cardomom candy from the hOTTal.
Bharathi: Let grownups be the way they want to be. Children needn't follow such restrictions!
Yadugiri: Isn't it good to cultivate good habits when you are young?
Bharathi: I shouldn't take Thangam to eateries anymore.
Yadugiri: I think what she said was sensible. We needn't drink from a glass contaminated by a leper, those with sores or a man with tuberculosis.
Bharathi: I can't win. You are Thangam's advocate!
Yadugiri: Then, explain it to me. I won't argue.
Bharathi. It was all very well, their laying down the rules in ancient days. It's wrong when you do it on the basis of caste. A brahmin could be afflicted with tuberculosis and that's fine by them. A SUdrA--he's strong and healthy--and it's a taboo to eat with him?
Here's something that happened on the train the other day. It was a small compartment and we were only three of us in it. Myself and a young couple. The husband and I were conversing.The young woman didn't say a word. The man got down at a station to get some coffee. The woman tuned to me and started asking me about my whereabouts, family and so on, and the moment the husband appeared, she turned mute. Then I got down to get some betel leaves and when I got into the train, I found them chatting away merrily. Seeing me, she was silent again! What kind of tradition is this? It all seemed so stupid. I felt like giving them a lecture on it but I restrained myself.
Yadugiri: Yes, it's like being a slave. She does not have the freedom to talk to others when the master is around. She could not contain herself when he went away. So she spoke to you.
Bharathi: Some slave! I would have said something, but didn't want to stir things up.
Yadugiri: Once this changes, women can interact with others without fear. Now they walk in the streets with their heads bent down, not being able to look up even at cattle and carts which come from the opposite direction!
Bharathi: I'm going to write a long article about freedom for women. I will write poems about it.
Yadugiri. Will that mean that freedom will come to women?
Bharathi: Listen, the old rules are of no use now. Other nations have marched ahead of us now. We have stayed behind because women have been enslaved.
Yadugiri: I would say that this nation has been stable because of women. Men wear vESHTis manufactured by mills while women wear saris woven by hand. Habits, traditions, festivals, poetry, history, purAnams and ethical works have all been preserved only because of women. Where is there the time for you English pundits, to take care of all this?
Bharathi: BhalE! You have swallowed every word of what Iyer said in his speech! As for me, I don't mind losing an argument to a child. It's a matter of pride for a guru to lose an argument to his student. There are many instances of it in our history.
Yadugiri: Please don't forget to make up a song for us in a new tune for our shObhanam dance!
Bharathi: Thangamma asked for a song for kummi today. You ask for one now. You both will have it tomorrow.
The song he brought to us the next day was: peNgaL viDudalai peTRa magizhchchigaL( The joys of women attaining freedom)

* * * * *

Karumbuth thOTTaththilE
(In the sugarcane fields)

Someone had given a speech on Indian immigrant workers in Fiji, victims of cruelty at the hands of their employers. Bharathi's publisher had asked him to write a poem about it. I went with my father and Va ve su to Bharathi's house.

Bharathi: Welcome! It's trimurthi darSanam for me today!

Iyer: We are here because we hadn't seen you the past few days.

Bharathi: I had a cold. I get one if I bathe in cold water at home. Bathing in the river, pond or the sea doesn't bother me. Chellamma has been ill. The maid hasn't turned up. The journal has been pestering me too.

Va ve su: Before you bathe in cold water, walk two hundred or three hundred paces briskly. You won't catch a cold.

Bharathi: I could as well go to the pond to bathe, look at the beauty of Nature around me rather than having to stare at an ugly wall at home, IyerE!

Va ve su: Yes, it's good to be out. If you have to bathe at home, walk first. What are they pestering you about?

Bharathi: They wanted me to write about the plight of the slaves in Fiji.

Va ve su: What's the title of the poem? If you have included the country's name in it, Fiji will come into focus.

Bharathi: karumbuth thOTTam is the title.

My father: You did the right thing! 'India, our Mother' is how our anthem goes. Somehow, I don't think the word India goes well with tamizh words! I'm glad you left Fiji out of the title.

Bharathi sang that song to us. I got upset hearing it and started crying. Bharathi consoled me."This is happening a thousand miles away. Don't cry!"

Va ve su: When we grown ups have tears in our eyes, what will the child do? It's not surprising. Alas! The government refused to take action!

