Edasseri Govindan Nair

(23 December 1906 - 16 October 1974 / Kuttippuram, Kerala, India)

The Cooking Pot And The Sickle - Poem by Edasseri Govindan Nair

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I.
Who in the last season had sown
The Aryan1 seeds in this field with love?
When the hot sun of March burned
Rain - fire above, red embers below,
With his bullock waving its dewlap
Drawing the plough deep, unwearied;
Not with the sheen of oil glowed
His body, but with sweat;
Until the earth turned into fine dust,
Until Vishu2 decked the Konna3 with blossoms,
Koman had ploughed the field up and down;
Koman had sown the Aryan seeds.
When the clouds moved on leaving their print
On the filed where fresh seeds sprouted,
Were there more golden shoots in the field
Or on the breast of Koman in rapture?
He had no rest either day or night,
What care he took to keep the watch!
The weeds too came up and grew thick
And the breeze thus blew to make music.
In the blue expanse all along
Swam and danced the water-waves,
Till the women flowed in like swans
To pluck and pick the weeds.

II.
The field was infested with weeds this year,
How hard for the farmer it was!
Gone is what was kept as seed corn;
Gone too what was meant for food!
Gone again the price of the bullock, sold,
Unmindful of the work after harvest!
Aromal Chekavar4 won the joust,
Yet the weeds yielded not a span!
The bangles pleaded and flirted,
Yet the weeds yielded not a span!
Koman didn't pay his son's school fees,
Nor did he pay up his instalments,
And he didn't buy the prescription
For the fever his child caught from the new rains,
Gazing at her hands with the mylanchi5 mark
Made long before the new year's eve,
The weed-picker girl started to cry;
What a wild game of the season's mischief!

III.
At the heel of the burning summer came
The all-upsetting thundershowers,
And as the rice seedlings overcome by thirst
Opened their sheaths to drink the rain water,
Koman too took the same clean drink;
That's of course what a father does.
And as the field grew dark and dense
With the spread of vacant spots,
When the dark rain had its orgy
Never stopping either night or day,
Till the ears of corn were seen
That brought sheer joy to the eye.
Koman was seen on the dyke
Like an oracle dancing his role.
When the first few torrential rains
In the last month of the year had ended,
There were the red-lipped ears of corn,
All along the level fields
With a heart given to ecstasy
Koman embraced his whole family.
What excitement in that house now,
To husk the paddy, to get fresh rice!
Father was fondling his little daughter
IV.
Seated on his knees; he coaxed her;
'A new skirt for my kitten
For theOnam6 flower-festival.'
Mother looked at the elder daughter,
Who seemed to pull a long face.
And father said, 'If the yield is gold,
We'll spend it on a wedding locket.'
'I didn't mean anything like that,'
The girl wearing glass bangles blushed.
'Three months' fees remain to be paid',
A hum arose somewhere in the group.
To each according to his desire;
The master of the house apportioned it.
Mother too had her private need;
'We must have pot to cook the new rice,'
The soul of that family fluttered around
Like a dragonfly in that golden field;
And the ears grew heavy for a good harvest
Like a display of fireworks.
Are the dancers tired of the performance?
The rice plants lay down in full embrace.
As if to reap the moonlight of Onam
The golden sickle was rising.
People who passed by were heard to say;
'Koman has grown gold in this field.'
V.
Who was it that reaped this year
The golden grain that Koman grew?
Neither Koman nor his men - but
A court officer and his henchmen!
The morning they had fixed for the harvest
Gently opened her painted eyes.
The start of the celestial arbor
Tossed about by the wild storm
Were slowly blossoming to grace
In the cluster of tumpa flowers.
Koman came crossing the main dyke;
Behind him came his helpers.
Already the field was crowded;
The court officer got the harvest done.
Koman had just one glance of it;
All his desire was utterly lost;
As if he saw dogs barking
In the rice that was meant for a meal,
Koman had just one glance of it,
The power wielded by the court,
The revenge of the January crop
That withered for want of water from the sky,
This affront of attachment and harvest
For the rental arrears, the landlord's due?

VI.
The wrath of the reapers raised its hood
And began to blow and hiss.
Neeli, the Pulaya girl, fell on the ground
Beating her breast very hard.
'No one else shall reap this crop,'
Cheru Koman stepped down into the field.
Warming up to the fight and snarling
Like a leopard came forth Chathappan.
The hired harvesters cast away the sheaves
And quickly climbed the dykes.
Koman raged as if possessed,
Like an elephant chained to the post.
And that way came Koman's elder daughter,
A lovely little creeper,
Swinging and happy with the new pot
Bought to cook the new rice.
In her father's mind
Exploded a huge shell of fire,
She seemed like butter floating again
On the fire of his wrath.
In a few moments this treasure-land
Might turn into something strange.
On the dyke a voice arose to say
'Here are the orders; don't play with them!'
Waving a piece of paper
There stood the court officer
Laying the land all barren
Like a rising cactus head!

VII.
Let the man who sowed see it;
The feudal order reaped the crop,
Sticking to the shade of the power;
A handful of robbers have kept all for themselves.
The sickles lined up around the new pot
Which was no longer there,
The sickles useless for the harvest
Until sharpened against power. Pity!
The law leads the attack
On the land where the farmer grows the crop.
The results of that attack
Arise from the dyke,
The new pots and the sickles
Join and thunder on the dyke;
'First we must reap power;
And after that the Aryan crop!'
Their throats began to spread
This mantra in the heavens;
'First we must reap power;
And after that the Aryan crop!'

[Translated by the well-known poet
Dr. Ayyappa Panikkar.]

[Notes:-
1. Aryan is a variety of rice.
2.Vishu a celebration, usually on the day the summer solstice starts.
3. Konna A tree with bunches of yellow flowers, blosson around March, April.
4.Aromal Chekar was a hero of North Malabar in Kerala, whose adventurous duels were sung in eulogy by farm workers in Malabar.
5. Mylanchi. A floral decoration applied to the palm using the crushed leaves of Henna plant.
6. Onam. the harvest festival of Kerala lasting 10 days, when the courtyards are decorated with flowers.]


Poet's Notes about The Poem

As a vakil's clerk Edasseri had to witness court attachment of crops and houses. According to him it is as cruel as the old custom of sacrificing animals in temples. He is familiar with the concerned parties, like the tiller, the landlord, the court and its representatives. The poem was written in 1948, and the new generation wouldn't just believe that such a thing like crop attachment did ever take place in this country. He had also written another poem 'Kudiyozhippikkal' (Eviction) about lawful eviction from home.

This poem appears in the collection named 'Puthan Kalavum Arivalum'. Dr. K. Ayyappa Panikker, a well-known poet has translated this poem into English. See poem on the right.

This poem has been rendered by V.K. Sasidharan, and presented as an audio cassette. (see picture below)

Given below is the picture of audio cassette featuring 3 of Edasseri's poems, 'Mappilla' (No Pardon!), 'Kavile Pattu' (Song of the Divine Grove) and 'Ambadiyilekku Veendum' (Back to Ambadi). These poems have been rendered by Dr. S.P. Ramesh and P. Ajitha (first two poems) and Mr. M. Krishnakumar (the last poem).

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, September 6, 2012

Poem Edited: Thursday, September 6, 2012


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