Friday, January 12, 2007

The madman's song I

Re-Posted with corrections from Vidya

Sanity is statistical. If a few thousand people believe that the women must be treated like property and you tell them they are divine and should be treated with due respect, the chances of you being burned on a stake are very high. But that is not the end of it. Fifty years after you've been burned at the stake for asking people to be nice with others, you shall be resurrected, praised, glorified and statues of you shall be erected all over the world. Scholars will debate on your works, associations will be formed in your honour, students will study you and read your poems by rote. Then, two things will happen. Women will be ill-treated and abused, but in a more covert manner. On the other hand, women will be glorified and deified making them into Goddesses who resemble stone idols with no feeling, no life, nothing. In simpler words, you'll be transformed from an insane man who nobody understood and nobody praised to an insane man who nobody understands and everybody praises. Yes, a life of insanity is interesting!

But the fact is insanity is truth. Insanity is the ultimate bliss. I remember this guy I used to see at the bus stop everyday I went to college; a scraggly man with a straggling beard, matted hair and two balls of dark fire in his sockets instead of eyes. His only means of livelihood was the mercy of those around him - a few stray coins tossed, a packet of food thrust because the kid in the car wouldn't eat it and so on. His very survival depended upon the pity that he evoked in his fellowmen, a supplicant begging for favours. And yet, he had rejected all the conventions that these men had laid. If he walked about exposing his body, someone rushed with a cloth for him. If he let loose a string of obscenities, he would get a kind look.

Don't you see the point? Here's a man who is living life in a fashion that ridicules all of us and yet he is not unhappy. His laugh, his insane laughter is that of courage. அவன் சிரிப்பு வீரச் சிரிப்பு, வெற்றிச் சிரிப்பு. He celebrates his mad victory over sorrow, over avarice, over covetousness. He laughs a laugh that will send fear into all false hearts. He laughs and dances. He laughs and dances. The dance of destruction, the laughter of chaos. He is in reality, the truth, the Shivam that sits still in the midst of everything while dancing a dance of frenzy on the outside. He is the brave, the fearless mad mendicant, the (ANdi) ஆண்டி (paNdAram) பண்டாரம். And he...has a song!

அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை (பண்டாரப் பாட்டு)

அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே
இச்சகத்துளோர் எல்லாம் எதிர்த்து நின்ற போதிலும்
அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே
துச்சமாக எண்ணி நம்மைத் தூறு செய்த போதிலும்
அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே
பிச்சை வாங்கி உண்ணும் வாழ்க்கை பெற்று விட்ட போதிலும்
அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே
இச்சை கொண்ட பொருளெலாம் இழந்துவிட்ட போதிலும்
அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே
கச்சணிந்த கொங்கை மாந்தர் கண்கள் வீசும் போதிலும்
அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே
நச்சை வாயிலே கொணர்ந்து நண்பரூட்டும் போதிலும்
அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே
பச்சை யூனியைந்த வேற்படைகள் வந்த போதிலும்
அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே
உச்சி மீது வானிடிந்து வீழூகின்ற போதிலும்
அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே


accamillai accamillai (paNdArap pAttu)

accamillai accamillai accamenbathillaiyE
iccagaththuLOr ellAm ethirththu ninRa pOthilum
accamillai accamillai accamenbathillaiyE
thuccamAga eNNi nammaith thURu seytha pOthilum
accamillai accamillai accamenbathillaiyE
piccai vAnggi uNNum vAzkkai peRRu vitta pOthilum
accamillai accamillai accamenbathillaiyE
iccai koNda poruLellAm izanththu vitta pOthilum
accamillai accamillai accamenbathillaiyE
kaccaNintha konggai mAnththar kaNgaL vIsum pOthilum
accamillai accamillai accamenbathillaiyE
naccai vAyilE koNarnththu naNbarUttum pOthilum
accamillai accamillai accamenbathillaiyE
paccai yUniyainththa vERpadaigaL vanththa pOthilum
accamillai accamillai accamenbathillaiyE
ucci mIthu vAnidinththu vIzuginRa pOthilum
accamillai accamillai accamenbathillaiyE

