Gabbilam I

Velcheru Narayana Rao’s book on 20th century Telugu poetry, Hibiscus on the Lake, has translations for two excerpts from Gurram Jashuva’s long poem Gabbilam. In a short introduction to Jashuva in the book, he writes:

Born in an outcaste community of leather workers, Gurram Jashuva wrote poetry energetically expressive of the conditions of the outcasts. He used conventional metrical verses and wrote in a style respected by the literary establishment, but his themes and images were sharply critical of the upper castes. …. . Recognized as the voice of the depressed classes, Jashuva received public acclaim and literary honors as well. His most famous work is Gabbilam, a long poem in two parts. Modeled after Kalidasa’s famous poem, Meghaduta (The Cloud Messenger), which depicts a message sent by an exiled lover to his beloved wife, Jashuva’s poem describes a message sent by a poor untouchable man to the great god in Benares. In Kalidasa’s poem the messenger is the cloud, while in Jashuva’s poem the messenger is the bat.

For some reason, Velcheru gaaru has not mentioned the humiliation and hardship faced by Jashuva. After reading about it in this book, I made an attempt to read the original Gabbilam in Telugu and could barely understand a word. A wise friend suggested that I work on a translation and that it would be beneficial in more ways than one. Given my knowledge of Telugu, or the lack of it, I figured that making progress in translation would need what is known as a బండ తరీక (banDa tarIka), which translates, in genteel approximation, to a crowbar approach. Things moved very slowly, but the thrill of seeing meaning emerge kept me going. I am yet to get a feel for poetry and have no knowledge of its principles and forms, either in Telugu or in English. All this must certainly show in my translation of the first 52 lines of the poem, but the hope is that the interested reader will still get something out of it. Each stanza in Telugu is followed by the RTS transliteration and my mostly literal translation. Criticisms, corrections and suggestions are welcome.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

గబ్బిలం | gabbilam | bat

చిక్కినకాసుచేఁ దనివిఁ జెందు నమాయకుడెల్ల కష్టముల్
బొక్కెడు బువ్వతో మరచిపోవు క్షుధానల దగ్ధమూర్తి న
ల్దిక్కులు గల్గు లోకమున దిక్కరియున్న యరుంధతీ సుతుం
డొక్కడు జన్మమెత్తె భరతోర్వరకుం గడగట్టు బిడ్డడై

cikkina kAsucE danivi jendu namAyakuDella kashTamul
bokkeDu buvvatO maracipOvu kshudhAnala daghdamUrti na
ldikkulu galgu lOkamuna dikkariyunna yarundhatI sutun
DokkaDu janmamette bharatOrvarakun gaDagaTTu biDDaDai

Content with a coin that comes to hand, innocent man,
forgets all hardship with a mouthful of food,
an embodiment of being burnt by the pangs of hunger.
In this world of four directions, he stands in a corner,
One of Arundhati’s sons, born as the last offspring of Bharat.

పూపవయస్సులో వలసపోయిన చక్కని తెల్గు కైతకున్
బ్రాపక మిచ్చినట్టి రఘునాథనృపాలకుఁ డేలియున్న తం
జాపురి మండలంబునకుఁ జక్కగ దక్షిణభాగ భుములన్
గాపురముండె నప్పరమ గర్భదరిద్రుఁడు నీతిమంతుడై

pUpavayassulO valasapOyina cakkani telgu kaitakun
bRapaka miccinaTTi raghunAthanRpAlaku DEliyunna tan
jApuri manDalambunaku jakkaga dakshiNabhAga bHUmulan
gApuramunDe napparama garbhadaridruDu nItimantuDai

Migrating at a young age to lands directly south
of Tanjapuri province once ruled by King Raghunatha,
patron of beautiful Telugu poetry,
that man, born to wretched poverty, lives an upright life.

ముప్పు ఘటించి వీని గలిమిన్ గబళించి దేహమున్
బిప్పి యొనర్చు నీ భరత వీరుని పాదము కందుకుండగా
జెప్పులు గుట్టి జీవనము సేయును గాని నిరాకరింప లే
దెప్పుడు నప్పు వడ్డది సుమీ భరతావని వీని సేవకున్

muppu ghaTinci vIni galimin gabaLinci dEhamun
bippi yonarcu nI bharata vIruni pAdamu kandukunDagA
jeppulu guTTi jIvanamu sEyunu gAni nirAkarimpa lE
depuuDu nappU vaDDadi sumI bhratAvani vIni sEvakun

Calamities occur and devour his flesh, beat his body to pulp.
Even as his own feet get scorched, this warrior of Bharat
makes a living by stitching slippers but never shows contempt.
The land of Bharat has fallen in debt to him.

