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Beyond and Above Culture and Cultures


Natural disasters are veritable bolts from the blue. Myths and sometimes matters of Faith tell us of disasters and cataclysms, tsunamis, or volcanic outbursts as acts of ire of the indignant celestials or the Supreme Being. When we see or read of these calamities, we begin wondering whether God is always the compassionate and benevolent as many generally trust and believe. The cataclysms of nature are beyond the domain of culture or cultures. There is no nation, no culture, which has not trembled for the large scale deaths owing to the rumblings of nature. Suffering and pain caused by horrid turbulences tell us about the utter helplessness of the humans. Potentates and emperors too have blood-curdling experiences of fear caused some times by the normally benevolent nature.

The devastating earthquake in the districts of Killari and Osmanabad on 30th Sept. 1993 in Maharashtra killed thousands of men, women, children and animals. The poet C.V. Krishna Rao, a retired state govt officer then, rushed to the quake quelled area for relief and succour. In the annals of cataclysms people are distraught and suffered agony. Only poets of the higher order record the experience of the horror and suffering. The killer cyclone of Orissa in Oct-Nov 1999 ignited the poet’s agony making him produce the poem Idi Pralayam, This a Deluge.

This article deals with the havoc caused by two natural disasters described by the poet of eminence in his two poems Killari and Idi Pralayam written in Telugu. The two were rendered into English as Fiery and Fierce [1] by this author in 2000.

Great poets do not deal with ideologies or polemics real life situations and particularly those which wring hearts move them to poetic expression. In his introduction to the English translation of C.V.Krishna Rao’s book mentioned above, Phani Kumar[2] wrote:

What turns a poet upside down? What factors churn up his emotional entrails? Whose tears shake him up? What experiences transform the agony of his crying heart into memorable literature immortalising and universalising a local tragedy? His own sensitivity above all. True poetry is created by one’s ability to emotionally respond to the events in the outside world. Art of poetry comes much later.

An appreciative and emotionally highly charged critic, China Veerabhadrudu [3] wrote:

A poet can invoke deities, but before catastrophes, he is stricken dumb. Only a heroic warrior can face danger and disaster. And openly he does it. That’s the reason why when natural calamities, hunger, famine, hurricanes typhoons and tidal waves come they are preceded by the birth of heroes. And only after the disasters occur, poets sing of these as deities.

The lightening suddenness of the quake begins the long poem Killari in nine parts. The first part starts with the mother, a girl and then a small distraught child, to cite only a few.

The mother who promised kheer
The little one under her chin
The lovely doll in her hold
The sheen and sparkle on the doll’s
Not a teardrop from the eyeball
The colours on the broken portrait ran
A sigh from afar
Calling, fled skyward
The little pod broke and the seed split
Mother, be careful of the pot of boiled milk pot
There’s hindrance to father’s concern
The nest little sister built is shattered
The little brother is anguished
Age when one does not know
The heifer rushed
With rope, tether and peg
Why does the cow moo?
The kitten going round and round
It’s not known what that paragon of Loyalty smells.
Mother, for once this night,
Come along with me
It’s dark, I can’t make it all alone
Be careful
-Death is just by
That very moment
-Let it be a thousand smithereens
My head

There is no way even to send up a prayer. The rumblings of a frightful deluge are heard.

Cheeks pressed together tight
God doesn’t want to be even called
Dumb-stricken mantra
Whichever power can invoke?

The horror of the nests blown away is another painful description:

The nest never so much as trembled
Now the tree whole is blown off
Whether it is the scalding sun or the breaking cob
Men never run helter-skelter
Truth indelible it is
In a gooseflesh-raising uprising
Petals become ashes
Seven bindings to life’s rafter*

(* refers to the seven twists of the rope round the corpse on the bamboo stretcher, or tray)

Then there is death and the shutting of doors and the deluge in all entireties.

