R S Prasanna

Spam that tries to be literature.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Kamal Haasan's "The Fire", and my Translation

Fire told me this tale.
It was the day Sita was asked to prove her chastity to the world. By Rama, her husband. Because of Ravan, her lover.
Using me, her …
But I jump.
First things first. How I met her.
Ravan’s attendants wanted my warmth. The most cold terrains ever seen, the most bitter winter the forest saw. Shivering, they kindled me with the cold sticks picked up from the sticky earth. Fed me oil.
I blazed. They slept. Sita lay awake.
With me.
After everyone had slept - the guards do sleep after all – Sita would sometimes just keep gazing at me. Into me. And I…
I would writhe. The lust that her gaze aroused was sweet. The oil, the wet earth, Sita… and I, slithering in heat.
The morning breeze and the fresh dew douse fire. I would lay spent.
Once, I got so angry with the man, Ravan, that I decided – lust blinds – I decided to burn up his home!
I caught on to Hanuman’s tail, and tried bringing down Sri Lanka. In vain. In vanity!
But I digress.
The point: I stand witness to Sita’s chastity. The nights she spent with Ravan, she spent with me. Nothing happened. I know. I should know. I lusted. .
Not a word she spoke. To Ravan. To me. Ravan never laid a finger on her.
But she gazed at me, oh how she did! And I writhed.
In fact, the first time she spoke to me, was that day In Rama’s court. When in front of the whole nation, he – the fool – asked Sita to show him that which his trust doubted. The fool!

"I who am Rama’s, my nakedness, his. I, who have not a thought of adultery staining my love, today here I am, asked to strip. By my husband. I am asked to strip my soul. And I do it in you. Your lust, let it consummate today. Take the nakedness of my soul, and prove the integrity of its body."

Love is strange. It can happen like it did between the frog and the rock, unknown to others. It did now.
It put a thought in front of my growing lust, stalling it.
A memory, actually. Of my first love.
I lost her, my first lover, because I loved her. You see, I wanted to hold her in me. I did. But only until, to my shock, I saw her burnt ashes at my feet.
My love destroys.
My lust burns.
But this knowledge could save.
As Sita stood there, waiting for me to slake in her, I paused to consider.
That which I hungered for, yes she waits, waiting for me. But in her I see anger.
The Sita that gazed in the sultry nights, she was the one I wanted to take.
The Sita here, no, she needed my shoulder to weep on that’s all. But she is angry. And angry women don’t know what they are saying.
After all, Rama – the fool – what a thing to do?
Poor Sita.
All she wanted was somebody who knew her, and for that she is ready to trade her… her… I can’t allow it.

"Why are you hesitating. Take me. You lusted for me, Here I am! Take me and make love to me all you want, and show my husband, my dear husband, that I am chaste."

Sita, you poor lady, if love were to consummate only by union – of soul, of body – then Rama – the fool – would not have done this to you! Maybe that is the nature of love. It slowly fizzles after union.
My dear Sita, if I drench in lust, engulf myself in your wetness, I would die. You would return to your mother, this earth.
Unlike others, I harbour no hope of union with you.
You, like me, are beyond rules, explanation. You should remain pure. My love should remain.
And for that, we should never…
Just walk past me quickly. Rama – the fool – waits for you at the other end. Hoping you would walk through, yet thinking you might perish. Doubtng your sex.
And as you walk into me, as you do precisely what I have dreamt in heat, I shall be staunchly unfeeling.
I know it sounds bizarre. In this union-less union, of lustless consummation, of touch that dare not seek any meaning or hope, in this moment beyond explanation, only one who is beyond the norm can dictate the terms.
Listen to me.
But there’s something more.
In memory of … of… in memory, I will present you something.
I will give life in the form of Draupathi.
As I said this, I saw Sita touched by my love for her.

"I have never felt so much love before, nor seen a man like you. I doubt I ever will, again. After you die, I shall carry you in me. In the land of people like Rama, my sex can only wither away, so arid these loveless souls! Take my sex and preserve its life and give it to our daughter – Draupathi, you said?- when it is time for her to marry. It is a mother’s gift to her daughter. Her untouched sex."

Her tears fell heavy on me.
She left.
I never saw her again.
I will ensure our daughter Draupathi is never asked to prove her chastity by a doubting husband.
Will not allow her to die inside the cave of doubt that a husband forges.
Sita did.
My Sita.
Rama – the fool.


Blogger Anirudh said...

Beautiful work there...by Kamal and you..reminded me of Nagamandala...powerful translation..good job. especially Sita's dialogue with the fire.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Raghav said...

Hey.. Outstanding piece.. I would really like to read the original.. Is it in some book Kamal wrote ? Lemme know..

11:10 AM  
Blogger Gubbi said...

Touching writings.
But curious, why draupadi?

11:07 PM  
Blogger R S Prasanna said...

Well, why not? ;-)

That aside, I too don't know, it was there in the original piece.

Seemes interesting, right?

4:48 AM  
Blogger Gubbi said...

Yeah it's interesting. But I wanted to know if it is because Draupadi is the next female character on the victorious side.

I saw a play recently in Kannada, which was sympathetic towards Karna's character. It had an interesting tale of draupadi to tell.
It starts from the swayamvara scene. In it, after duryodhana fails to hit fish's eye, Karna gets angry and steps forward for the challenge. As Karna, son of Surya, is in reality, the eldest of remaining pandavas, he is magnificent than any of them could be. Draupadi waits in anticipation. For a moment, when their eyes meet, they loose their hearts to each other. If I'm right Karna never marries(?) The story then continues and ends at the battle scene, which explains why the unconquerable Karna finally succumbs. The dialogs there between Karna and Draupadi were very touching.

In this, Draupadi is depicted as a person who longs for her true love all her life. Since in your story Sita's character is similarly rendered, it got me interested.


5:09 AM  
Blogger R S Prasanna said...

That was very interesting. Anyway, my take on these things is this: in any case these are all stories, so it is interesting to twist threm around to produce diffrent perspectives. My translation is of a piece in Tamil by renowned actor Kamal Hassan.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Gubbi said...

Yeah got it! I wanted to know what KH had to tell about his choice of draupadi, if any :)

Anyway, I view these stories a bit differently. I don't think they are all just _stories_. To me it tells the long history and mental evolution of Indian mind set. I view them as twisted facts, which are written by the _victorious_ side, to glorify their names. So, it would be interesting to poke around and try to get the twisted facts straight :), which of course may not be possible but, nevertheless interesting.

3:21 AM  
Blogger Meenakshi Ramani said...


12:03 AM  
Blogger Jhini said...

Neat!! :)


10:58 PM  
Blogger Madhumitha said...

That's very interesting indeed ! Great work, Prasanna !And the reference to Draupadi and Fire makes more sense. Explained in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's "The Palace of Illusions"..An amazing book that gives a very intriguing perspective to the characters of Draupadi and Karna. Draupadi and her brother are born out of the (sacrificial)fire created by King Drupad as he prays for a son to take revenge on Drona...The 'fire' in Draupadi is subtly put forth in every chapter of the book. Highly recommended read !

8:39 AM  

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