My father: That's why Bharathi is invoking the Gods!

Va ve su: What nastiness! The mEstri (leader of the work crew) lures those innocent men away to Fiji, only to subject them to such inhumane treatment!

Bharathi: IyerE! You speak like a hundred year old man (nUTRuk kizhavan)! Don't you see? We can only stop the shipping of more such slaves. It's impossible to do much for the ones who are already trapped there. I saw it in the newspaper today. When a husband was away at work, a man went to his door and gave his wife a chit. The street was deserted. She read it. "Your husband is dying. Come immediately!" She panicked, locked the door and with the child on her hip, followed the man who took her to a ship which was ready to sail away at one in the afternoon. The beserk woman asked, "Why are you taking me to the ship?". The man said, "because your husband's boss asked him to take a message to the captain and while he was climbing up the steps, he got giddy, fell down and broke his head." The woman ran into the ship and before she reached the upper dek, the ship left the port. There were more women there, all crying. "We are slaves now. We're going to an island for the pleasure of the men who work there."
How many such families have been ruined like this!

Va ve su: What about the husband?

Bharathi: He found a note by the window when he got home. It said: I'm going on to better things. I can't live with you in poverty. Forget that I existed." He went to the police. What could they do when the ship had sailed away? End of the story.

My father: Can't they do anything by legal means? This is wrong. There is no justice in this!

Va v su: I don't get this. However poor and miserable, men might opt to go away to earn money, but will not think of letting their women go afar. The reason why this is happening is because there aren't many women among Indians in Fiji. That's the reason for the island's government to indulge in such atrocities.

Bharathi: If there's just one such incidence like this, we can do something about it. Here's a phenomenon which is beyond control.

Yadugiri: If all the women begged of the captain, won't he let them go ?

Bharathi: He's a demon.He's ruthless in taking them away.If they ever open their mouths, he'd whip them.

Yadugiri: Will he do that? What if the women jumped into the sea?

Bharathi: Some among them are orphans who are starving. Some are illiterate.He rounds them all up and ships them away every few months. He sweet talks them into it, describing hell as paradise.

My Father: Yadugir is an innocent child. Don't frighten her!

Va ve su: Children should know a bit about suffering too. If they're protected too much, they may find it difficult to cope with life.

Bharathi: We needn't expose them to all the problems we face, but we have to instil courage in them. That way, they'll be granted the strength to face the difficulties in life.

Va ve su: Yes, they have to be brave.

Bharathi: Yadugiri, go get some water from Chellamma for us. Look! All are fine in our families. Don't fret your little head over something which is happening far far away! Now, let's see you smile!

Bharathi sent me away and the conversation continued until nine at night.

* * * * *

Enganam SenRirundIr?
(Where have you been?)

As days went by, police vigilance on Bharathi and other svadESis increased. Gradually, money orders and letters stopped coming and the letters they sent from Puduvai got burnt at Vizhuppuram--someone who worked in the post office informed us. During such difficult times, Bharathi wanted to send the first part of PAnjAli Sabadam to the press for a reprint. Copies of the first edition had either been sold or were given away by Bharathi as gifts. He could not locate the manuscript either. He came to our house to ask Aiyya (my father) and Iyer if they had a copy. They did not.

Iyer said, "Bharathi, how could you do this? Why didn't you save a copy for yourself?"

Bharathi: I thought I had one. Never mind. I will rewrite it. It may not turn out to be as good. Still, I can do it.

Aiyya: Let's ask the children. They sometimes save books because they find the cover illustrations attractive.

Bharathi called me and asked if I had a copy.

I said I did but was not sure if I should part with it. I added, "I once gave you Adi Parvam and you lent it to someone and it did'nt come back!"

"I will give you a new copy of Adi Parvam. I will give you a brand new copy of PAnjAli Sabadam too!", he pleaded.

I said I did not want a new one but wanted this one back. Bharathi agreed.

I did not get the book back. On the first page of the book, Bharathi had written: to SowbhAyavathi Yadugiri with affection--Subrahmanya Bharathi.

Bharathi gave me a copy of his books whenever they came out--even the ones he wrote in English. Va ve Su gave me Mangaiyarkkarasi, Chandra gupthan and other books but he did not autograph them.

I did not fully understand it then, but when I look back, I wonder how Bharathi's household could have survived in those hard times.

I asked my father why Bharathi was not writing anything now.

