Suman Keshri

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Suman Keshri (15 July 1958), is an essential name of contemporary Hindi poetry. Her collection of poetry (YAGYAVALKYA SE BAHAS) is published by Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi ( 2008).
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Translator's Note :

Aparna Bhagwat
Suman Keshri, is an eminent name in the world of poetry. Not only are her poems contemporary but also speak of a profound study of human nature. While her mythical legendary characters narrate an incident they also display layers of turmoil inside establishing themselves as more human and hence, closer to us. Sumanji is equally proficient in expressing her thoughts on day to day matters, and nature. At times she is also found to be casting a question to the abyss of the unknown. The delicate balance then created, is intriguing, stimulating and enjoyable. It is a pleasure to read poems which do not over step the poetic license and simultaneously strike the deep rooted strings of the macrocosm and right into the female heart to bring forth a beautiful poem filled with the musical rhythm of just “being”.  The selected poems display her dexterity in the discipline.


How do I introduce myself? 
Have you ever realized- 
Dropadi, Panchali, Krishna and Yagyaseny 
are all adjectives or conjunctions and not one of these is a  proper noun!

Father had rather wished for a warrior to avenge Dronacharya 
Astonishing/ surprising everyone I followed Drishtdunm  
all at once from the Yagya-agni
The one's who were not thought worthy of land measuring a niddle -point,  
 blame me for the death of millions  
they have spun several stories around me  
only because  never did I cry  
nor ever lamented 
 not even before Kunti –Ma  
who distributed me amongst her five sons 
nor in the Kurusabha 
where I was left alone  
inspite of my five husbands
 History is witness 
 That I only raised some questions and  
 You deprived me even of my name!


Have you ever seen tomorrow ? 
I asked Tathagat
What else  have I known? 
answered He with a faint smile.

(By) Spreading her Chunri on the hot burning sand in the desert 
placing a pot-full water with roties over it 
shadowing eyes  with her palm  
woman has built  
a home  
Just beneath the Sun.

A woman lives by excuses 

A woman lives by excuses.
When she’s tired, sewing or weaving is the excuse,
sorting grain, shelling peas is the excuse.
To close her eyes for a few minutes,
counting prayer-beads is the excuse,
listening to Ramayana or Bhagavata the excuse.
[or “listening to the holy scriptures”] 
To get out of the house, visiting the temple is her excuse,
buying vegetables, bangles or okra her excuse,
bringing the children to school her excuse,
taking the baby for a ride in the pram her excuse. 
To sleep, putting the child to bed is her excuse.
To sing, offering a lullaby is her excuse.
To cry, chopping onions is   her excuse .
To adorn herself, husband and relatives are her excuse.
To live, the needs of others are her excuse. 
A woman has to search
for her own existence.
Thus she lives her life.
a woman lives by excuses.
(Translated from Hindi by Linda Hess)

Linda Hess

Dr.Linda Hess is a scholar, writer,and a lover of Kabir. She began her travels to India in the 1960s and has been studying and translating the poetry of Kabir since the 1970s. She is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University.


I Paanchaali, depraved as they describe  me,
Call  myself  – Krishnaa, 
                   from the roof top!

I can never forget my woeful cries in the Kurusabha,
And  your yearning
To cover me up…

Ah! Those moments changed me!
Oh  Krishna, I have always loved you and only you,
And you are my sole friend!
You said -
“Arjun is my friend, my image, my devotee,
You be his."
And I became his. 

You told me - 
"The mother has divided you between her five sons,
You get divided"
I splitted myself amidst them all.

You stated -
"Subhadra is dear to Arjun,
Accept her.”
And I embraced her into our lives.

Dear, all this was done ….because,
You are my soul mate.
And to do so…
Is what love is all about!

Everybody talks of my love for Arjun 
Which gave me the frost bite,
But I know for sure, 
That you made me stay behind .

I still lie there, O Beloved!
Listening to your flute - the anhad naad* …
O my eternal love…

(* Anhad naad - It is an internal sound within the body, signifying the spiritual growth at that level(Anahata),there are ten types of sound a spiritual practitioner hears within him/herself known as Dashavida nada,such as the sound of a blowing of conch cell(shankha nada),of flute(venu nada),of bell(ghantha nada),of drums,of strings instrument(veena),of trumpet(shehanai),of thunder,of water flow and so on.Hearing such sounds are a sign of spiritual growth)


She wakes up at a definite time,
Shirking the longing to turn over and wrap herself in a quilt,
She sits up, popping her knuckles.
Her feet feel for her slippers and find them,
and by the time she is up,
her accustomed fingers,
have already rolled her tresses into a neat bun.

Life runs like clockwork for her,
to heat the water for tea,
to cook the dal,
to toast a bread or a parantha,
everything is clearly defined,
and to be carried out punctually.

Having bathed at the fixed time
with flowers decked in her hair
bindi on her forehead
she flits about her door
like a restless bird

At a fixed time!

In this life of precise routine
the only uncertain thing is
talking with and listening to herself.
she does not even remember
the sound of her voice…

would she recognise
who this is
if confronted
with herself ?


It was a strange incident!
While passing by a hillock yesterday,
A droplet on a leaf,
Called out and accompanied me.
I wonder if it was a dewdrop,
Or a tear drop from someone’s eye?
Has it ceased existing or does it still survive?
Present in this constitution,
In an unknown form,

And in some un-apprehended hope…


No! Not the piping!
How come the cuckoo,
Warbles so early in the morning!

Hidden among the mango leaves and blossoms,
It was neither an echoing,
Nor an alluring, lusty call.

It was infact, an edgy, uncomfortable cry,
Calling out,
To the unknown?

The serene skies,
And the quietude,
No birds twittering,
No wails of some distressed child.

Maybe it was a cuckoo obscured,
Concealed by the leaves and the blossoms,
Of a lonely tree,
And the way it screeched –
Neither was it piping…nor a tweeting!


Listen !,My daughter
 I fly across the window,
Like a bird…
You watch me –
Giggling and clapping 
The lights, in which,
The bird’s feathers would turn,
Into a rainbow
Just like it happens in the world of tales..

Listening to the tales, my daughter,
Just watch this bird
Flying in the sky.

Learn - to spread your arms wide apart,
And also to hop on your toes.
See how a bird is created .

Listen !,My daughter
 I fly across the window

You come…

(Translated from Hindi by Aparna Bhagwat)

Aparna Bhagwat is an ex-lecturer of Cytology. Deeply spiritual by nature, she is an avid  reader and indulges in her passion of writing and translating literature of both Marathi and Hindi languages.

Paintings  : Ramkumar
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