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Brother Boatman’s Ballad

[Translation of Chandrasekhar Kambar‘s ―Ambigarannana Lavani,‖ from the collection BelliMeenu (Fish of Silver) first published in 1989]

Prof. Krishna Manavalli, Department of Post Graduate Studies and Research in English, Manasagangothri, University of Mysore, Mysore

1. In the limpid water of the river, the Moon

Swims like a fish of silver, he said To cast his net and catch the Moon, The young boatman set off then.

"All over the skies, storm clouds are gathering

Thunder clouds roar and roam above Waters of deluge, water, water, everywhere

Don‘t go to the river, young lad!‖

Something beyond words beckons me, waves its arms

Come, mount this peak of pleasure So, I must storm the palace of light And the Moon will surely be mine.

2 It was always bluer than blue, Why did the sky do this today? The grinning horizon moved away in horror

What lurks in the corners of the world now?

The shining stars have turned to coal Ah, the burnt smells of scorched dreams!

What shouldn‘t have happened had happened already

The same water, the same wind—they let you down

Pushed you into the depths of the river

The bronze hands of gods raised to bless

Had simply turned cold

3 Brother Boatman, When your boat filled withdreams Plunged into the river, You made the treasures of the depths Rise to the surface, brother! Brother Poet, you sang the songs Of the sparkly swimming fishes To fill the desolate waters, brother! Into thoseflashy waves like burnished weapons, You thrust your boat, chased the storm with the rainbow,

Went hunting the Moon, Brother Hunter!

You rowed as if you were fighting the last battle with an unseen enemy

What happened to that strong will now? You who tamed the waters, You who sowed dreams in those waters Brother Boatman, We never thought you would drown

Even the gods weren‘t on our side The river didnot know what it had done.

You looked like someone

Laughing at yourself For having failed to mock A consummate actor Who could mime the Eternity!

But the river flows without a care

Choking the neck of the narrow

Path between the hills

4 This is not death but thirst To flow like lightening. The thirst to glow and scratch an unforgettable mark

On the heart of Time, before you disappear forever.

Not death, but the thirst Of those immortal dreams!

5 Whether or not you found What you set off to find Your fame isn‘t like tamarind

Washed and wasted in water—

You gave the rusty idols of gods

Eyes filled with light You gave us ears to listen to this ballad of yours.

Gave a heart to envy Gave joy to the God of Water You gave this river the stamp of epic dignity To the drowned boat, To the drifting oar, To the bones scattered on the riverbed, To the first rain drops, To the kiss of the spray And to the sighs of the smoky clouds, You gave them all a place in this great epic story.

The river flows without a care, Your dreams have grown big, and they come floating by.

You rest now, my captain!


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