THREE NEIGHBOURS – Sundaram

Click To View Gujarati Original

Poor Old Lady

Poverty is considered as the greatest challenge faced by the societies in the third world countries. Following is an English translation of the Gujarati poem composed by “Sundaram” which is narrating extreme poverty and the ugly reality of poor’s life.

Gongs sound in Ram’s temple: you can hear the bells.
In the rich man’s palace the gramophone swells.
As the arati goes around
And the noise flows around,
Crowds of people come swarming there to stand.

One street holds three neighbours: the seth and Lord Ram
And widowed Makorbai with not a paisa to her name;
She grinds corn for people,
Fetches water for people,
To eke out a living, her bread.

The pride of the village is the mansion of the seth;
And Ram’s marble temple glitters till late.
Hidden in a corner,
A squalid smelly corner,
The palace of Makorbai stands.

The seth sleeps in comfort, and with Sita sleeps Ram;
In the early hours to morning all sleep in night’s calm.
With the cock’s first crowing
The waking cock’s cowing
Makorbai rises from sleep.

Waking, Makor stretches, and then lighting a flam,
Settles to grind corn and prays in Ram’s name.
Lord roars the mill,
The gluttonous mill,
Like the groan of a starving man.

Today’s Gokul Attam, the day for a fast;
Makor too is fasting, her breath may not last.
To please Sita’s Ram
Save a handful of grain,
She sets her empty belly on fire.

The seth’s house and Ram’s temple have ghee, fruit and
Sweets;
The’ve given corn for grinding for the next day’s feasts.
She’s grinding dal today.
The dal is damp today,
And Makor’s hungry belly is ablaze.

Her tired body jerking, her breathing comes in groans;
She’s the dal being ground between those millstones.
If the flour is not given
No money will be given
And Makor will be fasting once again.

The creaking heavy millstone begins to weigh a ton,
Peg slipping from her tired hand before the grinding’s
done.
As the grain goes around
Makor’s body goes around
And the sound of the grinding goes on.

The mill devours the grain, yet it gives out food for all.
Makor’s Annapurna’s angry and the grain will not fall.
See half the grain is left
And half the night is left,
But Makor cannot struggle any more.

The seth and Ram are waking; the whole world’s calling;
The burdens of the earth with the saviour’s birth are falling.
Sounds of the morning,
Birds twittering in the morning,
Drown out Makor’s hungry howl.

Ram is in his forest dwelling; the seth in his palace home.
Temple gongs and trumpet sounds of revelry are blown.
Makor faints to her death.
The millstone sings of death.
A lone black crow laments her gone.

Source:

Translated by Suguna Ramanathan and Rita Kothari(https://www.facebook.com/362923327179179/photos/three-neighbours-sundaram-gongs-sound-in-rams-temple-you-can-hear-the-bellsin-th/491678490970328/)

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