Poetry: Three lyrical poems

Dr Asavadi Prakasa Rao

Poems in translation from Telugu1

Telugu original by: Dr Asavadi Prakasa Rao | Trans. by: Atreya Sarma U

Only then will you enjoy the real thrill!2

If you resign yourself to your identity of a weak community,

And continue to drag yourself in the yards of others,

What then is the value of your life? What’s its purpose?

Caste and sectarian unions are no solution

For they reek of selfishness and trigger factional feuds.

Why do you forget that you own a brain in your head
And are strong in your loins?

If you continue to submit to the threats of some,

And bloat when some extol you to the skies,

And if you thereby sacrifice the sweat of your brow,

And keep on doing their bidding willy-nilly,

You will forever go on rotting like a slave.

When at all can you then dance in pristine ecstasy

With your own steps, gestures, lyrics and music?

You’ll derive the real thrill only when

You put a clear-cut stop to your thraldom.

***

Live and breathe...3

You, naughty urchins!

You brats that boastfully waste away your time!

Will you heed my words, and come forth

To walk along with me on a path that I show?

If you just raise your blabbering voices,

What’s it that tells you from the beasts?

If you fool away your time all the time,

How are you any different from a crow?

Don’t jump up on impulse, but learn
How to use and sharpen your mind.

Keep in mind the value of life between birth and death;

Do your bit to promote fellow-feeling more and more;

Fill the good deeds with your sense of responsibility;

Help the neighbours and the needy;

Define, explain and demonstrate what life is;

And light up the eyes of everyone around.

***

No, don’t sleep away all your time4

No more this slothful sopor, my dearie!

Wake up like a good boy at least now, my sonny!

Look up at the rising sun who shares out his golden rays;

And listen to the thrilling trills the kokila5 makes.

All around you can sight wonderful scenes

That fetch you oodles and oodles of treasures.

As you endearingly gambol about playing and frolicking,

As you sit down in a corner focusing on your studies,

My heart jumps with joy, and it craves for

Nothing but your chortles and charming looks.

Kumbhakarna6 who had lost himself in six months of slumber

Finally had to collapse along with his elder brother Ravana7.

Lakshmana8 – so alert round the clock for years fourteen,

And so loving and faithful to his brother Rama9 – sparkled like a star. 

Notes:

1. Source of the Telugu poems: antaranga tarangaalu (Waves of Soul), a collection of Telugu free verse poems. Dr Asavadi Prakasa Rao. Published by Navya Sahithi Samithi, Proddatur (Kadapa District, Andhra Pradesh). Originally published in 1988. Revised Edition 2005.

2. Telugu title: daasyam vaddu (No slavery).

3. Telugu title: manugaDakartham (Purpose of life).

4. Telugu title: niddura vaddura kannaa (Don’t oversleep, sonny).

5. Kokila: Kokila or Koel is a song bird. Also called Asian Koel, Eudynamys scolopaceus.

6. Kumbhakarna: Character from the Ramayana epic; younger brother of the demon king Ravana. Notorious for his non-stop somnolence for full six months every year.

7. Ravana: Demon king of Sri Lanka in the Ramayana epic. He abducted Sita, wife of Rama, and finally met his doom.

8. Lakshmana: Younger brother of Rama who accompanies the latter in his exile. A character from the epic of Ramayana.

9. Rama: Protagonist in the Ramayana epic.

***

Dr Asavadi Prakasa Rao

Dr Asavadi Prakasa Rao is a Padma Shri awardee (2021) in the field of Literature & Education. An accomplished Telugu writer and academic, he has a literary output comprising 60 books across various genres – Poetry, Extempore Poetry, Collection of Literary Essays, Translations, Monographs, Collection of Reviews covering 126 books, Biographies, Emendations, Commentaries, Anthologies, Collection of Forewords, Miscellaneous. Settled down in Penukonda, Anantapuram district of Andhra Pradesh, he is a recipient of a number of prestigious awards, titles and felicitations. Born in a scheduled caste – Madiga, he is an ardent believer in and practitioner of social harmony and Indian cultural values. As an Ashta-Avadhani (the only one in this art in the SC communities in the entire country), he performed this unique & amazing literary feat over 170 times. He retired as the Principal of a government degree college.


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