Meaning per word

Fear no/Fear no/Fear called no
(belonging to)this world (who)are/all/oppose/(and)stand/even then
Fear no/Fear no/Fear called no
Lowly/think(and)/us/slander/done/even then
Fear no/Fear no/Fear called no
beg/get/life/life/(we)got/even then
Fear no/Fear no/Fear called no
desire/had/objects/all/lost/even then
Fear no/Fear no/Fear called no
Corset/wearing/breasts/women/eyes/throw/even then
Fear no/Fear no/Fear called no
venom/(in) mouth/bring/(and)friends feed/even then
Fear no/Fear no/Fear called no
raw/flesh/desiring/spear armies/come/even then
Fear no/Fear no/Fear called no
top/upon/sky crumble/(and)fall/even then
Fear no/Fear no/Fear called no
The word by word translation for this will be posted later.


One of my friends says that everything in the world is driven by two things - 1. Fear 2. Greed. It does sound like a plausible theory for me, although I would replace greed with desire. All through history, all battles, both on the field and in the mind have been fought only against these two enemies. It is always either fear of defeat or desire of victory. And how much has been said about these? Fear especially. One crowd says fear has to be conquered, must be fought against and won. Another says you must surrender to your fears and overcome them accepting them. A third says courage is merely acting as if you are not afraid. And amidst all this the truly fearless man laughs!

The only truly fearless man in this universe is he who is insane. He does not fear the dark. Fear shame, insult, defeat, death, disease - nothing frightens him. And why is it that he does not fear anything? There is only one secret to overcome fear. The seer of Kanchi, Maha periyavAL Chandarsekarendra swamigal says in one of his discourses "Fear happens only when there is something different from you. So does desire. Fear and desire are negative and positive reactions to something that is different, something that doesn't belong." So when does fear disappear? It disappears when one is in unity with everything, when one sees nothing different from oneself; when one achieves that complete perception where the surface of distinction and the underlying soul of unity present themselves at the same time. It is from this kind of a perception that Barathi, my insane poet proclaims his fearlessness.

At first look this poem has no trace of insanity or underlying thoughts that Vidya suggests in her translation. It appears like a simple positive song that exudes confidence and courage in a frightened soul. But then, the common man's soul is not frightened by the things described in the poem. He is scared by more mundane things. This poem was definitely written for a common man's fears - nenjcu porukkuthillaiyE (நெஞ்சு பொருக்குதில்லையே) will possibly qualify as a poem written upon seeing a common man's fears.

So much is clear with the title and the first line (the refrain rather). A paNdAram is a mendicant of the saivite sect, a mystic. So a song of this mystic would appear trivial while hiding deep thoughts inside. Further Barathi says accamillai accamillai accmenbathillaiyE. Why say "There is no fear" and then "There is nothing called as fear"? Perhaps I can give an answer to this, but I want this one to be a discussion. Leave your thoughts about this in the comments section.
Now, look at the first thing that Barathi uses to say there is no fear. He says even if thhose who inhabit the world entirely stand opposing, there is no fear. Opposition of this sort comes in many ways. Let us analyze this from the unity and harmony idea suggested earlier. Imagine thousands of millions of people united standing against Barathi with flaming torches, fuming faces, shouting oaths and ready to lynch him. They stand separated from him and hate him. What does Barathi do? He laughs; laughs a laugh of compassion. And then he says "I have no fear". Why does he have no fear? Because he is not different from these people who are opposing him. Why so? Because all these people opposing him are imagining that they are opposing him when in reality he is one with them; one as a human, one as a child of God, one as a unique piece in this wonderful Creation. See further, Barathi who is supposedly insane here is sane when he looks at everybody with harmony in his heart, while the sane people opposing him are imagining that they hate him in their actual insanity.

Now, Barathi has said "I have no fear" to those who oppose him. What do they do next? They are not able to attack him directly because his laugh has disarmed them. They attack him from the behind. They think low of him and spread that slander. They say "This Barathi here, he is a heretic. He goes around singing the praise of love, rebelling against our established customs, mingling with the untouchables and praising some Dark Gods". They say this in the hope that everybody would then shun Barathi and then he would have no way left but to accept his defeat and accept their ideals.