"He has other things on his mind", was his answer. When I at last heard Bharathi's voice in our house, I ran up the stairs like a SAtakA bird to see him. He was happy to see me and asked me to sit next to him. He said, "Look at her! She's more eager today to hear my verses than ever!"

Sri Sri said (Yadugiri refers to her father as Ayya (Dad) too at times--Arasi), "Yadugiri has been asking me why you don't write much poetry these days. I told her you are busy with other things."

Bharathi: Fiddlesticks! Rajaraman (a friend of Bharathi in Puduvai. Editor's note says: look up the opening lines of the poem Guru darSanam in bhArathi aRubaththiARru) asked me to check his father's translation of the Upanishads.That took nearly three months! Well, I've composed a Sarasvathi stOTram today."

He sang to us "enganam SenRirundIr?" in the noNDich chindu mode. Va ve su arrived soon after. Bharathi sang it again for him.

Va ve su: Bharathi! Excellent! You have invested all the inspiration of the past few months in these fine verses!

Sri Sri: bharathi alone has the gift of implying a hundred meanings in a single word!

Bharathi: Let's see. The four of us make it all complete. You say I"m a good poet. I say you are an excellent writer, Iyer is the best translator there is and we know there is no equal to Babu (Arabindo) in translating the vEdAs.

Sri Sri: Bharathi, Good times are around the corner. Let's not get impatient. These are hard times.

Va ve su: When the celestials churned the milky ocean, it was poison that came out of it first. When we walk a new path, there will be obstacles. Our lot is a true example of that. Those who do not fall apart but put their minds to achieving their goal, are bound to attain AmrutA.

Bharathi: We do not get any letters from home. Chellamma wants to go back.

Sri Sri: I can understand her. Oh, you have sung Sarasvathi stOtram today. Just wait till tomorrow! You will get some news from swadESamitran.

The next day, Chellamma came to our house. She was in a happy mood. She said, "Glad news! We got a letter from SvadESamitran asking for another article. We also received all the money which was pending the past three months. Yadugiri, what your Aiyya said yesterday came true!''

I said, "Bharathi says you want to go back home. I was wondering. Are you expecting?"

Chellamma said, "No, I'm not. God doesn't test us to the extreme. Yadugiri, these two girls are more than enough. I don't need another child to add to the troubles."

"Don't you want a son?"

"What's a son going to do for me which the daughters won't? Look at him! He wears no pUNUl (holy thread), does not perform tharppaNam (rites for the departed parents) and with all this, I have the need for a son to do my last rites?"

"Why doesn't BharathiyAr wear a pUNUl?"

"He removed it after Thangamma was born. He contended that only those who do yAgams and yagnyams deserve to wear them! When the priest brought a new one, he gave it back to him!"

By then, BharathiyAr arrived. We walked together. Chellamma told him of the questions I had asked.

"A boy? It's said: puthrAt Sata guNam puthri. In English they say, a son is a son until he takes a wife but a daughter is a daughter for life. What have I done at all for my father? As if I need a son!"

Around eight, we returned home after talking about many things. There was a tinge of bitterness and indifference in all that Bharathi said that day.

Note: There are two words in the translation which I want to bring to your attention: 1. Song (and sing, too) which in Tamizh is pATTu (pADudal). We use the word both for a poem (and the recitation of one) and for a song (and for singing it). In Bharathi's case, he does both!

2. avar, ivar: a wife refers to her husband as avar and ivar, since women did not call their husbands or refer tothem by their names.

* * * * *

PArukkuLLE Nalla NADu
(Ours, A Great Land in the World!)
A friend called Balu came home and told us that Chellamma was upset and was crying all the time. "She did not eat all day yesterday," he added.
Bharathi was nowhere to be seen.
My father took me to see Chellamma. Bharathi got fed up with Puduvai. Wanderlust had grabbed him. Chellamma did not know. My father might have.
Bharathi got clean-shaven, and in disguise, had left home. Chellamma waited all day for him. Balu happened to go to their house the next day and he came to tell us.
I asked Chellamma to come and stay with us.

"I'm not afraid of staying alone at home but I'm worried sick about him, Yadugiri! You know how bold he is! What if the police catch him? Doesn't he know I'm dependent on him? Shouldn't he let me know before he goes away?"

