What refuge have I but you? My compassionate one ! Son of Shiva ! O bestower of boons! O hoard of goodness ! Who else but you! Accepting this ignorant person, why have you not shown mercy? Why do you play this game with me? In this world only your feet are my sanctuary!
It was in August last year. I was confidently striding towards my gate in San Francisco airport. I had had an enjoyable holiday and was feeling good about myself. 2011 had started badly for me. My pre-existing bad back, a slipped-disk in my lower back, had raised its ugly head and had crippled me at the start of the year. I was making a slow recovery from it when I twisted my ankle badly and tore a ligament. A couple of months later, I re-twisted the same ankle. So when in August I managed my rather demanding touristic visit without pain, I was very pleased with myself. ‘Maybe I can restart my fitness routines’ I told myself, aware of having gained a quite few of the inches that I had previously lost in my ongoing battle-of-the-bulge. I felt strong and able. And so I was striding confidently, just as I stated at the start of my tale.
It was therefore a shock when my feet slipped under me and I found myself dropping awkwardly to the floor. I felt something give as my knee twisted outwards at an unnatural angle. I finally saw the little pool of liquid that someone had dropped, a pool which was virtually invisible in the shiny black floor. Even as pain shot through me I wondered ‘Have we no control over our lives then? Here I was feeling so good about myself! How delusional am I!’.
Thus everyday everywhere people are striding along confidently when the rug is pulled under their feet. Are our ceaseless endeavours meaningless then? Are we no better than the hamsters who run ceaselessly to remain at the same place? It all seems so futile!!
Such were my thoughts as I struggled uphill in my latest quest towards fitness, my knee throbbing painfully. I know that something is wrong again and I dread a visit to the doctor. As I pondered my helplessness, the song playing in my ipod made utter sense. ‘What refuge have I but you?’ says Koteeswara Iyer in the exquisite pathos of Raga Chalanatta. ‘Why have you not shown mercy? Why do you play this game with me?’. Surely anything this futile can be nothing else but a game? For lyrics and translation of this short song, see footnote. If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.
I have vacillated over my selection today, there are so many renditions I like! I especially enjoy the versions by Sanjay Subrahmanyan and Sikkil Gurucharan. But finally I could not move away from Tanjore S.Kalyanaraman’s wonderful presentation of this song. This is a live, amateur recording and the sound quality is poor. But do ignore the extraneous noise and focus on the music, it is such a treat!
And for an instrumental, listen to the speaking violin of A.Kanyakumari. I am a big fan of her music, she is an immense talent.
ஏதய்யா கதி எனக்-
மா தயாநிதி உமாபதி சுகுமார வரகுணநிதி
நீதான் அல்லது வேற் (ஏதய்யா)
பேதை ஏற்க உன்னருள் காட்டாது
பூதல சலநாட்டா நின் தாள் தான் கதி
புகழ் கவி குஞ்சர தாசனக்கு வேற் (ஏதய்யா)
EdayyA gati enakk-
mA dayAnidhi umApati sukumAra varaguNa nidhi nI dAn alladu vEr
pEdai Erkka un aruL kATTAdu ennODEdayyA vilaiyATTa
bhUtalA chalanATTa nin tAL tAn gati pugazh kavi kunjaradAsanukku vEr
What refuge have I but you?
My compassionate one ! Son of Uma’s husband (Shiva) ! O bestower of boons! O hoard of goodness ! Who else but you (are my refuge)!
In not showing your mercy in accepting this ignorant person, are you playing a game with me? In this world only your feet are my sanctuary. For this poet Kunjaradasa who else but you (are my refuge)!