Monday 22 February 2010

Have you ever looked at this blog's side-bar

Chances are that many might not have perused the side-bar no matter how inviting the contents seem. The blog-post is a very attention-seeking entity that somehow manages to grab and seduce all the eyes on itself (I thought of giving the blog-post a sex but refrained from doing so. Ah! the ramifications of gender are a bit stifling for me). Therefore it comes as no surprise when the question of peering into the side-bar is raised. For sometime now, my side-bar has been housing a lovely love-lyric which I don't know how many have noticed. My early days of blogging had this poem as a post but then those days I had no readers and so the beautiful lyric went unnoticed as the flowers that grow by the road-side when we take a walk (again I am sure that everyone notices the flowers except a few. Pardon the simile). So I thought I will again put that poem (translated from Tamil to English by A. K. Ramanujan) on today and for a few minutes give you the pleasure of reading those lines and getting lost in their simplicity.

What He Said
What could my mother be
to yours? 
What kin is my father
to yours anyway? 
And how
did you and I meet ever?
But in love our hearts are as red
earth and pouring rain:
mingled beyond parting.                       
-  Cembulappeyani:ra:r (Kuruntokai 40)
Another translation of the same poem by Nirmaldasan 

Who are you and who am I?
Who's your sire and who is mine?
Sprung from what illustrious line?
Yet as red earth and rain combine,
Our loving hearts mingling lie.

This love-lyric is part of the Sangam era in Tamil Literature. There were many poets who wrote the poems but none were known by their names. They signed the poem with a line from the poem. So the poet who wrote the above lines was known as the poet of Red Earth and Pouring Rain. This tradition absolutely amazes me as the poets during that age did not want any attention and thus remained being anonymous. The poems of a particular landscape consist of elements that are found in their region thus making its appeal very local and unique.

The ancient Tamils also divided their landscapes into five major regions namely kurinchi (the mountains), mullai (the pastoral), palai (the desert), marutham (the riverine plains) and neythal (the seacoast). Each landscape was associated with a phase in love. The poem above is from the kurinchi landscape and exemplifies love in union.

The ancient Tamil system of connecting their landscape and the emotional patterns in love is a convention that has led many modern poets to write similar poems.

Hope you enjoyed reading the poem. Ask me for more . . .

Photo courtesy: Internet


  1. Hi Susan :)
    Coincidentaly this poem was the first thing I noticed in your side bar!! ( followed by art of the day by Andy Warhol). I always was intrigued by the lyrics and wanted to know more about them, and lo behold! my wish got answered; Thanks to you :)
    beautiful post and Yes please, I am asking you for more! :D
    take care
    warmest regards,

  2. Beautiful poem. Very different from the love poems I am used to, somewhat contemplative and almost wise. But very touching on a deeper level.;)
    Loved the insight into the ancient Tamils as well.;)
    Have a lovely Monday,

  3. Give me more suzy!!!! The way you present it..... Literature comes alive.....


  4. Ruchi:

    Thanks for that observation. I am glad for you. You can always write to me and let me know what aspect of the poems you would like to know about. I shall write to you in detail.

    Take good care and be happy :)


    I am happy that you enjoyed the poem. Is there any equivalent of the landscapes there in your literature. It will be interesting to know.

    Have a great week Zuzana!


    Shall be glad to share some of these poems. Literature is life and life always is alive no matter what.

    I am glad you liked the poem.

    Joy and peace.

  5. Susan, I don't know if this is stereotyping, and if by saying this I will be guilty of stereotyping, but it always seems to me that literature from India, especially the poetry, carries much to be learned about wisdom and goodness. Though this is a love poem, there is definitely a deeper and universal theme, here. Simple and lovely. And thank you for introducing me to that. There's always much to learn from you, Susan. Always!


  6. Ah Yes...Indian art, poetry, prose; it seems to me such tenderly direct, gently true, humbly wise and sometimes as if behind a lightly-fluttering veil...meaningfully hidden messages.