వాని ఱెక్కలు కష్టంబు లేనినాఁడు
సస్యరమ పండి పులకింప సంశయించు
వాడు చెమ్మటలోడ్చి ప్రపంచమునకు
భోజనముఁ బెట్టు వానికి భుక్తి లేదు

vAni ~rekkalu kashTambu lEninADu
sasyarama panDi pulakimpa samSayinci
vADu cemmaTalODci prapancamunaku
bhOjanamu beTTu vAniki bhukti lEdu

The day his shoulders have no toil
the crops hesitate to ripen and thrive.
He leaks sweat to feed the world
but cannot enjoy his fill.

వాని తలమీదబులిమిన పంకిలమును
గడిగి కరుణింపలేదయ్య గగనగంగ
వాని నైవేద్యమున నంటు వడిన నాఁడు
మూఁడు మూర్తులకును గూడఁ గూడు లేదు

vAni talamEdabulimina pankilamunu
gaDigi karuNimpalEdayya gaganaganga
vAni naivedyamuna nanTu vaDina nADu
mUDu mUrtulakunu gUDa gUDu lEdu

The mud rubbed on his head is not
washed by the compassion of the celestial Ganges.
The day his touch falls on the offerings
even the Trinity get no food.

పామునకుఁ బాలు చీమకుఁ బంచదార
మేపు కొనుచున్న కర్మభూమిఁ జనించు
ప్రాక్తనం బైన ధర్మదేవతకుఁ గూడ
నులికిపడు జబ్బు గలదు వీఁడున్న చోట

pAmunaku bAlu cImaku bancadAra
mEpu konucunna karmabhUmi janincu
prAktanam baina dharmadEvataku gUDa
nulikipaDu jabbu galadu vIDunna cOTa

Born in this righteous land that feeds
milk to snakes and sugar to ants,
even the ancient goddess of righteousness
gets startled and ill where he is.

వాని నుధ్ధరించు భగవంతుఁడే లేఁడు
మనుజుఁ డెట్లు వాని గనికరించు
వాఁడు జేసుకొన్న పాపకారణమేమొ
యింతవఱకు వాని కెఱుకలేదు

vAni nuddharincu bhagavantuDE lEdu
manuju DeTlu vAni ganikarincu
vADu jEsukunna pApakAraNamEmo
yintava~raku vAni ke~rukalEdu

There is no god to grant him deliverance
how then, will Man show compassion?
Of the sin he has committed,
till now, he has no clue.

ఆ అభాగ్యుని రక్తంబు నాహరించి
యినుప గజ్జెల తల్లి జీవనము సేయుఁ
గసరి బుసకొట్టు నాతని గాలిసోఁక
నాల్గు పడగల హైందవ నాగరాజు

A abhAgyuni raktambu nAharinci
yinupa gajjela talli jIvanamu sEyu
gasari busakoTTu nAtani gAlisOka
nAlgu paDagala haindava nAgarAju

The goddess with iron-anklets
survives by consuming this unfortunate’s blood.
Sensing even a breath of his presence
the four-hooded Hindu serpent hisses rebuke.

కులములేని నేను కొడుకులఁ బుట్టించి
యీ అఖాతమందె త్రోయవలెనె
భార్యయేలఁ బుట్టుబానిసకని వాఁడు
జరుపసాఁగె బ్రహ్మచర్య దీక్ష

kulamulEni nEnu koDukula buTTinci
yI yakhAtamande trOyavalene
bhAryayEla buTTubAnisakani vADu
jarupasAge brahmacarya dIksha

Deviod of caste, the sons I beget
will be pushed into this very abyss.
And what for a wife, a born slave? he thinks,
and lives by a drawn out vow of celibacy.