My father was very shy to speak to women. "Yadugiri, ask her not to be afraid. Bharathi is very smart. He won't get caught easily. Tell her she needn't stay here alone. She can come and stay with us. We have plenty of room."

"Oh no! It's no trouble at all, our being here. The neighbors are all very kind. It's just that I'm worried about him. I will write to my father and brother. I can at least go home. Without him, what's the point of my being here?"

My father told me to stay with her. He gave me ten rupees and asked me to give it to Chellamma who had started cooking for me. Shakunthala ate at ANNiamma's house.Thangammal at that time was in kASi with her aunt.I ended up spending the whole day with Chellamma.
I again asked her go with me to our house.

Chellamma said, "No, Yadugiri. There is plenty to be done at home. This isn't something new. My family has been pleading with him not to get active in the svadESi movement. He was adamant.That's how we ended up here, leaving our home and family. When the spies are giving us enough trouble, is there any sense in placing himself in danger like this? What if they send him to Andaman Islands? If they do, how can he ever return? Who will help us?"

I said, "Chellamma, don't fear. Bharathi will come back soon!"

"You know he can't keep a low profile. As my father says, Kumarak kaDavuL (Murugan) will dispel mountains of troubles and make them disappear like dew in the morning sun (malai pOl varum kaSHTangaLaip pani pOl nIkkuvAr). He alone can help us!"

When I said I was going home, she asked me to stay on. "I will come with you in the evening. Until then, it'll be nice to have you around."

After lunch, Bhagyalakshmi Ammal (Va Ve Su's wife) came.

Bhagyalakshmi: Chellamma, You don't have to be alone. Come to our house. It will be a pleasant diversion for me to have your company.

Chellamma: I'm not worried about myself. ANNiammal is right next door. Her children are here around me most of the time. Shakunthala virtually lives in their house like another child of theirs. My thoughts are all with him. He's much too reckless, that's what I'd say.

Bhagyalakshmi: You can imagine how I felt when mine (Iyer) was abroad, so far away!

Chellamma: If Bharathi were as calm and collected as Iyer, I wouldn't worry. What if he starts singing in spite of himself?

Bhagylakshmi: What you say is true. Iyer would just quietly see the sights wherever he went, and that was all.

Chellamma: What's the use in my worrying at this point? Dr. Nanjunda Rao in Chennai is his close friend. When it came to matters of SvadESi, Bharathi ignored his dear friend's pleas. I don't know how much more misery is in store for me!"

Yadugiri: Let's only talk about positive things. God will not let us down. If we do good deeds, the results will not turn out be otherwise.

When we were at home that evening, Chellamma spent her time talking to my mother.

Ten or fifteen days went by without Bharathi showing up.
I went upstairs one day and found my father talking to a stranger. I started doing my homework at my desk and the stranger asked me: where's your usual offering (of a little pot of water, betel leaves and areca nut)? I was shocked.

"Yadugiri! Even you could not recognize me!," he said.

Yadygiri: Is it really you, Bharathiyare? Do you know how much agony Chellamma is in? How could you do a thing like that?

Bharathi: What did I do? Even you, who would come running on seeing me, couldn't recognize me. How could those CID fellows spot me!

I gave him water and the betel leaves and then asked him, "Where all did you go? What all did you see?"

"How can I answer you if you ask about it all in one breath? I hear that you consoled Chellamma no end."

"I didn't do anything. I couldn't help much. She wouldn't eat, wouldn't stay with us."

"There was nothing I could have done about it either. I went away knowing that you were all there for her. Supposing I had told her, she would have stopped me."

"Any new songs?", I asked.

"I composed one on the train. I had to restrain myself often from singing it aloud. I will sing it tomorrow. I have a cold and my voice is not good today."

As he promised, Bharathi sang it the next day. It was the patriotic song beginning with the words--pArukkuLLE nalla nADu, engaL bhAratha nADu. He said a beggar woman sang a hindusthAni song and he set the song to that tune.

After Bharathi's agnyAta vAsam (living incognito), Chellamma had lost weight because she was not eating properly. Her father came to Puduvai and took his daughter and Shakunthala away with him saying that Chellamma had anna dvEsham (lack of appetite) and that she would not survive if she stayed on in Puduvai.
Bharathi did not mind. He would eat wherever he was invited.
When Chellamma came back after two months, she said: why should he care? He has all townsmen for his relatives. I came back because I was concerned about him and listen to what he says-- "Chellamma, I like to see you happy. You didn't have to hurry back for my sake!" Now, how do you like that?"

