Wednesday, July 1, 2020




Barren she was, barren of child,
But not of compassion or care,
Empathy, emotions, love or laughter.
Her innocent soul so intuitive to others’ pain,
Did not seek to hear hers, nor heal hers.
Hers the pain that came from her barrenness
of a womb so dry that no seed ever could merge
its tiny wriggly form upon a fertile earth and spring
a sweet bundle to life.

‘Trust her not with your babies,
Her evil eye will be cast upon them!’
‘The fever that is draining your child
and making him whimper with unease…
How do you think it came about?’
‘All because that childless witch
passed by your house last week,
And in passing, she looked about
to catch a glimpse of your healthy boy.’

‘Shame on her to be so childless…
A creature she is, so unfortunate,
A pile-up of sins from previous births,
She is destined to carry that burden
instead of a baby blessing.’

‘Come here, Puthanai, you doleful woman,
Come and sit by this sweet lady
whose womb is filled with happiness, unlike yours.
Sit beside her and regard with green longing
how we pamper her blessed fertile soul.’
‘See how we rub her body with the sweet scent
of sandal, so that the little one she is carrying
will be pleasantly lulled to sleep
in the secured cool of its mother’s confines.’
‘Envy how we tie silver bells around expectant ankles,
That when she walks, tinkles to enthuse
the life in her to kick about in joy.’
‘Behold these colourful bangles of vibrant glass
and watch with spite how we slip them
upon her wrists to the swaying of passionate song
and the beat of lively dance,
So to impress upon the growing foetus
the promise of nurturing hands when born.’

‘You wretched woman, watch and feel jealous,
And let your hardened heart feel pain
for a blessing missed out on
of caring hands and compassionate heart,
But for possessing instead a soul devoid of the joy
that fosters a baby’s home.’

‘Hey you woman, and it embarrasses me to call you that,
You must be dry of spirit, how else can we explain
your indifference to cherubic bliss—
of tiny ankleted tinkling feet, soft little spongy palms,
The supple innocent rosiness of freshly bathed baby cheeks
that melt you not with the compassion
of maternal emotion!’

Oh! But melt she did,
Layers of shame, guilt, grief and self-reproach
that clung on to her being, an unhealthy body mass.
Build she did, a wall around her love,
An impregnable fortress of bloody hate.
Hers was a pain that came from anger, angst, and age.
Baby rosiness was fetid, anklet clinks clamorous,
And soft palms nothing but a tasty lump of delicacy.

Puthanai, the once coy, graceful, dainty damsel,
Was now a grotesque insult, reeking of insecurity.
Families feared her, children dreaded her approach;
Her vicious grin lend subject to terrifying tales.
Puthanai, an innocent soul so intuitive to others’ pain,
Now revelled in hurting, immune as she had become
to Pain.

So, when she held the blue baby in her arms,
Her instruction from the cruel Kamsa to strangle Him,
Qualms she had none to trust her huge breasts
into His tender mouth to suckle,
And while pretending to snuggle,
Stroked deceivingly to strangle.

But Krishna, the blue baby, nestled in her arms
comfortably, and drew at her breast.
The merciful warmth so emanated sent out a sensation
that tugged at her heartstrings.
She screamed in pain, not of the physical,
But of a searing emotional wound,
Its depth unreachable by any human perception.
The baby at her breast was no human,
And as He sucked out the stabbing pain,
The wretchedness afflicting her transmuted
into glorious beauty.
Puthanai, the once disgusting demoness,
So unfit for maternity,
She emerged from the ashes, a godmother,
And like a flower unasked, she spread to all around her
the fragrance of fertile fraternity!

Puthanai, according to mythology, is a fearful demoness who, under the instructions of Krishna’s evil uncle Kamsa, breast-feeds the baby Krishna with the intention of killing Him. However, Krishna sucks the life out of her. But because her act was maternalistic, she is said to have attained liberation and at her death, the air is supposed to have been permeated with perfume.
In my poem Puthanai, I have portrayed her as a very docile woman who becomes wicked because of a mean and spiteful society.

Bridal Scents

The flowers sat in their baskets, expectantly,
Not knowing where was their destiny,
Till one of them peeped over the edge and exclaimed,
“I think we are to be part of a bridal chemistry!”

The other flowers now clamoured for a peek
And with delight saw their fairy-tale treat —
A warm cosy room freshly curtained and cleaned
And in the middle, the nuptial bed, standing sweet!

“To the bride, I shall give,” exclaimed Rose,
The blushing colour of my ruddy petal,
That would splay passion upon her wedding saree
The red and gold igniting emotions special.

“My pearly perfumed hue I will cast,”
Said Jasmine, its tiny form notwithstanding,
“So the groom’s budding love, so pure
Will cascade upon his newly-wed astounding.”

Said Marigold, “I shall dangle in multitude streams
Framing a flowery curtain for the nuptial bed,
And when the lovers merge in marital embrace,
There will be enclosed not two, but one instead.

Champaka, its golden carpels tantalized,
Enunciated a commitment of blissful feel,
“My fragrance, so heady and intoxicating,
I shall emanate for an idyllic romantic appeal.”

Manoranjitham of the scented exotics,
“Permeate I will to their soul’s depths
And hold them seductive their hearts’ desires
For each other, conjugal bliss bequeaths.”

Years later, the bride now well matured,
Still recollected the delightful memories,
Flitting odours wafting colourful scenes
A night to remember, eternal treasuries

Of luscious lips and reddening cheeks,
And her husband, dizzy with lustful love,
Promises made, trust exchanged,
A life of togetherness, blessings from above.

Therefore I Must Sleep

This raging feverishness has rendered my limbs weak,
and my head throbs with the heat. The unrest
that runs down my spine brings on an anxiety
unwarranted, as my febrile tummy seems constricted
in the grip of fatigue.
And I must sleep for it all to go away.
Sleep, she hovers around me, prompting me to ease
And I drag my listless body to bed, thankful
for the reprieve, but as I lay down upon my pillow
it is not the welcoming pleasantness of rest
that overcomes me, but pathetic cries—
of rich evergreen forests that has never known heat
but now flaming up in an unquenchable fire;
of rivers that once flowed gaily, but now asphyxiated
with undegradable waste; of trees facing unkind cuts;
of hormone-infested udders; of forced wombs;
and of a displaced fauna in refugee state.
The poet Kodhai, she is the voice that makes heard
these painful expressions to an unsympathetic population—
So much to be said, so much to be done
But for now, the cries must be stifled
the eyes must be closed, for
I have miles to go therefore I must sleep
I have miles to go therefore I must sleep.


VIDYA SHANKAR, is a widely published poet and writer, motivational speaker, budding mandala artist, mindfulness practitioner, yoga enthusiast, and English language teacher with experience in instructional designing and content development. She is the recipient of literary awards and recognitions and has been on the editorial of three anthologies. She has two books to her credit ― The Flautist of Brindaranyam, (in collaboration with her photographer husband, Shankar Ramakrishnan) and The Rise of Yogamaya. A “book” with the Human Library, Chennai Chapter, Vidya uses the power of her words, both written and spoken, to create awareness about environmental issues, mental health, and the need to break the shackles of an outdated society.

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