The king of Papinivattam
Who lost the battle to the Zamorin
Was allowed one more night.
The head that is going to fall tomorrow
Reflected intensely on the opposite wall.
He took nothing that night,
Not even a pint of ale that was aplenty.
Sat there still watching the shadow
Of the head flickering with the lamp-flame.
Clothes could be spread out for drying
On the tension of that gaze;
Regretted a maid later in Calicut.
Not the tiny land and subjects of Papinivattam.
Not the maids with supple, shaped thighs.
Not his mistakes either.
Not even the bad fate.
The least about the betrayal of Gods.
If somehow, given back a life
The steward Kunjan Nair must be asked
To invent a new game of Chess.
To play alone by pushing here with the right hand
And by pushing there with the left.
Not because the winner and looser are the same.
But because we may change the killing
Into a passing away
Translated from Malayalam by Ajay Sekher
P N Gopikrishnan is a leading young poet in Malayalam. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or +91 9447375573
This is a translation of his poem titled “Ente Thelivu Jnan Thanne.”
Papinivattam was a minor kingdom north of Kodungallur and Mathilakam in central Kerala. It was a regular battle field between the Calicut and Kochi principalities during the middle ages. The poem is a fictional rendering of those historical events in an imaginative way that critiques militarization and feuds in medieval Kerala with subtle irony and biting sarcasm.
As a Vattam or temple of the Papini or the Chamana nun at the beginning of the common era the place has degraded into a petty frontier of the Zamorin by the 17th century. The rise and fall of the region and its culture is also significant and resonant in the poetic rendition rich with historical and cultural overtones providing striking parallels and analogies to contemporary political formations in Kerala.