Despair. Of all human emotions, is this not the most painful? Hope is what keeps us living from one minute to the next, of taking one step after another. What are we hoping for, you may ask. Whether our circumstances are propitious or direly, we all share the unvoiced hope that there will be no disasters in the next minutes or hours, that life will flow through our veins, that those we care about will be safe. Despair then is the lack of even these hopes, it is like taking away the foundations of life from beneath our feet, making it meaningless.
We do not see despair very often in Carnatic Music though this music is very emotional in nature. Carnatic Music runs through a gamut of emotions, from romantic to tragic, from joyful to reflective, from devotional to patriotic. The emotion is perhaps one the most important part of this music; technical artistry is after all well understood only by a limited audience and the many languages in which the songs are written is a barrier to responding to the words. Emotion speaks to all.
Enna Kavi Padinalum , my song choice for today, speaks of despair. It is set suitably to the Raga Neelamani which drips pathos. The lyricist-composer Anayampatti Adisesha Iyer (later known as Sadhu Guhananda) addresses Lord Murugan when he says ‘Whichever poet (=poet’s song) I sing, your heart still does not melt, are you still testing me?’. He despairs of the lack of divine blessings in his life but what touched me most is the phrase that ‘there is no one to take my side’. Don’t we all want that, need that? Somebody to take out part in life? Yet in his despair, he still cries out for one ray of hope ‘if only You (Murugan) thought of me, I would have no more misery’. For full lyrics and translation, see footnote. To more about the raga Neelamani, click here.
Today I present the song in the voice of Madurai Somasundaram (1919-1989) who made this song his own. It is impossible not to be touched by his emotional rendition. Note how the violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman, the Maestro whom I love and admire to the depths of my heart, wrings pathos out of every note.
In recent times, it is Aruna Sairam’s deeply emotional singing which has touched me. Click here to listen to a soulful rendition.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
என்ன கவி பாடினாலும் உந்தன் உள்ளம் இரங்கவில்லை
இன்னும் என்ன சோதனையா முருகா, முருகா (என்ன கவி)
அன்னையும் அறியவில்லை தந்தையோ நினைப்பதில்லை
(உன்) மாமியோ (alt : மாமியும் ) பார்ப்பதில்லை மாமனோ கேட்பதில்லை (என்ன கவி)
அக்ஷரலக்ஷம் தந்த அண்ணல் போஜ ராஜன் இல்லை
பக்ஷமுடனே அழைத்து பரிசளிக்க யாரும் இல்லை
இக்க்ஷணத்தில் (alt: ஈஜகத்தில் ) நீ நினைந்தால் எனக்கோர் குறைவில்லை
(அ) லக்ஷியமோ உனக்கு உன்னை நான் விடுவதில்லை (என்ன கவி)
enna kavi pADinAlum undan uLLam irangavillai
innum enna sOdanaiyA murugA murugA
annaiyum ariyavillai tandaiyO ninaippadillai
un mAmiyO (/mamiyum) pArppadillai mAmanO kETpadillai
akshara laksham tanda aNNal bhOja rAjan illai
pakshamuDanE azhaittu parishaLikka yArumillai
ikshanattil (alt : Ijagattil) nI ninaindal enakkOr kuraivillai
(a)lakshiyamO unakku unnai nAn viDuvadillai
Whichever (enna) poet (=song of poet) (kavi) I sing (padinalum), your (undan) heart (uLLam) does not melt (irangavillai – literally, does not descend). Is this more (innum enna) testing of me (sOdanaiya), Muruga?
Even your mother (=Shakti) (annaiyum) does not know (ariyavillai), nor does your father (=Shiva) (tandaiyO) even think (ninaipadillai) of me (implied). Your (un) aunt (=Lakshmi) (mAmiyO) does not see (pArrppadillai) me (implied), your uncle (=Vishnu) (mAmanO) does not listen (kETpadillai) to me (implied). [Implied meaning: Without Shakti, the poet is powerless and without Shiva, who is most compassionate, he is without blessings. Without Lakshmi looking at him, he has no wealth as even a look from the corner of her eyes – Lakshmi kataksham – one is so blessed. Without Vishnu, the Preserver, listening to him, the poet’s very life is at stake].
The great (aNNal) king (rAja) Bhoja who gave (tanda) lakhs (laksham) for each character/letter (aksharam) (note: the famous king was a patron of the arts who is said to have rewarded poets/writers generously) is not there (illai), nor is there anyone (yarum illai) who will call me (azhaittu) with sympathy (literally – take my side) (pakshumaDanE) and gift me (parishu aLikka) . If you (nI) only thought of me (ninaindAl) at this moment (ikshanattil), I would have not (enakku illai) one (Or) want (kuraivu). Is this your (unakku) aim (lakshiyamO) (to be indifferent to me)? Or do you just not care (alakshiyamO)? I (nAn) shall not give you up (unnai viDuvadillai)!