Sep 122005

Each word has a small, a taste, and a story. How do we understand it? Perhaps it will take lifetime.


In #kanThaabharaNam# (కంఠాభరణము) one of the characters says “#Sabda braham#(శబ్ద బ్రహ్మము) is prior to #artha brahmaM# (అర్థ బ్రహ్మము)”. Or, as the sloka says #tathaaksharaat saMbhavati iti viSwam#. (తథాక్షరాత్ సంభవతీహ విశ్వం) Take your pick :-).

Then there is other set of peeps who say that knowing meaning is important to understanding the poetry.

What is surprising to me is that this “knowing the meaning” business. Simply giving the dictionary meaning is not sufficient. To understand the meaning, you live with the word for a few years. You take it out for walks, you go out to dinners, you fall asleep with it… Oops, Am I in the wrong mailing list?

Even after all that, from a word you want more than meaning. Unlike prose, where mere meaning (I am not dismissing that meaning — that would come later) is important, in poetry, you seek for the color, smell, and taste for each word.

Being a man of few thoughts (My motto: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle), I am reusing one of the thoughts I had a while ago:

[Beginning of a reused mail]

Sadly, till date, I cannot appreciate English poetry, especially romantic poetry. #Shelly kavanapu halleekasamu# draws a blank. I can resonate with

#sanja pedavula erupu, kaDali anchula virigi
sanja parikiNi cheragu eDada lOtula merasi#
(సంజ పెదవుల ఎరుపు, కడలి అంచుల విరిగి
సంజ పరికిణి చెరగు ఎడద లోతుల మెరసి )

But songs of daffodils leave me cold.

Translations? They fail in poetry. Just take the preceding two lines. #sanja# (సంజ)is not “evening” there. That is not equivalent to “sandhya”(సంధ్య). It is a village cousin of #sandhya#. She works in the farms. She wears a half saree. She does not wear a lipstick; her lips are naturally red, a shade of red that you can only find in the sky at the twilight. Her lips are not sheen; the thin vertical lines on the lips with different shades of red, are entirely different from what you find on #sandhya#.

Now #sandhya#(సంధ్య) is different. She may be a college girl, even she came to the village on a vacation. Her lips are uniform red, with a slight sheen. She may wear a half saree, but ever so reluctantly — perhaps only on special occasions. She is delicate; and may have read a little bit of poetry. When she lifts her eyes, the shyness hangs on to her eyelids a little.

See, the word #sandhya#సంధ్య) and #sanja#(సంజ) are entirely different, contrary to what dictionaries say. Both personifications of evening, both as different as a painting of Monet to vermeer! Only living in a culture long enough can teach those images.

Try finding an English equivalent that paints that image for #sanja#(సంజ)!

As I have been living here in this country, and reading World literature, I have been trying to map the alien feelings into Telugu, the only point of reference to several of my emotions. If you remember an RB heading titled “mokkajonna tOTa lO, out of bearded barley”, that was what I was trying to do. It has taken me 20 years of cultural immersion even to have a feel for “Out of bearded barley”. It has taken me my childhood and adolescence, to understand #mokkajonna tOTa#(మొక్కజొన్న తోటలో).

Out of curiosity, do you guys listen to English songs? Do you listen to lyrics? What do you think of “Out of bearded barley” phrase? What does it evoke? Some of you have been in this country longer than I have been — what do they feel?

[End of reused mail]

Ramarao Kanneganti
Sep 12, 2005

[Original message here]

 Posted by at 11:59 am

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