What does Barathi say again? He laughs with his "I have no fear". What? No fear even when your reputation is soiled? When your society is being forced to shun you? Yes, I say! What reputation do I a madman have? What society do you speak of to me that separates people from one another? Don't you know I'm one, one with everything that is seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched, known, felt, thought and even with the unknown, the unthought and the unseen? What fear do I have form myself?

The people scratch their head. This doesn't seem to make sense. But their slander has taken effect. Barathi has no work, no means of livelihood. He is not allowed to teach children for he will spoil them. He is not allowed to publish his works because they enrage the British. He is now a beggar. He lives of the mercy of others. The people gather around his emaciated form and say "Now you shall know fear." For if we don't give you food, you shall die and that will worry and frighten you." "Listen my dear people, I still have no fear. This is a mere body that survives by food. And what mercy will you show to me who is one with the ocean of mercy, the very source of all compassion. You think you feed me? Nay! I feed from myself! I'm one. I know no fear."

Now Barathi is a beggar forced to live off the streets. His house is eaten away by termites. His treasured books of Shelley's poetry lie rotting in a corner. The cittukkuruvi (சிட்டுக்குருவி sparrow) that comes everyday to his terrace to give him company with his dinner comes no longer. "Barathi has lost all that he had" say the people. "He has only his desire left. All that he desired, treasured, even his ideals are lost". "Ho! What do you speak of this losing? If the clouds in the sky move from East to West will you say the sky lost its clouds? Don't you know that my house is still the biggest in the world - my heart? Don't you know that my poetry still lies in golden words carved on my mind? Don't you know that my dear sparrow still visits me in the moonlit nights for the sparrow is my parAsakthi? Don't you know my friend that in the depths of myself, in my own stillness, I still have everything, that I am still everything? Don't you my friend, still know that I have no fear?"

This won't do they say. This insane man must be brought to his senses. Humanity has till now mostly known only two ways of achieving its means. The first is by threats and the next is by temptation. "Let us ask our pretty women to trap Barathi in the lust of the flesh" they scheme. And how do these women seduce Barathi? They use the most wicked weapon of theirs - their eyes. They think, "This same Barathi who sung that the breasts of a women are sivalingams to be worshipped and who sung that if there is no love there is only death, how can he now shun these women? How can he say that desiring these women is wrong and they are traps? Then he'll go against his ideal."

"Heed ye men and women. Love is that which springs to union. These women here tempt me with possession. They wish to become mine and make me theirs, when in reality I'm them and they are me. You who see them different from you, fear them thinking they shall lead you unto sin and temptation. But I shall not fear them for they are not different from me. I know no fear." See how subtly Barathi differentiates between the kinds of fears - when the people oppose him, it is fear that stems from survival instinct; when they slander him it is fear that is caused out of revulsion for the slander; when he is tempted by women, it is fear caused by desire.

And now comes the fear that is the worst of them all. This line to me is the climax of this poem in one way. When in fear, you curl up against those you love and seek their protection. And your worst fear is that they should betray you. "People, you kindle my friends against me. They come here now and offer me poison. Nay, they take the venom and thrust it into my throat. Shall I fear now? Never! For I'm one with my friends through the path of love and if they offer me venom, it shall become nectar. For even if they offer it with hate, I take it with love. So like the nIlakaNdan (நீலகண்டன் blue-throated shiva), I shall stay immortal even after drinking poison for my friends because my beloved Sakthi shall stop it from eating my life. Therefore, I have no fear"

Now, the armies come. Kingdoms rise against this man's insanity. They take up arms and siege him. And he welcomes them with open arms and mad laughter. "Come here my comrades who wish to differentiate yourself from the rest with your spears and your valour. Come and drive your points into me, for if that gives you happiness, I shall live in your happiness forever. Come here, kill me, slaughter me and see if I shall die then. Come you fierce soldiers who eat the flesh of the dead. Come and eat my corpse raw while I eat my death raw. Know me now in your hearts - I shall die a thousand deaths and yet live on because, I know no fear!"