Chellamma had brought Thangamma along with her who was growing up in her aunt's family which was steeped in orthodoxy. Often, there were arguments between her and Bharathi. He would prevail in the end. Thangamma gave in because he was after all her father.

* * * * *


The moon had risen early. We were at the beach as usual. I had made friends with Padmavathi, the daughter of Sankara Chettiar (another wealthy man like Ponnu Murugesam Pillai in Puduvai--Editor's note). The group now consisted of my mother, Chellamma, my sister, Thangamma, Padmavathi, Meena and me. My father had chest pain that day and my mother stayed back. Bharathi and Iyer saw us as they were walking back from Arabindo's house. Iyer did not want to intrude on us but Bharathi came to speak to us. "Do you mind if I join you?", he asked.

Chellamma: All the children here are our children. Padmavathi too.

Bharathi: I don't see Yadugiri much these days. She seems to be absorbed in the girls circle, it seems.

Chellamma: Don't you know? She's getting married in Chitthirai (the month of April). Her parents are very keen. When Yadugiri goes to live with her in-laws, she cannot move with men freely. So, she's learning to be a docile young woman.

Bharathi: Has the date been fixed?

Yadugiri: I don't know, my grandmother is making all the arrangements. Amma says, 'but for Iyer and Bharathi, you shouldn't talk to any other men, now that you're getting married'.

Chellamma: Yadugiri has been brought up like a boy until now. It's going to be difficult for her to get adjusted to life in her new home. This way, she can get used to it, little by little.

Bharathi: Chellamma, she's still so young. Srinivasachari is an old-fashioned man. He wants to perform a doll's wedding of an innocent child!

Chellamma: SAstrAs say that brahmin girls should be married off by the age of nine.We wait longer these days because it's not easy to find the right match.

Bharathi: Chellamma, there is no end to traditions and SastrAs! Why don't you go ahead and arrange a marriage for Thangam--another meaningless doll's wedding?

Chellamma: My sister brought her up. She'll take care of it.

Bharathi: Yadugiri, you're going to find yourself in another world!

Chellamma: Why do you say that? She'll be back here every now and then.

Bharathi: Chellamma, after she gets married, I can't move freely with Yadugiri. I may need her husband's permission!

Chellamma: There's no need to be concerned about it now. She isn't even married!

Bharathi: Yadugiri is our adopted child. Still, If I go to her new home to see her, they might say, 'some vaDaman (Iyer) is here, and why should you talk to him?' Yadugiri, you have just known the one world you were brought up in. You're going to an entirely different one where they follow hundred year-old rules. Here, in our homes, we are free. That was why our families ended up here, leaving behind our home towns. It may take another thirty years before every family lives like ours. Until then, you have to go along with those traditions.

Chellamma: Don't frighten her. You sound as if she's being taken to a prison!

Bharathi: She does not know of the hurdles, stupid traditions and servitude that exist out there. Nowadays, in our caste, young couples may live on their own, it seems. It's not happening in the MaNDayam community.

Chellamma: I'm the only one who has come away from my family--it has been five years now.

Bharathi: It used to be so with us, Chllamma. Not any more! I noticed it in Tirunelveli yesterday. Joint family is not a strictly observed tradition now. Yadugiri, are you happy about this match?

Yadugiri: I don't know. Whatever Aiyya and Amma say. They will make the decision. Even with them, they follow what my grandmother says. What is there for me to say?

Bharathi: Have they found the boy? Have you seen him?

Yadugiri: I haven't seen anyone. We have letters from several families. Amma says one thing, pATTi another about these matches and AiyyA says to them, 'You two come to a decision and then let me know.' That's all I know.

Bharathi: This sounds like our marriage. The new trend is to get married to an educated woman. It appeals to the boys, it seems. Is it happening in your community at all?

Yadugiri: No, they haven't given up their old ways. Women are tutored at home. Just a few officials have started sending their girls to schools.

Bharathi: So, the wedding date is not far off. When the husband is by your side, everything else will fade away. Don't forget this poor father of yours, Yadugiri!

Yadugiri: Is it ever possible for me to forget you! What if you are poor! Your poetry is richer than anything else. Yesterday, Iyer said, 'why can't we call Bharathi kaviarasar (the king of poetry)? Bharathiyare, wealth is easily lost but your poetry will stay forever.

