Sunday, 27 October 2013

Prabuddha XIV

This is the fourteenth part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI , VII, VIII,  IX, X , XI, XII and XIII can be found in


Snotty-nosed and unkempt

scantily clad and emaciated

there are children

at the slum-door.

Rusty water from street faucet

wets and flows pavement and road,

heavyset women in body-wash and bath

empty tins, naked kids and Rani soap

thick phlegm, male and female

rise in white and ride the lost and losing waters,

plantain skins and fish scales

leftover rice, broken pieces of tile,

the soaked squalor of life-remnant

give rise to revulsion,


Rani soap fragranced

Tap-water shower

cheap glistening-gold shoes

deep red reddened red lips

thickly powdered cheeks

a bright, vividly colored sari

wrapped around her

and a handbag to swing, to hold,

the mother steps out at dusk

to work.

The emaciated consumptive

also known as head-of-household

on the pavement

on his haunches sits

dragging on a beedi

puffing smoke into the night

red-black tattoos

of swords and tigers

decorating arms --

signs of muscular days

long gone waste. 

Her eyes tarry awhile

gaze meets gaze

mind reads mind

the shadow of a smile

sweeps momentarily

across countenances

marked by affection and regret,

and in that instant

she saw the indelible letters

the black legend across his chest:

Amma budu wewa!

May my mother attain Buddhahood. 

And along the narrow lane

walked Prabuddha,

slow, quiet and calm. 

The children lifted eyes

looked at him.

‘Where is he going, this gentle man?

Could he be the father?’

The man too looked

with suspicion, with hatred,

struck a match

with resolve that had no name

re-lit his beedi.

Running hither and thither

on the dismal road lined by shanties

that was their home,

shrieking and laughing

unintended recipients of foul word and curse,

these children,

are they not mine,

Prabuddha wondered.