And then the end. The Gods too can't stand this man's rebellion. They look upon him with fury and jealousy. And that crashes the skies. It comes crumbling down on him. And at the end of it all he stands there laughing his mad laughter that echoes to eternity. He laughs "I'm one. I have no fear."

(Translations and adaptation in the next post)


Vidya said...

en varthamanan pathippagam puttagattin padi pacchaiyUniyaindh vErpaDaiGaL enRu irukkiRadhu.idhu varai adai ivvaru enni irundhen.
Even when a army crying for raw flesh. pacchaiyU - indha varthai puripadavillai.And Why green dress? Did the British army wear Green? kuzhappam.

அக்னிபாரதி said...

தங்கள் கருத்தைப் படிக்கையில் நான் இவ்விடம் கொடுத்த மொழி பெயர்ப்பு தவறு என்று எண்ணுகிறேன். அவசரத்தில் பாடலைத் தவறாய்ப் படித்து விட்டேன். தவறு திருத்தப் பட்டுள்ளது. சுட்டிக் காட்டியதற்கு மிக்க நன்றி.

Ravages said...

Great blog (typing in Tamil is a tad difficult right now)

I tried translating Accamillai myself. I am not sure of the results, but here it is -

Fear not, dear soul
Your thoughts on it...

அக்னிபாரதி said...

Ravages - Welcome here. I read your translation. It's simple and to the point. Liked reading it a lot. I shall post my comments on the same in your blog. Please keep reading.

msp said...

Beautiful work Agni. My two cents.

This is easily one of his best. Each line seems to reflect a different sentiment and different facet of things to fear (or not).

Bharathi's whole life was one lived against the grain so it is very easy to see the context of this poem. And your take on 'sanity' adds another layer to the appreciation.

As always, I see the poet standing tall in the choice of situations he has sought to portray.

I am particularly impressed with 'kachchaNindha kongai maadhar' as a threat of equal proportion to be placed alongside the other ones.

(Even) Tamil literature has a long tradition of calling Woman the temptress who leads Man away from salvation ('which is ?' one is tempted to ask :-) )

Surprisingly, even in Bharathi's works you see many uncharitable references to women which are inconsistent with his more powerful (and famous) works. (No problems, as the master said: consistency is the hallmark of mediocrity)

But I do not see this line here as reflecting the sentiment that woman is a nuisance in man's way. I say this because the overall feel of the poem is not one of renunciation. After all the fearlessness of someone who has renounced all is not so heroic. The sting of 'icchai koNda poruL elAm izanthuvitta pOdhinum' is precisely to show that the poet is deeply rooted in the practical world with its desires and atendant miseries. (think 'ponnai uyarvai pugazai virumbidum'). But even amid all this exposure and threats he shows a steely (insane) and even frightening resolve to be undettered by the worst.

So it is not a question of rising above things like the beauty of the feminine. It is about saying he is strong enough to be unyielding to attractions.

I read it as a line that relaxes the tension amid all the fuming anger in the poem. It is the aesthete acknowledging the large looming threat of Beauty.

Vaguely remember something in Kamban when describing the beauty of womenfolk of Mithila. From nowhere he springs a didactic observation that highlights those being described marvellously.

"peNgal pAl koNda snEgam
pizaipparO siRiyar peRRAl ?"

One can even forget the didacticism here. That the women were so beautiful that they set alarm bells off in the poet is the take-away here.

I read Bharathi's lines in the same spirit. Poet first, angry man later :-)

JAB said...

Lovely comment, msp.:)
"It is the aesthete acknowledging the large looming threat of Beauty."

Poetry is all about reading between the lines, isn't it? :)

அக்னிபாரதி said...

@MSP - An excellent comment!

(Even) Tamil literature has a long tradition of calling Woman the temptress who leads Man away from salvation ('which is ?' one is tempted to ask :-) )

The ending paranthesis is very very true! :)

Lovely observations on the fearsome aspect of beauty!

Your comments realy augment the translation!!