Vinda Karandikar, one of the liveliest and most radical of Marathi poets, passed away yesterday. At 92, he had no doubt led a full life... I encountered his Pishi Mavshi or Aunty Witch poems and other nonsense when I was translating for The Tenth Rasa: The Penguin Book of Indian Nonsense Verse. The poems saw me thru a fairly dull pregnancy and everyone on board was great fun to work with.
But Vinda's genius, with its sharp, prickly images and its completely fantastic flights, has stayed with me for the longest time... I missed being taught by him at uni, but am grateful to Mike for having given me the opportunity to translate this one, among others...
Pishi Mavshi's Backyard
(Orig title: Pishi Mavshiche Parasu)
The cat digs up the backyard soil;
Pishi Mavshi sows the seeds.
They will grow as tall as her
By morning-time when darkness flees.
If the plants are taller than Pishi
Or seem shorter by a fraction,
Pishi Mavshi’ll wring their necks and
Dance deliriously to distraction.
On the jackfruit tree of Pishi
Mangoes grow in season and out
On the mangoes, guavas grow and
Banana trees on them soon sprout.
When banana bunches appear
Pishi kicks the troubled tree;
The tree starts trembling terribly and
Out pop saplings one, two, three!
The cat digs up the backyard soil,
And people say that they have seen
At high noon Pishi from a skull
Pour water on her garden green.
I wish someone would make this into a picture book. What drawings it would have! I love the image of Pishi shaking the plants' by their necks. It had n in splits too. There are a few more - funny, witty, full of mad wordplay. But Pishi with her reluctance to be liked or understood, with her profound sense of drama and trembling rage, is simply my favourite poem-person!
Here's Mike, who met Vinda while editing the book...
From The Tenth Rasa - The Penguin Book of Indian Nonsense Verse, Edited by Micheal Heyman, Anushka Ravishankar and Sumanyu S., Published by Penguin, © Penguin and Anita Vachharajani