The moment body is interred
Love and Hate coordinated
Not a remnant of even grief
That living has achieved nothing.
When the doors are shut finally
Desiring still to loiter
For man who has borne the brunt
For slush, for boulder, for insect and for bird
Liberation in a single shock
How many Loves and how many Hatreds
Flowered and raged
How many cacti of hostility sprouted
All interred
Calls unanswered
Wailing gone unheard
Pleadings unheeded
In eternal slumber my people
A stupendous snouted Incarnation
A Noah
An Allah
Before ships are built
However many last breaths glance down in moments

This is the way life came to a shutting bang:

That night
Those who slept fast
Didn’t wake up to talk
Of anguish, of earthquake
Fallen roofs, collapsed walls, columns sagged
Rafters in pieces heads broken,
Splintered bones, torsos in bits.
Flag-post swayed
False throws in the sanctum
Bells did not ring: gods played dice
Man became dust
Graveyard came home.

It is all a grave yard. The stanzas become rapid as the trauma increases.

With the silent articulation of the tired
The graveyard stretches itself
Lives are bubbles
In the sky and under the earth
Dance of the planets
Explosion never could be heard again
Removed, wiped away is illusion
Pickaxes for mud lamps extinguished
In the folds curt of uniforms
Daubing butter
Searching for life
Bearing lamp holders on shoulders
Without spilling soot
Becoming long like life
Compassion in every atom lest it should slip
… … … …
In the ruins of life
Fluttering of Time
Hopes of lives at the end
Are snapped threads
Under an illusion
A will of the wisp is life itself
In a swaying the sky fell
Planets flew as balls to spread above
Perhaps there’s one who’s doomed to further sin
A little infant under the illusion of fearlessness
An old walking stick’s handle peeping out
Bells ringing, ringing
Stones and slabs
The tireless hands everywhere

Death is liberation, a consummation devoutly to be wished but where is time for that!

The liberation from pain the wound got
The freedom land got from anguish
In the ruins, digging up slabs of soil
Would this wick burn
Feeling it, closing the stiff lid on the eye
Whirls of tears flowing in spate
Burning, becoming branches of fire
Whether a hand or a foot
It’s a corpse only
A signal of all activity ending*
       (*Signal of cessation of all activity)
From which region do the shades lean
Where the noise of footsteps of Death
Where is the frightful scene of the graveyard?
To catch the metallic bonds
Thrown to the other bank
Whoever is there?
Liberation from the red necked vulture dire
From the fox whistles
From the cactus shrubs of the grave-yard
Without seeking thanks
Enfolding in embraces loving
Saving the wound from pain
Wherever the address of those affectionate bonds?

Myriad deaths are delivered in a single night with no birth pangs. Torsos and heads are under slabs.

In the shrieks of Night’s birth pangs
When she delivered a thousand deaths
Unremitting beautiful engagement
Those growing sentiments
Songs of
The joyous call of cicadas
Delirious outbursts of fights
Drowned the secrets
In those pleasantries
Somewhere some ear
An eye
Wishing to hear, to see
No torsos remained without limbs
Hands lost the torsos
Try to feel for things not there
The wind blew away the ash
For life there is no prop of body
From which
‘There a slab moved
‘He lay himself down in that nook
‘The lamp went off
‘The food pot was broken
‘Before the kid got off the cradle snapped
‘Remove the slab
‘Perhaps breath was blown
Sky-filling wailing
The stillness of the end, just silence.
‘Don’t sit here wailing
‘A hindrance to foot or toe
For the breath departing
For the flame and for the dead
Hindrances are eyes and ears
Feeling the eyelids
Of mothers and brothers
Slipped into
Life’s mire

The firmament above becomes dim. Corpse trays move to the accompaniment of bolts of thunder.

Faded, the sun sunk to the ground
The flower drawn by magnets bowed down its head
The bird didn’t come down to its nest
Rooted to earth, the tree trembled.
Twisting the eyelids, the day is knocking
The walk is hesitant, afraid of defeat
Washing the udders
Going up the
munch to stone the bird
Are daily chores

… …
At desk nodding to sleep
Seeing today in yesterday itself
They see not the pale sun
The bird threatening to fly the nest
The shivering tree with its roots crushed
Heads bowed down to Mother Earth
They see not
The graves the heads dug
Except yesterday, they don’t know
There is no tomorrow.
The graves the heads dug
Are not seen
It’s not known
Except yesterday - no tomorrow)

Grace lost and dignity fractured thought is interred.

