Clap Now!

அளந்திட்டதூணை அவன் தட்ட ஆங்கே
வளர்ந்திட்டு வாளுகிர்ச்சிங்கவுருவாய்
உளந்தொட்டு (இ)ரணியன் ஒண்மார் வகலம்
பிளந்திட்ட கைகளால் சப்பாணி
பேய்முலையுண்டானே! சப்பாணி !

When Hiranyan tapped the pillar strong
Out you came in imposing form
Of a lion, wide open his chest you tore
With these little hands I adore
Clap my darling!
Who suckled the demoness
To Death
Clap!


Among the several stages in piLLaithamizh, one of the stages is the 'chappANi paruvam' which refers to the phase when the child learns to clap its hands together (chappANi).PeriyAzhwAr's piLLaithamizh songs are among the pAsurams that interest me the most. The philosophic nuances of, say a, nammAzhwAr earns more reverence, on the other hand, some of periyAzhwAr's songs are more visceral in their appeal and direct and simple.

Some examples before I proceed:


ஒரு மகள் தன்னை உடையேன்,
உலகம் நிறைந்த புகழால்
திருமகள் போல் வளர்த்தேன்
செங்கண்மால் தான்கொண்டு போனான்

To all the world's fair praise
Like a princess I did raise
The one daughter I had
The god with lotus-like eyes
Took her from me in a trice

Suspending reverence, one can speculate what may have happened to AndAL. When children her age were content with their play and chores, was she the madcap girl who nursed divine fantasies to an extreme end ? Was it her father who passed on his obsessions to her ? (Did he perhaps pass on his poems as hers ?) What became of her ? Why couldn't she be like everyone else and bear him his grandchildren ? Amid these flurry of questions, one can even see the whole of his piLLaithamizh as a longing of a man who never had - or worse still, never would have - grandchildren of his own.

The divinity of children is a motif that springs up across religions. The non-judgemental nature of a child is perhaps a state that the one with a spiritual quest is longing for. Vice-virtue, good-bad, dirty-clean and such classifications clog the way up till the very end. A sample of this is one of my favorites


வட்டு நடுவே மலர்கின்ற மாணிக்க
மொட்டு நுனியில் முளைக்கின்ற முத்தேபோல்
சொட்டு சொட்டென்ன துளிக்க துளிக்க
என் குட்டன் வந்தென்னை புறம் புல்குவான்
கோவிந்தன் வந்தென்னை புறம் புல்குவான்.

Like a pearly tip of bud
Each droplet forms and drops
As my darling slowly walks up and
Hugs me from behind my back
As my Govindan
Hugs me from behind my back

It is a delicate balance that PeriyAzhwAr has passed (and my translation attempt has not) in managing to make you feel the beauty of the moment without evoking your disgust for the little child urinating as he walks to his mother. The poem works precisely because the non-judgemental nature of the child is communicated to the reader. The scene captured appeals directly and at the same time the child-like state (by extension the divine) sparks the reader's longing.

Now, how do we reconcile the child with the omnipotent ? Perhaps the child-like calm itself proceeds from the assurance of strength ? But aren't we traditionally accustomed to seeing strength in demonstration ? In the first poem that I quoted, PeriyAzhwAr doesn't bother reconciling. He depicts the seeming contradictions as they are and just lets us gasp. Imagine such a blood-soaked R rated line being sung to a baby!

Like every good poem reader one is expected to grab it and run away from the original context to make the poem one's own. Forget that he is singing to the Lord but just to any child without an avatar history. These innocent hands have in them a life ahead. What does life have in store for the child ? Not all the possibilities ahead are likely to be cherubic.Will he be guided by will or will he be just reacting to situations (there I go judgemental again !). Perhaps we can leave that all for later. All that is true now is that the child is learning to clap. The beauty of the moment rooted deeply in the present - the only reality. After all, what can be more transient that childhood?

It is inevitable my dear that you will go on to become a man - with all the trappings of adulthood. So what? Clap now!

Comments

  1. Such sweet verses. I only paid passing attention to the pasurams paatti used to recite as she went about her chores when I visited her during vacations. Always loved their lyrical lilt though never bothered to mine them for meaning or anything. (Avvalavu aarvam ellaam kaamicha andha pinju vaayasula, adhigaprasangi nu solli thitti amichiduvaa, lol.)

    Vattu naduve malargindra maanikka
    Mottu nuniyil mulaikindra muththey pol
    Sottu sottenna thulikka thulikka
    En kuttan vandhennai puram pulguvaan
    Govindan vandhennai puram pulguvaan.


    Is that lovely or what?!

    Indha maadhiri oru mura Tanglish la ezhidhi vechunda thaan aduththa thadava inga varacha enakku pidichadha marupadiyum padikka souriyamaa irukkum. Selfish motive only. :-)

    P.S: "Oppuku chappaani (aka dummy) nu solluvaaley, childhood games laam vilayaadum podhu romba kutti pasanga ellaam vandhu "plees plees, ennaiyum sethukoyen" nu kenjumbodhu... *that* term has its origins in a Periaazhvaar Paasuram? Wow!

    P.P.S: Hard to say "Chappaani" without thinking Kamal in Padhinaaru Vayadhinile, no? Speaking of Aazhvaar verse in movies, SPB singing Vaaranam Aayiram in Keladi Kanmani is the slice of soulfulness that surfaces from the bottom of my murky memory.

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  2. Oh, kekkanum nu nenachen. Mudhal la "Two thumbs way up!". Apparom "Clap Now!" -- orey the "audience in kushi mood" cues-aa irukku.. Neenga script yedhaavadhu ezhudharingala enna? :-)

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  3. I read somewhere that James Joyce rewrote his original sentences a painful number of times, until he got them "just right".

    We can all relate, no? Coz right after you hit submit is when a turn of phrase -- that imparts to your thoughts an iota more iridescence -- enters your head, and by then it's too late.

    Because you grant yourself but a mere moment (in a manner of speaking) to comment, to piggy-back, on someone else's self-inquiry that you then bequeath to evanescence.

    I mean, how many times do you consciously look up an old correspondence simply to spit-shine a sentence (coz you could, coz you cared)? Never. But never say never, so here goes:

    I think "SPB singing Vaaranam Aayiram in Keladi Kanmani is the slice of soulfulness that surfaces from the murky depths of memory." I LOVE how this brings out better, the unfathomability of memory that the earlier thought seemed to, er, try and get to the "bottom" of. As if...

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  4. பிறர் இதனை ஏற்கெனவே சுட்டியிருக்கலாம். “வட்டு நடுவே மலர்கின்ற மாணிக்க” - எழுதியவர் பெரியாழ்வார். நம்மாழ்வார் என்று ‘டைபோ’ ஆகியுள்ளது. சரி செய்துவிடவும். நன்றாக எழுதியுள்ளீர்கள்.

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  5. OMG, you're right. I just looked it up and it *is* SJanaki singing it. Why then did I keep hearing it in SPB's voice, inside my head, loud and clear, all these years? Really, I'm not joking.. Perhaps as you imply, the alternate rendition is a product of my imagination.

    And ennadhidhu? Library ye blog ku konduvandhutinga? Each post reads like pages from a manuscript now... I LOVE this look!

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