Has the bandicoot next door conked off?
Shouldn’t we too drop by, dear?
Did you give coffee and cash
To the guy who brought in the news?
Let’s forget family quarrels for a while
This is a time when folks gather
We too should spread a shroud
Carry tobacco to the dead
Shed some tears for all to see
Chewing betel leaf with the crowd
Join them in retelling virtues old.
Call him but a fortunate soul
Remember all his merits aloud.
After all, death does bind us closer,
Whatever the rift be while we live!
He barred our way with a barbed hedge
Hurled away all the boundary stones.
In between was a jackfruit tree
Stealthily he dug it up
When the tree fell, bereft of roots
He picked a fight over it.
Untied his buffalo and sent it in
To munch my many saplings
More such cruelties did he commit!
Our bunch of bananas was a sight to be seen
But his eyes turned ever so green
Never once did it occur to him
We were but his sister and her spouse.
Whoever came to see our girl
He would stop to count all her faults!
Our cow had just turned a mother
He conjured up spirits evil
Cooked them up in his magic pot
His big bronze urn burst, and so did
The entrails of our milch cow, dear.
Not such good memories of the dead
Nor is it the time to remember them.
For each of his devious ways
We did pay him many times over
If it were to score farting points
Would we hold our farts back?
The foretellers of stars unknown blamed
It all on the nasty neighbour’s star of birth
"One born on aayilyam
Will beget kids who are sick in the mind"
So goes, after all, the old saying.
Unfit it is to remember these now
But, memories keep remembering themselves!
Yet, the old man is now dead and gone
Let bygones be bygones, blood ties remain!
When people come over to mourn
We shouldn’t bring ourselves shame
Dear, do tell our children
Not to forget to put grain in his mouth
Wail a little, with your sister-in-law
What could we lose by it?
Till his pyre dies down
It would be fine to put up a proper show
Translated from the Malayalam 'Chaakkala' by Sanju Ramachandran with TLM
Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan is a noted left-wing poet who took Malayalam poetry
out of the ivory tower and to the masses. A former member of the State Legislature,
his honours include the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award