Bharathi: Yadugiri, If I have Sishyais like you, I don't even need to publish my poetry! You know all my songs by heart! Chellamma, on one of the days of Yadugiri's marriage celebrations, I want to sing a concert of patriotic songs. That's going to be our gift to her. When we see better times, we will buy her an unforgettable present!

Chellamma: Your heart is bigger than this ocean! When luck knocks at our door, we can give the best possible gift to Yadugiri!

Yadugiri: What can be a better gift than your singing at my wedding? On top of it, since Aiyya isn't feeling well at all these days, Iyer and you have to lend a hand in organizing the wedding. Hard work, I'm afraid!

Bharathi: You don't have to worry about that. We'd happily help. I know we won't be allowed in the kitchen, though!

Yadugiri: That's my grandmother's job. She likes to feed crowds. She's going to be disappointed if all the invitees don't turn up. Anyway, she's even capable of running a government. That's how good she is!

Bharathi then gave me what sounded like a lecture. He said: Yadugiri, I will give you some counsel (sounds like kaNva maharshi sending SakunthalA away to her husband's house--Arasi).
He said: Fidelity (kaRpu) is the most essential asset for a woman to possess. You should treasure it most. It does not mean that you have to be like a caged bird! But for your husband, all young men are your brothers. So, you don't have to be afraid and you don't need to avoid them.You don't have to be shy. You can talk to them. At first, you will feel shy with your husband but as you get to know him, you don't need to be. All the old rules about achcham, nANam and payirppu (fear, shyness and shunning ) make slaves of women. The women of this country need to be brave in order to give birth to courageous children. Cowardice has ruined India. Over the times, it has become worse.
Be brave in your husband's house! Do not eavesdrop. Don't read other people's letters. It's better to say to the elders how you feel than to bottle it all up. As much as possible, listen to what they say and do all that you can do. If you are not capable of doing what is asked of you, it's better to simply tell them that. You are not a commodity that they have bought in the market. You are there to light up their home and to bring forth a new generation of children. You should feel free in that house, but don't ask questions about money matters. Leave it to the elders.
Don't shun hard work but don't overdo. Whatever you do, do it willingly.
Don't give up your studies. Your parents have taught you important and ever-lasting values. If possible, improve on them. if not, don't forget what you already know.
I won't, like Iyer, teach you renunciation. We have come into this world to enjoy all that is given to us. You should also lead a life of service. You should shine like a lamp in both your families.
All this is not easy at first. But you will learn. Above all, do not agree to slavery. You have your rights, a bright mind and the freedom.
Walk with your head held high. Look around you and savor Nature. Look straight ahead. Your husband is the only one whom you may look at from the corner of your eyes. Other men are fathers, brothers and sons. Look them straight in the eye and speak clearly and with courage. Sit straight. All these show character. Be genuine. You don't need to put on an act.

Bharathi gave me a lot of advise that evening and I considered his words as words from the vEdAs. Whenever I was discouraged in my life, his words gave me strength. As years go by, I feel the need for sharing his words with other women.
Though Bharathi is no more, his message will stay with us.

* * * * *

KaNNan ThiruvaDi
(The Beautiful Feet of KrishnA)