Don’t look back
Go peel the nose-stud
Why ornament for a nose
That cannot inhale
The threshold swayed
The barn collapsed
The spine of the roof rose and fell
The unseen blow on the chest
The growth of cancer in the basement
Going upstairs reached the sky.
Mother who shut her eyes
Not able to see me
Would she breathe between the boulders
For your exhalations
Flutter I
I am the moment that vibrated in your gyration
The pervasive strategy
To catch the perfume that fled the bonds of air
In these caverns between stones
Hope pulsates in every particle
To feel the movement of the dead
The fragments of the broken pot of beliefs
Are radiance from snuffed candles
The remnants of nests broken
Sparks driven by explosion
Brothers young and old
Who plucked the roses
Every thing is over

The remnants of existence are horrors only experienced and not even expressed.

Mummy brought sweets
Not mother,
Why is the packet* hanging in the air
I don’t touch books today
I kept them safe under the rock
I too would come
Right after you
       (*little leaf or paper screw-pack)
Don’t come up the terrace, dear
Corpses are laid to dry here
The winged tiger drags them away
Why is the whole village
Getting the ploughs ready
All along the furrow little children
-Pick up, bring, let’s play
-I don’t come.
May dad come or the grand dad
To take me away
I would climb their shoulders
Whose is that rock below
That sends in sheets flying
The necks severed noisily
The song of the saws
Blood in the songs
I’d wrap stars into a knapsack
Lest they fall*


There is no history only death came and disappeared

Already came* in the path of history
Killar, Saastoor,
Latoor, Osmanabad
History is a body dead
Water and tears the same.
Shoulder doesn’t search for the arm
Pus and blood from the wound
Pain oozing drop by drop
The pot and its top rim broken
Collapsing tales
History embraces weaving
No padlock for the safe* of memories
No tomorrow for the corpse in the coffin
No difference between light and dark
Populace with broken backs in the earth quake
Cannot worship the demon of surpassing peace.
…… ….
With Life and Death everywhere
The flight crashed
The avalanche came down
The gun flames raged
The rivers went down in spate
The atomic machine eluded speed
Gas chambers in mines
How much of catastrophic fraternity on this earth!
Into the next moment of the dead
Now the flight of broken limbs
Killari, Sastoor,
Latoor, Osmanabad
Drops of tears shed
On the corpse of history

The noises down reach the sky and light gets dim and stagnant.

Whatever did the ears tell the thunder in the sky
What did the footpath say
When boulders came hurtling down
When deep roots left the soil to lean on meadows
Whatever did the tree say?
When crushed under a boulder in the earthquake
In which pouch* can there be a search for a cause?
         (* Whatever did the ears confess to thunder
             What the foot-path when boulders came hurtling down?)
Light becomes faded and dim
Steps are broken
Sound becomes stagnant
Someone called
…. ….
Like a grave not able to find land
Like a corpse not able to find a torch
Question which gulped the answer
Whoever is in a haste
To grieve for another?

After the earthquake in Latur and Osmanabad in 1993, there was a flood like a deluge in Orissa (now called Odisha). This is short poem, shorter than the earthquake scene and is produced in entirety.

