a problem with authority

because it is the anniversary of the day osman pasha signed his last firman :

mournful koel

the rains let loose the streams, rivers this year
you know there were no seasons, the last ten years
listening to the koel's welcome, as i stepped into jail
i wondered, has the spring arrived so early?

walls from the nizam's time, barbed wire, electrified to kill
the sentry ramparts, walls within walls, gates within gates
locks locked unlocked, between the guards
the captured greenery
the pigeons that can't fly
the sky imprisoned in the yard
the faint call to namaaz in the absent noon
the moist-eyed ground giving the wind a chill
it's here the seasons had been held since long
the mango sprout neem blossom taste the same
the jail koel sings all the time
like belli lalita
a chained song
in my honour perhaps
or because my mate kanakachari isn't here.

vara vara rao wote that on 25.08.05 in chanchalguda prison, hyderabad.

the poet wasn't thinking about punctuation when he wrote that.. so it's to be read as it drones - like life in a prison, i suppose. i tried to capture, that word again, the sense of the poem. i know others can do it better. so i'm inviting them to do so (especially the poems that follow) - especially gadde anandaswarup. i mean to update this post in the near future - this is a work-in-progress in a way. but in this poem i like the use of the word - 'ruthuvulu' (seasons). it could be understood as seasons, plain and simple, or as the peasant's season 'kaalam' which is the monsoon. when he says there haven't be seasons for the last ten years - he means the incessant drought during the naidu rule..or the repression, as he perceives it, let loose during the period..or he means simply a long period. or that he hasn't been in prison for a long time. or just time.

it's the peasant's

the peasant who staked life felling
fierce jungles, creating
fertile lands, grinding bones
to ash tilling, filling
the nawab's coffers with gold,
it's his, telangana is his; will
the old fox get it?

o nizam demon! there
hasn't been one like you;
you plucked the strings and dipped them in fire
my telangana, a crore gem-studded veena.

this is where the purists can begin whetting their knives - this poem, of course, defines the telangana freedom struggle, or the telangana peasants' struggle.. and has been a war song, especially the last line since it was written (but published later in 1949). in nizamabad prison by dasarathi. but i wish they'd wait..until they read this :

i can't endure this beating anymore ramappa, save me

i said i'd do good, what do i have to fear
i gathered varaha moharis for your servants

i gave not a pie to others, i submit at your feet
they whipped me govinda, i can't endure this

i trusted in you, govinda, can't endure this
where's the courage that bound the ocean, demon slayer, save me

rama bhadradrisitarama rama, didn't i chant your name, always.
what have you done to ramadasu ?

that's a kirtan written/composed by kancherla gopanna, or ramadasu, in prison inside the golconda fort some..day in the seventeenth century. here's the original, ( if the pundits haven't guessed that by now). what's the point in translating a kirtan that's more music and mood than a poem? only to complete this short compilation of prison lore.

yes, they must be bad translations..but i was only trying to make sense of those times..identify..what's common among those experiences and the times.


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gaddeswarup said...

has a translation of a stanza by Cherabandaraju. The speech itself is quite interesting.

kuffir said...

will check that..

gaddeswarup said...

Sorry; I was off topic. Your theme was poetry from prisons.

kuffir said...


i like the articles etc., you link to. usually very enlightening. checked this one too - very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kuffir, for these translations.

kuffir said...


welcome..and yes you are welcome.

Anonymous said...

My language has rusted quite, but I thought I'd take a shot at the translation, just for kicks. Here it is. The column width is messing up the display but nevertheless...


True, the rains fell
And streams bent this year,
But there were no seasons since ten years,
Surprised am I, soon as stepped into the prison,
By the cuckoo's welcome song,
"Has the Spring arrived, already?"

Walls, of Nizam's eon; barbed wires,
Endings, electrified for death,
Guarded bastions,
Walls surrounding walls,
Gates inside gates,
Locks to open,
Locks to close,

Lush green,
Trapped between the guard watches,
Flightless pigeons,
Sky, looking as though wholly trapped
And imprisoned in the yard

The "Allaho Akbar", the prayer call in the lazy noon,
Wind, shivering in the cold from wet ground,
In here are imprisoned all the seasons, all this time,
The Mango bud and the Neem blossom, taste one and same,
The prison cuckoo sings on, and on,
Like a coaxing cheer,
The fettered, the chained song

That may be for my arrival,
Or may be that, friend Kanakachari is not here

Cosmic Voices said...

Oppression of the oppressed

wonderful translations Kuffir!!!

i hope more keep coming regularly as promised.

of course, i shall make my usual request which i make at all such beautiful posts and which usually is never fulfilled. can you please give the transiliteration to help people like me, who cant read telugu, yet are interested in telugu.

kuffir said...


i thank you for adding to the interpretation. nice attempt!

cosmic voices,

i don't recall you having asked for a transliteration earlier.. but i'll definitely try to do that the next time around. thank you for your kind words.

Cosmic Voices said...

no. i didn't ask you but i usually ask at every other telugu blog and often it is never acceded :-(

i am elated to hear that you would "definitely try to do that"

looking forward to more such posts

Anonymous said...

Cosmic Voices: Take a look at my reply to your comment on Crazyfinger.org. There's a transliteration waiting for you!:-)

Kuffir; Thanks a bunch...


gaddeswarup said...

'so i'm inviting them to do so (especially the poems that follow) - especially gadde anandaswarup.'
Sorry; I did not see this remark before. As Herman Weyl said( in his introduction to 'Classical Groups')
" The gods have imposed on me the yoke of a foreign tongue that was not sung to me in my cradle".
Like many Telugus, I like poetry, songs and music. But I never tried my hand at writing poetry, either in Telugu or in English.

kuffir said...


what i attempted was to translate..or more crudely 'capture' the sense, the meaning of the poems more than..actually trying to reproduce the poems entirely as they're in telugu.

well, i thought you might understand some of the poems better than me..

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Anonymous said...

i know who/what belle lalita is. i will post again with more information.

kuffir said...


thank you. i realized later he was talking about 'belli lalitha' of the telangana kala samithi.

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