Thursday, 5 April 2012


Here is a beautiful Marathi poem that I am sure all my likeminded Marathi friends know by heart. It has inspired and revived countless broken spirits with the indefatigable hope that it speaks about. Not that i am on a spirits-mending mission, nor do i see a plethora of sagging spirits around, but just wanted as many people to enjoy this poem as possible. Here it is in Marathi.

    कणा ( THE BACKBONE )

" ओळखलत का सर मला ?" पावसात आला कोणी
कपडे होते कर्दमलेले , केसांवरती पाणी
क्षणभर बसला, नंतर हसला, बोलला वरती पाहून,
गंगामाई पाहुणी आली , गेली घरट्यात राहून.
माहेरवाशीण मुलीसारखी चार भिंतीत नाचली
मोकळ्या  हाती जाईल कशी, बायको तेवढी वाचली
भिंत खचली, चूल विझली, होते नव्हते नेले
प्रसाद म्हणून पापण्यांमध्ये पाणी थोडे ठेवले
कारभारणीला घेऊन संगे, सर आता लढतो आहे
खचली भिंत बांधतो आहे, चिखल गाळ काढतो आहे
खिशाकडे हात जाताच, हसत हसत उठला
" पैसे नकोत सर , जरा एकटेपणा वाटला"
मोडून पडला संसार, तरी मोडला नाही कणा
पाठीवरती हात ठेवून फक्त "लढ" म्हणा .

Whether we care to admit it or not, and no matter how strong and courageous we are, we all have, at least once in our lives, felt completely done in by circumstances. We have felt hurt seemingly beyond our endurance, faced odds seemingly insurmountable,   and that elusive silver lining has seemed a cruel joke too practical to laugh at.  But survive we did, didn’t we ? We are still here and breathing, smiling, laughing and generally doing everything that once seemed impossible. Whether the suffering was  physical, or mental is immaterial because suffering of any kind is inherently insufferable.           

We can now look back on those days, and on those moments and say “Gosh, that was a close one, but I did it, I survived, it didn’t lick me , but I licked it”.  This is the moment that belongs to gratitude. The gratitude to the forces seen or unseen, known or unknown, that were on the ball for us in those times, carrying it for us till we got over the line and home. We remember a mere look from someone that was as comforting as any act can be. We recall a helping hand, a hand around our shoulder, a hand that wiped away a tear, a hand that just held ours and conveyed more than volumes of words ever could. A hand of a parent, a hand of a friend, a hand of a doctor, or a teacher . . ..  lets just call it the divine hand that turned the right key for us and found within us exactly what was needed to prod and fuel our own fighting spirit and give us hope.

This Marathi poem, “Kana” ( The backbone)  by V.V. Shirwadkar ( Kusumagraj ) that I have attempted to  translate, pays homage to, and humbly celebrates one such hand that empowered the two toiling hands of the protagonist who happens to be an ex-student of a teacher he has grown up admiring and looking up to .    The student is fighting the aftermath of the flood that  all but wiped out his home, all his earthly belongings, and also a child  that appears only by implication in one of the lines. I have taken the liberty of not translating it verbatim,  and of doing away with the  rhyming,  for two very valid reasons. One is that I am hopelessly incapable of operating within the limits of  meter and  rhyming.  And secondly, I did not want to lose the essence of this great work of art , in an effort to fit it within those parameters. So if this synopsis of a beautifully constructed poem sounds like a passage of prose, the idea was to ensure that the goods reached  you intact , no matter how crude the packing looked. This had to be something that  not only  expressed my gratitude to the great poet for giving us the poem , but also to introduce it to those  who hadn't  come across it for whatever reasons. It will have served its purpose if it also works as a gentle reminder for us all to maintain the attitude of gratitude no matter where we are at in life  .

“ Hello Sir ! Remember me ?”  a voice spoke over the sound of rains.
Clothes disheveled, almost in tatters, hair as wet as the rains.
He sat a while, caught his breath, then looked up and smiled.

“River Ganga blessed my home with a visit, Sir, for a few days.
 Like a happy, homecoming daughter, she danced within the four walls .
 Not one to go empty-handed , she left only my wife behind .
 Walls collapsed, the kitchen fire doused, she washed away all we had . 
 And left tears in our eyes as a token of her blessings..
 Toiling away now, Sir, I and my wife are.
 Rebuilding  the walls, clearing away the ruins and the mud.”

As I started to reach for my purse, he got up smiling and said. . .

“This is not about money, Sir, just felt a little lonely, that’s all .
 My whole life, though it appears to be broken, my backbone is still intact .
 Like the good old days, just pat me on the back and say “ fight on, Son, don’t give up”


Its the loneliness that the student spoke of , that saps  the will to fight and makes one want to throw in the towel. You aren’t  lonely every time  you are alone, but you are alone  every single time you are lonely.  And then  comes a time when seeking help, even refuge becomes imperative in order to live another day and fight. That is when a divine hand on a strong backbone works its miracle and hope is restored, the way it did for the brave student.

As I am about to conclude, I am reminded of an old saying. “The hands that help are holier than the lips that pray” . There was a time when I agreed with this logic far too easily and wholeheartedly and would even sneer derisively at the idea of the praying lips when direct action was required. I don't anymore, because i think the quotation is as unfair as it sounds beautiful . Of course there is no substitute for the hands that help. But, I have come to realize that while it’s impossible for all your friends and well-wishers to be directly involved in a situation, its their sincere and heartfelt prayers that help tilt the scales in your favor with whatever they are worth. Those encouraging words from the teacher were nothing short of a prayer that the student needed to reassure himself that he was not alone in his battle.

Here is wishing all of us a divine hand on our backs, such as the one that the student found on his back.      But, should the tables turn someday , may our  attitude of gratitude empower our own hand with a touch of divinity that might help someone get their hope back.  



  1. jeena isika naam hai da...

    1. I loved the crude are modest to the core and I highly appreciate it as I see you too believe that much was achieved before us.
      Its sure the essence that
      "We surfaced" and the gentle push comes in so many different forms...could be a signal,whisper,dream,an ear....
      Very well put, good work.

  2. I endorse your views. Especially the fact that the heartfelt prayers of well wishers definitely give immense strength move ahead. You have captured the essence of the poem very aptly. Glad you did not work on rhyming.

  3. I endorse your views. Especially the fact that the heartfelt prayers of well wishers definitely give immense strength move ahead. You have captured the essence of the poem very aptly. Glad you did not work on rhyming.

  4. I endorse your views. Especially the fact that the heartfelt prayers of well wishers definitely give immense strength move ahead. You have captured the essence of the poem very aptly. Glad you did not work on rhyming.