Gabbilam II

The original Gabbilam (see earlier post) came out in 1941 . There is a single online reference to an English translation by M.B. Rajarao, published in 1975/76 by Nava Veda Publications. Another translation into English by Kaki Madhava Rao was published by the Jashuva Foundation in 1996. It seems to be well known, and a number of references to it are found online, but it is not clear if the book is still in print. Luckily, some essays (in English) by Madhava Rao gaaru, on Jashuva and on the translation are available here. An excerpt from one of his essays is below, followed by a continuation of my translation of Gabbilam.

The place – Vinukonda, a village in coastal Andhra Pradesh. The time – the first decade of the twentieth century. The village drummer is going round announcing the play to be staged that evening. The announcement is dutifully followed by a stern warning that untouchables are not allowed to see the show. The irony that the drummer himself is an untouchable is lost on everyone, including the drummer.
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Gorati Venkanna on the new dora 

Gorati Venkanna is among the well known praja kavulu or people’s poets in Telugu. A good collection of his songs is here. In the song ‘Wah wah re mA dora’*, the poet alerts his fellows to the new ways of the erstwhile zamindars or feudal landlords. The vassals, usually from the untouchable castes, address their overlords as dora (master). Previously, the dora had a free hand in the village; his zulum (tyranny) was abetted both by religion/tradition (caste) and the state (the zamindari system). Now, in the wake of major political and moderate social reform, dora is forced to curb his flamboyance. Quickly grasping the new reality, he has taken to more sophisticated and surreptitious means. The poet sings of dora’s exploits in the new avatar, laying out his schemes for continued domination. However, dora’s asuric appetites will have their natural consequences – karma catches up, and by the end of the song, despite his wealth and power, he is reduced to an object of ridicule, abjectly chewing on greens to stay alive.

The language has a rawness that combines with the fearless and comical portrayal to produce a strong emotional connection. The superb vocals**, aided by the alliterative tempo and chorus, send the pulse racing. The magic and mischief are mostly lost in my translation below. Should Venkanna get wind of what certain turums are doing with his art, I imagine he will compose and sing a satirical lashing on the spot. And more will be the joy. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Tanguturi Prakasam – Naa Jeevita Yatra

Prakasam pantulu‘s daredevilry is the stuff of legend. The early signs were there, in a colorful childhood. This is an excerpt from his autobiography Naa Jeevita Yatra (My Life’s Journey, complete text available online here). My translation follows.

“….నాయుడు పేటలో చదువుకునే రోజుల్లో నేను బుధ్ధిమంతుణ్ణి అనిపించుకున్నానని చెప్పవీలులేదు. వయస్సు ఎంతో లేకపోయినా, స్కూలులో వున్న అల్లరిపిల్లలలో మన పేరు మొదటిదిగా వుండేది.

నాకు, ఎక్కడికి  వెళ్ళినా  రెండు రకాల మిత్రుల స్నేహాలు తటస్థపడుతూ వుండేవి.  పరమపోకిరీల  స్నేహం ఒకవైపున!  బుధ్ధిమంతులు,  సంపన్న  గృహస్థులు,  విద్యావంతులు  మొదలైన  పెద్దవాళ్ళ  స్నేహం  మరోవైపున.  కానురి  రంగడు  అని  ఒకడు  ఉండేవాడు.  అతని  అసలు  పేరు  రంగారావు.  అతను  మాధ్వుడు.  అతనితో  మొదటి స్నేహం  సాము,  గరిడీ,  కుస్తీలు,  చెడుగుళ్ళు మొదలైన  వాటిల్లో.  అతనొక  చిత్రమైన  మనిషి.  రోజూ అతను  సువర్నముఖి  ఒడ్డున ఉండే  ఆంజనేయస్వామికి  కోడిగుడ్లు  నైవెద్యం  పెట్టి  ఆ  ప్రసాదం  అందరికీ  ఇస్తూండేవాడని  ప్రతీతి.  చాలామంది,  “అతను  దుర్మార్గుడు;  చదువూ  సంధ్యా  లేనివాడు; అల్లంటి  వాడితో  నీకు  స్నేహం  ఏమి?” టని  నన్ను  మందలించేవారు.  నాకు  అతని  స్నేహంవల్ల  అలవాటయినవి  బడిపిల్లలని  ఏడిపించడం, వాళ్ళ  పుస్తకాలు  పారవెయ్యడం,  ఉపాధ్యాయుల్ని  వుడికించటం  మొదలైన  ఘనకార్యాలు.

ఒకసారి పుదూరు సుబ్రహ్మణ్యయ్యరు అనే మాస్టరుగారు బోర్డువైపు తిరిగి లెక్కలు చెబుతూ వుండగా నేను వేళ్ళాడుతూ వున్న ఆయన గోచీ కుర్చీకి కట్టాను. దాంతో బెత్తాల దెబ్బలు, మొట్టికాయలు మొదలైన శిక్షలన్నీ సంపాదించాను! అంతేకాదు! నన్ను స్కూలులోంచి డిస్మిస్ చేశారు. ఈ సంగతి మా నాయనగారికి తెలిసి, ఆయన ఆ రోజుల్లో అక్కడ డిప్యూటీకలెక్టరుగా వుండే ఆడక్కి నారాయణ రావుగారి నాశ్రయించగా, ఆయన దయవల్ల మళ్ళీ స్కూల్లో ప్రవేశించాను.”

“In the days of my schooling in Nayudu Peta, it cannot be said that I was well-behaved. Even if young in years, my name was on top of the mischief makers list.

Everywhere I went, two Continue reading

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