A deluge – this

The Universal Eye bats an eyelid
Sword of darkness
Slashes the Earth
Land of Para Deep
Deserted, lifeless, shapeless
Of blind aeons
The wild, wicked cyclone
Swept away mankind
Crushed as ants
Under the steel-shod hooves
Not a hurricane, not a cyclone or storm
A cataclysm, a deluge – this
The ocean eddying
Encircles the sky
Aqueous tongues, hawk’s wings
Ravenous, insatiable hungry
Swallow lives wholesale and burp
Tree, foliage, insect, beast, man
Making a salutation touching Earth with forehead
No devotee remained to send up a prayer
Drowning in the flood
And seeing Death in hands lamenting
Onlookers struck dumb
Can’t take a step forward
When an earthquake grinds
tidal wave engulfs
No echo for the wailing
Not a tree
Not a twig for a bird’s nest
Can be found
Groveling before the Elements
Breathing the last, collapsing
There is none to report
None to listen to anything
No sound
Man’s death
Unawareness of the throb silenced
Intestine of those bred is snapped
There’s no witness in streams of blood
On the corpse wailing of invisible relatives
Whines and whimpers of broken hearts
Heads smashed into fragments
Ruminating desires
Breathing hopes
Dreams raised stand erased
Not a bone
Not a pinch of ash left
Buried in history’s quicksand
Naked men starved for food
Slide down Time bygone munching roots
Seated on a buffalo hide
Civilized world is busy discussing
Painter’s brush does not move
Visible becomes invisible
Voluble grief in seemingly innocent terms
Their platitudes wearing clothes
Chant ahambrahmasm : “I am Brahma”
Insect, tree, beast, bird and being
Steeped in grief terrible
No tears left for the thunder bolt cold
Whoever’s is the preaching, exhortation
That tribulation of life itself
Should be viewed as a sacrifice supreme
Stone like
Without father, without mother
Without sister, without brother
In the eye socket
Of those who thought everyone their own
No tear springs
Every moment a form of flux
Loves, fast wanderings
In the confusion limitless around, everywhere
Whoever is gone, whoever the survivor
which the corpse, which the carcass
which the stench
Are there lives to measure Time
Where is daylight, where the light
Where are dawns and dusks
when night comes crashing in
And devours Day itself
To listen to silence
One should go to corners of distance –
Where clatter is hushed-
To the dumb tongue of funeral pyre’s ash
To dust after the journey on bamboo mount.*
         (*The bamboo mount sojourning in the earthen bed)
In the East burnt by wilderness
In the Space the thunderbolt dropped
In the rivers and rivulets where blood flows
In Earth’s entrails where poisonous gases gurgle
Indelible is the Truth of Para Deep’s history.
Death knows no mercy
For communal Death, communal burial
No other Death.
Splinters of spines
Souls evaporated
In the Love of ‘Lest we forget’
Flower does not touch
For a destitute Death
For fear of tomorrow
In the insufferable fellow travel
Of Evil and Good, Sin and Merit
, paap and punya
Searching for a corpse
We see the corpse alive.

The two poems were presented some time ago, first in the monthly meets of lovers of imaginative expression in various moods and with varied excellence called poetically Nela Nelaa Vennela Monthly Moonlit Evenings organized by the veteran poet Krishna Rao C.V.

There is no better praise than this one from a friend of great feeling and poetry, Veerabhadrudu already referred to earlier in his write-up on the poet in his One who has read hundred thousand thumbs: [4] 

“It’s only people’s poets that can drag Danger by hair and locks raise their voices taking vows and pronouncing imprecations. People’s poetry cannot be limited the tradition of heroic verse or lyric. This would be evident even to those who read this slender volume.”

Work cited
1. Rama Rao V.V.B., Fiery and Fierce, Hyderabad, Nela Nelaa Vennela, 2000
2. Kumar Phani, Intro, Ibid., pp5-6
3. Chanaveerabhadrudu V One who has read a thousand thumbs, Ibid pp7-8
4. op.cit.

(An abridged version of this appeared in Triveni in the April-June 2013 Issue)

More by : Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.
Views: 2505      Comments: 2

Comments on this Poem Article

Comment When one speaks of God in relation to natural tragedy one should be mindful of the infinite goodness that is God and not be overwhelmed by what appears to be evidence to the contrary. In the context of tragedy, God is there to save in ways which relieve the affected individual, particularly in the spirit to bear, often to the extent that suffering is more in the eye of the beholder, the more affected by its impact on the senses. The proper response to tragedy, as the poet C V Krishna-Rao made, is to offer relief action. Poems on the tragedy cannot relieve the suffering of those affected, least of all the dead, and their sole merit must be in heightening awareness of suffering so as to promote relief. That is why war poets write of the sufferings of soldiers to bring home the horror of war with a view to relief of the suffering caused by war. However, in the actual occasion of suffering God is the saviour of the individual in spirit, but it requires a reciprocal response, itself a grace, as many will attest from their own experience.

21-Aug-2013 00:00 AM

Comment dear friend
what you say is right
the supreme being's anukampa -nitaantaapara bhoota daya - is endless, bottomless, limitless.
sri c v k wrote the poem after rushing to the earthquake shaken place and took part in relief measures though he is a retired officer then
glad you read the poem and offered a comment too
all the brest
rama rao

dr vvbramarao
21-Aug-2013 00:00 AM


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