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Kavignar Vairamuthu's 'Intha Kulathil Kal Erinthavargal'

English Translation by Saravanan


In those early days, in an age when I hadn’t ventured beyond my native Vadugappatti, in that period of my life when I was roaming with dreams stored in the torn pockets of my shorts, I came to some firm conclusions:

• The best book in the world was Aesop’s Fables
• The most beautiful river in the world was the Varaga river
• The tastiest delicacy in the world was Peanut Barfi
• The prettiest woman in the world was my 2nd std. Teacher.
• The richest man in the world was Thirumalai Chettiar (who built a theatre in my village)
• The singer with the sweetest voice in the world is P Suseela

And over the years, the only conclusion that remains unchanged is the last!

Then—yesterday—today—this minute—and if I’m alive tomorrow too, the singer whom I worship is you, Suseela Amma!

By the side of my sorrows, within calling distance of my joys, in the times when my hopes have been shattered, in the times when I am the throes of ecstasy, your voice has always been with me!

Like the breeze damp with rain, had not your voice refreshed my ears, there would have never have been any fertility in the deserts that I have crossed.

All over the world, this century has been a terrible period for mankind—

Man loses any semblance of life from the moment of his birth, and keeps searching for it till his death—

At least at the time of the World Wars, man knew what was life and what was not.

At one time, man was leading life—today life seems to be leading man!

The reasons are many—man has spread technology even in the deepest pores of the earth— in the earthen stove of science, human life seems to be boiling like a bubble—man seems to be sitting on fire, yet nonchalantly playing the violin—

Sitting on a burning stove and indulging in love, husband and wife seem to run their relationship over intercom, kisses for the children arrive by post, jasmine flowers bought for the beloved wither in the diesel fumes, man is like Rama bereft of bow and arrow, running behind an illusionary deer called modern life—

I wrote thus, with heart-rending sorrow, I wrote thus:

What are the longings in the heart,
This is a life without a pause,
This is a struggle with life—
Where are the minutes wherein we have lived?

And those minutes that I have considered as lived have been filled by you!

And the carriages to those lived-in minutes are varied—those that soak my very life, those that caress the tip of my feelings with feather like gentleness, those that hold my mind in a state between sleep and wakefulness, those that induce an intoxication that is harmless--

Your songs have brought home to me each one of these experiences—

Your voice is such that it enters my ears, mingles with my blood and fondles my life

Your vibrations spill honey into my mind—

Your pronunciations awaken dormant feelings in me—

And above all this, a dignity that only the ears can perceive—

Since all these were worshipped by me, I decided to plant and nurture a few flowering plants in my garden for your veneration.

Like a cloud accompanying me, holding an umbrella over my head, for the last 25 years, you have come walking by my side!

* * * *

Both pockets of my shorts filled with boiled pulses for munching, sitting on a field, I am too dissolving among the colors of the twilight sky—

I can catch your voice, somewhere afar, mingling honey with the breeze with your ‘maalaippozhuthin mayakkathilae’

I lose myself as I feel an invisible fairy caress my ears—

* * * *


Open terrace—

A pillow lying at a corner, with cotton feathers peeping out—

A quilt that would serve as a coverlet till the night gets cold, and as a mattress after the cold sets in—

The distant lights of Kodaikkanal that seem to wink at the stars—

In that lonely night, from some radio in the village, your voice comes wafting, pouring honey into my ears—

‘Poo uranguthu pozhudhum uranguthu,
nee urangavillai nilave’

The moment your voice is heard, aI seem to forget all other sounds of the world—how is this possible ?

Or perhaps you are sitting by my side, singing Thamizh ?

* * * *

I am studying with concentration for my school final examinations—

when typhoid plays havoc with my health, squeezing out all strength from my body.

Having no stamina to carry myself, with dimmed recollections, I am traveling in a horse-cart, in a lane lined with Tamarind trees, to Periyakulam to write my exams—

Like a goddess singing from the clouds, from somewhere I can hear your voice planting seedlings of confidence in my mental fields—

‘Kaalamagal kann thirapaal chinnaiyya
Naam kann kalangi kavalaippattu ennaiya?’
Nellukkulae maniyai
Neruppinilae oliyai
Ullukkullae vaitha deivam
Unakku illaiya- thambi
Namakku illaiya?

The depression and gloom that were plaguing my mind gave way to refreshing hope!

* * * *

My aunt who had given me shelter in Madras passed away suddenly while on a visit to my village—

I run—

I wail and lament the loss—

That night, with eyes reddened with unabated tears, I am lying on a thread-strung cot, with a heart strung with sorrow—

Oh Music goddess, you came floating in the night broadcast of Trichy AIR, and wiped my tears with invisible fingers—

‘Ennaipparavai siragadithu
Vinnil parakkindrathaa
Un imaigalilae urakkam vara
Kanngal marukkindrathaa?’

Oh—Oh! The consolation that my relatives could not give, I derived from your sad voice!

* * * *

There was some magic—some comfort that I could only perceive, and this made me worship you, even before I attained youth.

Like the seed that loves the rain even without knowing the source, I am recollecting those days when I adored you even without knowing who you were—

You will laugh when you read this—in that innocent age, when the heart had grown to appreciate, but the brain had not developed the capacity to reason, I have examined the speaker to investigate if you were hidden inside! Or if you were singing from inside the LP record, wouldn’t the sharp needle hurt my goddess, I have wondered with despair!

Do you know in which parts of your songs I have lost myself?

In ‘Neeradum kanngal ingae’, the vibrations that you would spread like waves in that ending syllable—hearing it will any heart moist with feeling collapse and then revive? Or won’t it?

In ‘Malarndhum malaraatha paadhi malarppola’, the heartrending sob that you would give after singing the line ‘Maaman thangai magalaana mangai unakkaga’ for the second time, --hearing that sob, would lifeless objects moan that they don’t have eyes to shed tears, or won’t they?

In ‘Kaadhal siragai kaatrinil virithu’ after singing the last line ‘Pirindhavar meendum serndhidum pothu azhuthaal konjam nimmadhi, pesa marandhu silaiyaai nindraal adhuthaan deivathin sannithi, adhuthaan kaadhal sannithi’, before proceeding to the pallavi again, you would come forth with a brief humming, ---in those few moments, isn’t it true that our lives too join you in your procession, and return to our bodies only after you complete your song?

* * * *

I have nurtured in a secret corner of my heart, from the age of thirteen, the desire to be by your side and watch you when you sing.

Finally, I could have my first glimpse of you only when you came to sing my song!

“I am your fan” I said.

You laughed.

Even that laughter was replete with musical notes, I felt!

* * * *

Even lyrics having harsh syllables attain gentleness when uttered by you! How is this possible?!

Your voice seems to smile when you sing a happy song—that same voice seems to cry when the song is sad. How is this possible?

Even after singing thousands of songs, you don’t seem eager to draw attention to yourself—how is this possible?!

* * * *

You have not been understood adequately.

You have not attained fame to the extent you deserve.

The fact that your voice has swayed generations of Tamils has not been emphasized sufficiently.

What can be done?

Man has not noticed the moon properly till now.

These waves have been talking something for so many eons; no man is prepared to lend them an ear.

So many men here never live until their death.
And there no way they can live.

There is no life without art, and there is no art without life.

* * * *

Should only convicts sentenced to death be asked their last desire before they are hung?

Ask poets too.

If you tell me that my end is nearing, and ask me my last desire, this is what I would ask:

‘Please play some song of P Suseela, and leave the room closing the door noiselessly- I wish to live once again before I die!’

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