Do You See?

“I don’t want Majnu”: Kolatkar’s Laila; Apartment Hunt; Micellaneous

These days I’m blogging less and wondering, jeez, how do people blog so much! Or spend time on Facebook, so much! Don’t they have things to do, in real life? I find my morning just whiz past. Then reading, answering emails, then lunch. Oh, siesta? Not always, not really! I found myself out and about for long, long hours these past few days. Various chores, pursuits, follow up of paperwork. Don’t ask.

Apartment hunting. Preferably in one of those housing complexes with a watchman at the main gate, electricity back-up (Hyderabad is very good in it’s power situation, unlike Delhi), a lift to ride up, etc. My present apartment is in a private house, sans elevator and so, at times, climbing up with load and grocery seems tiring. Also, elderly friends, when invited, invariably find it tough to walk up two floors.

There is an apartment but in a relatively unfinished complex. One block is still under construction, so the view from outside the gate is a bit cluttered. But the chosen apartment faces away, to a broad green clean patch of land dotted with Neem and other trees on one side; and an open, residential, but clean wide courtyard view on the other. Right, there are two balconies. The green side can be used as an evening drink and snack spot. It comes next to a biggish dining area. The other one comes with the large kitchen. So maybe a small foldable table with chairs there for fair weather munchings?

The landlady (prospective, as the move in date is August 15) and her daughter are a lovely pair. Anglo-Indians who speak fluent Telugu, being from Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, the landlady is a smashing cook. How do I know? Last night, while talking move-in matters at her place, she made me gorge on the yummy mutton cutlets, beef chops and a small bit of roast she had made for lunch. And homemade wine! Ooh. I have to have this apartment just so I can buy some wine from her and learn a few cookery tricks, the latter not really one of my virtues.


Arun Kolatkar is a name most Indian poets writing in English MUST know. As well as others. This is a translation by one of my poet acquaintances, Sachin Ketkar:

Laila: Arun Kolatkar


Majnu went to the desert
Majnu went to the mountain
Majnu went to the date palm
Majnu went up to herd of deer
Majnu met the chief antler
Majnu even visited some pigeons
He begged a little Laila
From everyone.
Everyone gave him a little Laila
Some gave him a pinch, some a grain
Each as per his strength
Yet his bag was as empty as ever.
For some days, Majnu woke up early
He took a tattered sieve to a river everyday
And filtered
The slithering grains of the sand,
In the running water,
Till it was dark
With a hope
Of coming across a couple of specks
Of Laila.
A sparrow built a nest in Majnu’s hair.
From a crank serpent
He learnt Lam and Ye
The only two sandy alphabets.
And only these two letters
Would he trace ceaselessly
In sand or in air.

The rock
He used to recline on
Used to tenderly unfold
Laila to him
That rock used to catechise
The Lailopnishad in sleep.
If you divide Laila by Laila
Or if you multiply Laila by Laila
The answer will always be
If you subtract Laila from Laila
What remains
Is Laila.
And Laila is the only quantity
Which can be also written as
Ma-Ja- Nu.
The rock used to console him
And reassure him by saying
You will definitely get Laila
But when
When you will turn your back
Upon Laila.


An elderly scorpion
Too lived
Under a nearby rock.
He used to fast and spend
All of his time
Contemplating God.
He took pity on Majnu
And one day
Whatever little Laila he had on his sting
He gave it all in a single stroke
To Majnu.
And without even waiting for thanks
Without lingering for a moment
He went away on a pilgrimage
To spend the rest of his days
In the company of God.

Majnu was filled with grief
A grief as immense as a mountain
Majnu was utterly agonized
Grief rained on him incessantly
How many trees
How many camels
How many horses
How many houses
How many families
It swept away.
Majnu irrigated
All Arabia with his grief
And how many poets
How many storytellers
How many fabulists
Have gleaned their harvest from it
How many times.


Poor Laila
Was not allowed
Even to weep
Not even at home or at her in-laws home
Not even near the kitchen
Not even near the cooking fire
Her tears were tasteless
Unable to declare
Even the name of their begetter
And who
But only the candle
Would be there to understand her sorrow
Without her telling
And burn and melt
On her behalf.
Only if she would cut her finger
While making mince
Would she be permitted to weep.


As he was coming to see Laila
Laila met him on the way
It simply means she came up and stood before him
She too was coming to meet him
It was then that Majnu said
Get out of my way
Laila stood there transfixed
Looking down.
Then Majnu went round her
And walked away
To meet Laila
Chanting the name of Laila.


She then almost collapsed
And wept inconsolably
And she said
I don’t want Majnu
I want my Quais back again
My Quais-bin- Umer
No sooner would I utter
I am hungry
He would immediately draw his dagger
And sacrifice even his dear she-camel he rides for me
And which he loved more than his life
And the Quais would even treat all my girl friends
I want that Quais
He who had romped with me
Grazing sheep all day long
In the wilderness
All daylong
He who had roamed all over Jabel with me
He who had frolicked and gambolled
In the meadows with me
The Quais used to smell of Najda’s clay
Where is that real flesh and blood Quais
What shall I do with Majnu
Who pursues my shadow instead of me
The shadow that never smells
Of the tender grass crushed under the back
Or the fresh droppings
Of sheep.

(Laila, 39-46 pps)
Translated from Marathi by Sachin Ketkar


It’s always the truth that words slide away from one corner of the mind to the other, words being mobile entities. From one photo frame, the spot light goes off to another. Not because you are unresponsive, not because you don’t care. But because you are guided by time’s tricks, by seasons and their strange effects in your head. Laila sought Majnu and Majnu sought Laila. Laila’s time took her to an axis where Majnu lost the coordinates. And how fantastic that Kolaktkar, because he is a poet, notices that slight change, that turning of the head from west to east, that subtle re-arrangement where wants remain, but needs change. Only a poet knows. And I try to know too. Oy vey, I sound totally muddled here. But do you see a change in the muddleness though?!

A’right, a’right. A photo then:

This is from the walls of the corridor of University of Stiring’s English Studies department, Pathfoot Building. I’m not able to read the photo/painting caption here. I should’ve read it and jotted it down earlier for the purpose of posting it here. But then, some things will always remain un-jotted, un-understood, un-ended. No harm.



2 comments on ““I don’t want Majnu”: Kolatkar’s Laila; Apartment Hunt; Micellaneous

  1. Do You See
    July 19, 2012

    Actually, I CAN read the captions with the painting/photo above. You can, too. It’s intriguing, isn’t it? I mean the picture…

  2. Saheli
    July 24, 2012

    “he took a tattered sieve to a river everyday
    and filtered
    the slithering grains of the sand,
    in the running water..”
    …”what shall I do with Majnu
    who pursues my shadow instead of me
    the shadow that never smells
    of the tender grass crushed under the back…”

    Thank you for sharing this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on July 19, 2012 by in Kolatkar, Laila, Nabina Das, poetry, Stirling.
%d bloggers like this: