Literary Shelf

O.N.V. Kurup's A Requiem to Mother Earth

Ottaplakkal Neelakandan Velu Kurup aka O.N.V. Kurup’s contribution in the literary sphere of Kerala is broadly esteemed for his finesse in poetry. He began his poetic career as a representative of the ‘Pink Era’ in Malayalam and his poetry is marked by the manifestation of highly evocative images of nature.

O.N.V. Kurup, a poet, lyricist, teacher, and inspiration for all has held generations in awe with his imaginative and intuitive skills, creativity, and poetic lingos. He was born on May 27, 1931, at Chavara, in Kollam District, where he completed his schooling. His first major effort in poetry began during his school days, which also saw his first published poem ‘Munnottu’ (Forward) in 1946, penned in the backdrop of his patriotic feelings. The poetic aspects of the epic, Adhyatma Ramayanam, and its style have had a major influence and impact later in his career as a poet.

Honors and appreciations have always been a part of his life. Agni Salabhangal the poetic work by Mr. Kurup was awarded the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1971. He was also awarded the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award in 1975 for his poem Aksharam. A noted poetic work of Mr. Kurup titled ‘Uppu’ won the Soviet Land Nehru Award in 1981 and also the Vayalar Rama Varma Award in 1982. He has also won the Kerala State film awards twelve times, for the best lyricist. He was awarded Padmashri in 1998, Jnanpith in 2007, and Padma Vibhushan in 2011. I was so touched by the verses of his renowned poem ‘A Requiem to Mother Earth’ (Bhoomikku Oru Charamageetham). He addresses the issues of ecological preservation and the unsympathetic ways in which landscape is commodified and divided up by human beings for egocentric motives. He urges human beings to be grateful to Mother Earth for nurturing and fostering them. O.N.V. points out that human beings are not affectionate to mother earth. He defines that mother Earth has fed human beings with her own milk by eliminating her greenery dress and the verdant hues. Even after drinking her milk, humans were not able to satiate their thirst and they began to suck her blood too. His poem is a dirge for mother Earth and the poet anticipates the death of our mighty Earth. He begins the requiem with an epigraph:

‘A song of praise
For this earth
For its surge of life
For poetry, the essence of its beauty…’

How can one not fall for the beauty and truth of these touching stanzas? The poet offers us the message that we can preserve the future of the human race only through the mutual cohabitation between man and the earth. Let me share the poem with all my readers. It kindles uncountable thoughts and apprehensions in everyone’s psyche. Let’s hope that we may not face the imminence of mother Earth’s death anytime soon. Wait for a better tomorrow where we all will embrace the bounty of nature!

Mother Earth
still alive,
in the imminence of your death,
may your soul rest in peace!
This song I inscribe in my heart today
is a requiem to you (and to me)!

When tomorrow you lie benumbed
in the shadow of the enveloping
dark poison-flower of death,
none will be left here,
me either,
to mourn, to wet your dead lips
with our tears!
Therefore, I inscribe this to you:
here is a wish, Mother Earth,
not yet dead,
in the imminence of your death,
may your soul rest in peace!

You bore countless children
who cannot live in amity!
you saw them, with your own eyes,
eating one another.
you stood helpless,
Shedding unseen silent tears!
then, as they danced merrily,
eating you up slice by slice,
unprotesting, all-suffering,
you stood!

Parting your soft, green mantle,
you breast-fed them
as they swelled, they developed
a strange thirst (their last!)—
a thirst for the blood
of your sacred heart!

O Mother, favourite bride of the sun,
you lost your sun-given bridal dress.
They tore it to shreds.
They clawed at your bare body
They sucked the gushing blood!
The rhythm of death
resounds everywhere,
as they swirl in their
frenzied dance!

The story of the Greek young man
who unwittingly married his mother is old.
they, the children of Mother Earth
who strip her naked,
are writing a new version
of the old story.
what they strip they sell
in the market for a drink.
The villain’s claw, the axe,
plays on and on!

The eyes of the blazing sun
shoot rays of fiery fury!
June clouds hunt for drinking water!
December nights hunt for cold!
April dawns hunt for a tiny flower!
sylvan rivers hunt for swirling currents
the rhythm of creation is shattered.
The wheels of the chariot of life
are stuck on their course.
all I have, Mother mine,
are your sweet , memories!
you came as the first awakening
with your herb and honey
on my tongue.
you drip the last drop of water
as my flame goes off.

I have always
marveled at your magic
of catching an infant sun
in a dew-drop!
My fancy has grazed
in the shades of your trees!
like prophets of yore
winds trod upon your seas!

I see you in myriad forms:
how you deck the trees with verdant hues
how you scare me with the screeching of the owl
how you comfort me with the cuckoo’s song
how you dip the dusks in gold
how you carry the eventide
and disappear into the woods
how you return with the dawn
on your shoulders
how you wake me up
and feed me the nectar of poetry.
How you carry me ever so gently
like the lotus leaf does a drop of water.
I know all this, O Mother!
What remains immortal in me
are your memories!

As an outcast with bowed, shaven head
you trudge along the solar highway
carrying the bundle of your shame,
weighed down with the sin
of having borne children
who turned mother-ravishers,
with your mind consumed,
Doesn’t cruel death
Creep in through your veins…?
Mother Earth, still alive!
This is your requiem!
This song I inscribe in my heart today
is a requiem to you (and to me)!
I won’t be here to wet your dead lips,
to mourn your death.
I inscribe just this much here:
O Mother Earth,
in the imminence of your death,
May your soul rest in peace!


More by :  Dr. Aparna Ajith

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