The lives of our family and that of Bharathi's family were interwoven for ten or twelve years. My family was like the strand which binds together flowers and in turn gains their fragrance (pUvODu SErnda nArum maNakkum). When I write about Bharathi, I invariably write about the happenings in my family.
I got married in the Kalavai BungaLA on the twenty seventh of April, 1913.
The night before the celebrations began, my father suffered from severe chest pain. It was an all night vigil for us. In the morning, Bharathi brought Kalavai Sankara Chettiar and a french physician (I can't decipher his name since it's written in tamizh--Arasi). Bharathi went to the pharmacy and fetched the prescribed medicine. My father felt better by the time of the muhUrtham (the hour when he had to give his daughter away).
We were married. All the elders were there. Soon after mAngalya dhAraNam (the tying of the tAli), my husband and I fell at their feet, seeking their blessings--first, it was periya kAraikkAl Swamy, who was the oldest among them, then Bharathiyar and then Iyer. Then the relatives--my uncles and all the rest of the family.
Vara dakshNai (the demand of a dowry) had not reared its ugly head at that time in our community. My husband's family graciously accepted all that my family offered by way of courtesy and gifts. It was a five day wedding and everything went off without a hitch. Bharathi and Chellamma worked hard all along, helping out. On the first day, there was muhUrtham, Unjal (swing ceemony), uruTTANi (nalungu--fun and games time) and the aupAsanam (ritual with the lit fire). On the second day, the precious concert of Bharathi, singing dESIya gItam (patriotic songs). It was like nectar from heaven. On the third day, Sri TiruvengaDattAn sang and it sounded as if he was playing a flute! On the fourth day, my father's sister, the elder in the family and a renowned vocalist, gave a performance. Once again, there was Unjal and uruTTANi--and NAgavalli as the finale on the fifth day.
After my wedding, many happy celebrations followed. In Chennai, my brother got married, then my sister, my cousin and Chellamma's sister Swarnam. Chellamma went home for the wedding, stayed on for two months, bringing Thangam back with her.
Thus, both our families were busy with happy events for a few months.
Then, my grandfather, pATTi and my uncle came with our sister to Puduvai for a stay. My ThAthA was a mahA vidvAn. A smart man who could enthrall his audience with his kathA kAlakshEpams based on some of the great works in vaishNavism. Even children were attracted to his kAlakshEpams.
He and Bharathi had many discussions. My grandfather lauded Bharathi's poetry and his brilliance. ThAthA was a gem merchant too. He knew how to choose blemishless stones. All this fascinated Bharathi.
One day, my grandfather explained the nuances of some of nammAzhvAr's verses. He spoke of the message in them and Bharathi was drawn to them. He loved the rhyme and rhythm of those verses. Among them, nammAzhvAr's ivaiyum avaiyum uvaiyum which conveys so beautifully the all-pervading nature of God (There is a translation of this verse by A. K. Ramanujan, if I'm not mistaken--Arasi).
My grandfather wasn't a great music lover, but listening to Bharathi sing the verses made him exclaim: AzhvAr would have sung them the same way as Bharathi does! In all our years of learning them by rote, we have lost the bhAvA. It's not an easy feat, to sing like Bharathi!
Bharathi would discuss ten verses with my grandfather every day and the next day, he would have tuned them and would sing them to us. I would catch the tune and then slip away. I did not understand or appreciate the philosophical talk which followed.
Iyer, Bharathi, Aiyya and Chinnaiah (uncle Thirumalachari) listened to my grandfather's discourses every single day.

Soon after, my rutu snAnam (holy bath after the first periods) was celebrated. Women in the neighborhood were invited and were given turmeric and betel leaves. They danced the Sobhanam (an auspicious dance) and the kummi. My grandmother said, 'Had your aunt come, she would have sung many songs from the tiruvAimozhi! Do any of you know them?' An old lady did and from the pattAm pattu, she sang 'kaNNan kazhaliNai'. Bharathi was watching all this from upstairs while still in conversation with my grandfather.
When he came the next evening and was singing to my thAthA, I started to go upstairs. My grandmother stopped me. "You cannot mix with men as you used to, now that you've come of age."
Not seeing me upstairs even after he had finished singing two verses, Bharathi came down to call me. I was in the middle part of the house, surrounded by women.

He asked me: Aren't you well, Yadugiri? Why haven't you come to listen to the verses?

I smiled sheepishly and said, "I'm fine."

Bharathi asked again: Don't you want to listen to the songs?

"pATTi does not want me to."

Bharathi asked my grandmother: PATTiamma, am I a stranger in this house? Yadugiri is our child too. Should daughters shy away from their fathers?"
He then gave me a piece of paper. With the heading 'manamE', there was his new song, kaNNan thiruvaDi eNNuga manamE (Meditate upon the beautiful feet of KrishnA)!

* * * * *


kannan said...

This is inspiring. I am left with a lot of admiration and envy for Yadugiri. Her non-judgmental style of writing and sticking to only events that she has seen, makes this book wonderful.

Thank you, Arasi, for this nice translation. I never had the feeling that I was reading in English. I am going to share this link with everyone I know. I have now ordered for my copy in Tamil.

Sriram said...

What a treat. I'm reading it quite slowly, and like Kannan says its a very nice translation.

pn said...

Ii want to buy Tamil print . Where do I get

pn said...

Ii want to buy Tamil print . Where do I get