ఉదయమాది రక్త మోడ్చికష్టముఁజేసి
యినుని సాగనొంపి యిల్లు సేరి
యున్న గంజిఁద్రావి యొక్కనాఁడాపేద
ప్రక్కమీద మేను వాల్చియుండె

udayamAdi rakta mODci kashTamujEsi
yinuni sAganompi yillu sEri
yunna ganjidrAvi yokkanADApEda
prakkamIda mEnu vAlciyunDE

From dawn, having spent his blood in toil
and sent the Sun in farewell, he reaches home
one day and drinks the gruel, the poor man,
and rests his body on the bed.

భూ నభముల గ్రొంజీఁకటు
లేనుఁగునకు మదము వోలి యెసక మెసగె సం
ధ్యా నాట్య కేళి మాని మ
హానటుఁడు శివారవములు నారంభించెన్

bhU nabhamula gronjIkaTu
lEnugunaku madamu vOli yesaka mesagE san
dhyA nATya kELi mAni ma
hAnaTuDu SivAravamulu nArambhincen

New darknesses enveloped earth and sky
and spread like the rut of elephants,
stopping his twilight dancing sport
the great Actor began his jackal-howls

ముక్కు మొగమున్న చీకటి ముద్దవోలె
విహారము సేయసాఁగె గబ్బిలమొకండు
దాని పక్షానిలంబున వాని చిన్న
యాముదపు దీప మల్లన నాఱిపోయె

mukku mogamunna cIkaTi muddavOle
viHaramu sEyasAge gabbilamokanDu
dAni pakshAnilambuna vAni cinna
yAmudapu dIpa mallan nA~ripOye

Like a lump of darkness with a face and nose,
a bat, a stranger, began roaming about.
At the flapping of its wings,
his castor oil lamp gets softly put out.

తిల్లిక నాఱిపి దయ్యపుఁ
బిల్లవలెం దిరుగుఁదబిసిపిట్ట నరయఁగా
బల్లవితమయ్యె నాతని
యుల్లంబునఁ గ్రొత్త క్రొత్త యూహాంకురముల్

tillika nA~ripi dayyapu
billavalen dirugudabisipiTTa narayagA
ballavitamayye nAtani
yullambuna grotta krotta yUHankuramul

As he considered that elastic bird
roaming like a piece of the devil
having put off the oil lamp
his mind sprouted
in new and unusual buds of imagination.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

Translation continued here

Online Telugu/Telugu-English/English-Telugu dictionaries here, here and here.

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This entry was posted in caste, gurram jashuva, poetry, telugu, translation, velcheru narayana rao and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Gabbilam I

  1. Santoshi says:

    Very well done my dear! A superb effort.
    The imagination and details in the poem are amazing. I am sure you enjoyed the challenge and had fun translating it.

  2. P.rajeswara rao says:

    A fantastic effort especially by a person(you), who do not undertstand the core meaning of telugu words and translating into english poetic form. I. who studied telugu as first language till 10th class find it actually difficult to read and understand the meaning and intent of the author whereas a person(you) who did not study the telugu language , traslating the telugu poem into english poetic form with clear meaning and intent of the author, is incredible, I must say. Kudos to you.

  3. pravesh says:

    Wow, I could understand this poetry! my favorite lines:

    “There is no god to grant him deliverance
    how then, will Man show compassion?
    Of the sin he has committed, till now, he has no clue”

  4. sravani says:

    i found of yandamuri garu navals.he is my roll model.his biography is fantastic

  5. harsha says:

    thanx for the collection

  6. vbsowmya says:

    I just began reading the Telugu original and was wondering about meanings of certain words. I am surprised that someone is actually trying to translate! amazing…and good translations too. Keep going!!

  7. NARSIMHA AKARAPU says:

    Hi, I have been trying to read gabbilam since one year. Thanks a lot.

  8. Yasasvi says:

    Idi adhbhutham gaa undi. abhinandanalu.

  9. The Telugu version ,with English translation ,is really noteworthy .It is fantastic. Why a wife ,for a born slave— or—-where is the need for a wife ,for a born slave—-(would have been more appropriate) this idea of the author is really heart rending. Ur work lives like Dhruvataara .My hearty congrats and blessings to u my child

  10. lakshminarayana says:

    very good thanks a lot. – chinnagadu 🙂

  11. Rajasekhar. Ch says:

    Very well done. Congratulations.

  12. sandeeppydi says:

    Please complete whole gabbilam. It is my request . I think you stopped some. Where in middle

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