Sitanshu Yashaschandra is among contemporary Gujarati literature’s most eminent representatives. A poet, playwright, translator and academic, he has received several awards over the years from the Sahitya Akademi Award (1987) for his significant opus, Jatayu, to the Padma Shri (2006) from the Government of India. He has authored three books of poetry. Presenting some of his poems : being poet.
I have known the ocean since ages
before the gods and the demons made it simple.
In the glare of the mythic fire, I have seen the waters.
The fire and the dampness can not be separated.
To become wet and to burn is the same thing.
When I come out of the ocean's floor
I won't have a handful of pearls.
I am not a diver.
I am a poet.
Whatever I have is there only in my eyes.
It all started with stubborn Magan saying
I want to live.
The Gujarati literati were dumfounded:
You dolt, is that ever possible?
The young clamoured on one side - what about
our experimental periodicals?
On the other the elders rebuked - this
way centuries may pass idly.
All agreed upon this - if you choose to live
then quit the sanctum of literature.
Done, said Magan.
The moment he stepped across the threshold
a miracle occurred.
From the niche appeared the Goddess Saraswati
and informed the king
that were Magan went she would follow.
And behind her - Goddess Experiment,
Miss Realism, Mr Rhythm - all wanting
to leave, all adamant.
So they decided, all right, you trouble-maker,
stay and rot in that corner.
But the fellow whose name was Magan,
a few days later says I want love.
All right, you nut.
So we took him to Apollo Street.
In the picturesque square, an
impressive building. In the building
a secret chamber under lock and key.
Took Magan to the State Bank's safe-deposit vault -
as stated in the scriptures, brought a priest
along to recite mantras
- handed one key to Magan and kept the other.
Then with chant of glory to
Ramachandra, Sita's spouse, opened the locker.
Here, take love.
But the son of a bitch Magan says - this is not love.
If this is not love then what is it, you
All the bigwigs - prize-winners, medallists - have
taken love for their stories, poems and plays
from this very source.
And you, fancy idiot, claim that this not love.
What is it? If this is not love what is it?
What is the purpose of keeping it in the
safe-deposit vault then?
So you can use it when necessary and return.
It never goes out of style.
All those veteran professors use it year after
year and some of them have used it for
twenty-five years - yet it stays brand new.
this prick Magan, he says -
I want to live and I want love.
Crazy Magan was locked up in the House of Letters.
The place has western-style latrines.
In the morning everybody used paper.
Need a lot of paper: but that Sardarji
from the Times of India distributed huge rolls
of paper which were left hanging there.
Then all the literary big-shots
- old and new -
put their signatures at the bottom of the
paper after use.
And the contents would be published in
periodicals or read over Akashvani.
In the case of an upset after bad food.
an entire novel could be serialized.
On anniversaries and festive occasions, special
numbers and anthologies would be brought out
from this stock only.
This swine of a Magan did his work
Early every morning, he would do the job -
and forget to sign.
But those literature-loving editors would
always be lurking around.
They would grab a new poem (even it had been discarded)
and print it under the name of Magan,
Only rarely would they put their own signatures.
(Generally speaking, there is some ethics in
our Gujarati literature. No one would pinch
And within a year, Magan got the State prize
and five or six gold medals.
And then there were celebrations and
felicitations: Every paper announced that on
a certain date and day, a felicitation programme
for Magan, the poet emeritus, would take
place with the following speakers and
who the chairman would be, plus a long list
Each one of them spoke. What oratory!
Someone mentioned kofka, another spoke of
Mallaremta and still another of Narsinhmeta.
Someone spoke of the love between a camel
and a cow.
And each one had an anecdote to relate.
Auspicious and inauspicious - all was revealed .
Finally someone happened to remember:
Let that swine Magan say few words.
The chairman was all set to press the bell
saying one, two, three, speak -
And Magan, the dolt, the poor idiot (one
pities him) says (the same, what else?), he
says (and this after receiving the prize for poetry),
says I want to live. I want to love.
I want to write a poem.
Translated by Saleem Peeradina, Jayant Parekh,
Rasik Shah and Gulam Mohammed Sheikh
(Translated by Roomy Naqvy)