PAMUK PLAYS THE PALANGUZHI

SRIVIDYA SIVAKUMAR

 
 

I talk to him about Vijay Nambisan. Reclusive poet. Older brother.
 
He says there are many like him in his state.
 
Ayyappan died on the streets. Chullikkadu was a warrior. And MT is the greatest of
them all.
 
“You English literature convent educated girls – step outside and look at the world.”
 
My ‘convent’ was a government school with a ghost in the bathroom.
 
The marble floors were broken cement and cobwebs made for great hair ornaments.
 
It was first come first serve and the days you were delayed, you squinted at the board in
a dimly lit space, wondering about arithmetic.
 
No one taught me poetry then. It was Mr Bell and Mrs Bell. It was Kutchu and his
glasses.
 
English literature was a father’s well-annotated Shakespeare. It was Murder in the
Cathedral and Gitanjali
. It was the state prayer, the few words of Tamil I could only hum
to.
 
I know not of Bharati, the man I share a birthday with. I know not of Sangam poetry. I
immerse myself in the wine of Madhushala and look for the saki. I sense the birth pangs
in Tamas and read read read.
 
Yes, I’m not partial to your tongue.
 
But I can quote Umberto and Wislawa, Neruda and Saadat.
 
Life doesn’t come in one dialect. Neither does love.
 
Neither does learning.
 
Neither does hubris.
 
Poets live and poets die, penniless
 
in any language.

 
 

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