    Each landscape associated with a phase in love. Was not all the landscapes, Nature and all within and without, conceived in the Purest of Infinite Love?

    More. Yessss! MORE! It is the only way I get to read the thoughts of these finest of works!

  7. yes, susan, i had, in fact noticed this magnificent poem and am remiss in not having mentioned it, as it speaks to me each time i am here - i love it! and it does speak on so many levels - so many layers - to us all - thanks for having it here for us to all read - again and again!

  8. Hey.. honestly I did notice the lyric.. because I listen songs because of lyrics.

    Now.. I take time to stop by and comment


  9. "as red as earth and falling rain"

    How beautiful.

    I recently began reading Eastern poets like Rabia, Rumi, Hafiz. I am in love. :)

  10. Dear Nevine:

    Be assured sometimes stereotypes are worth it. Yes, these poems speak of not love alone but the soil of that land, the sensibilities of interrelationships and other things. Love is not the lovers alone but their entire landscape. Thanks for your kind words and time. They are always appreciated.

  11. Steve:

    Good to have you again in Blogland. The wee little violin was fondly missed. No meaningfully hidden messages -- everything is laid bare but the wise eye discerns it all.

    Oh yes! Everything is conceived in the purest of infinite love but in the Tamil tradition the poetic convention was such that it associated every phase in love starting from the first meeting to the domestic bliss to a particular landscape. Shall send you more readings on that.

  12. Jenean:

    Thanks for the lovely words and I am glad that you liked and enjoyed this simple poem of love.


    Thanks for that. Congrats on your second blog.


    I like that simile as well. Very powerful and earthy. Something that can connect to our immediate landscape.

    I shall send you the poems by and by.

    Joy always.

  13. For sometime now I wanted to renew my interest in Tamil literature and your post triggered the passion :) Thanks!

  14. Lakshmi:

    Now don't postpone that. I am glad that this post triggered the passion. Tamil literature is a gold mine full of surprises.

    Joy always.

  15. Hello Susan,
    Incidentally, I also have translated this song and posted it in the Journalism Online Newsletter of August 2006:

    Two Songs From Kuruntokai

    -- Translated by Nirmaldasan --

    1. Iraiyanar

    O bright-winged bee who wingest thine way
    Across flowers of various hue
    And dependest on their nectary!
    My long-lov'd lady dear
    The peocock's gait doth bear
    And teeth set in close array. --
    Tell me, thou, with soul sincere,
    If ever came across thy view
    A flower blest in perfumery
    As rival to her dark and balmy hair!

    2. Chembulapeyalneerar

    Who are you and who am I?
    Who's your sire and who is mine?
    Sprung from what illustrious line?
    Yet as red earth and rain combine,
    Our loving hearts mingling lie.

    Warm regards,
    (aka Nirmaldasan)

  16. ..mingled beyond parting... that's
    a beautiful phrase...just imagining
    the depth of love as deep as

  17. Dear Watson Sir:

    First comment here and I treasure that. Another translation! Wow! I liked your rendering as well. I wish the whole world reads our Tinai poetry!

    Thanks for coming by Sir and for writing your poem here as well.

  18. Cynthia:

    The entire collection of poems is amazing. Shall send you some.

    Joy always.

  19. Greetings Susan,

    It seems that the focus has become the poem while I concentrate on the sidebar's objective.

    Having designed my sidebar at least nine times, I had studies the flow of my visitors and what they click on. In general the majority ignore the sidebar and that is really sad since a good percentage bloggers place much what is about them in this area.

    The majority of sidebars are cluttered with just too much material and not enough blank spaces between them to open up, allowing for things to stand out and not run together into one big blur. Also the location of certain items matter.

    There is no magical template as each site is different and unique. It just takes time to figure out what your customers are like.

    Warmest regards,

  20. Egmont:

    It seems that you are the only one who took the title of the post seriously and literally.

    As an artist I can understand you when you take great care of the sidebar which oft goes unnoticed by almost everyone.

    Thanks for coming by and joy always.



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