Editor’s Choice

Poems By Ayyappa Paniker

Time and man are inter-related. When time subdues man, there is a chance of delusion and when man tries to hold time, time gets set to teach him a lesson. A very interesting thing in this relationship is that the time remembers only those who could stand straight in front of it. Ayyappa Paniker, who is the leading member of the modernist movement in Malayalam poetry, can be grouped in this category. His long poem “kurukshetram” illustrates a literary approach towards this direction. This is a poem on the battlefield of life where selfishness of man has been questioned. The main theme of Ayyappa’s poem is humanity, for this he experiments with styles. Satire is one of the main features of his poems. Ayyappa Paniker is a poet who never sticks to one style and that is why his poetry is accepted by all generations. Hence making a selection is difficult in case of Paniker’s poetry. We would like to present some poems which are always liked by the readers.

Days and Night
( some small pieces from long poem-Days and Night)

October -1

Where is truth?
The Pandit sought it
On her brow, lips, breasts,
navel, thighs.
Truth can not be one,
while in two it breaks
Truth, to tell truth,
dwells where Two’s meet!


What did
the mountains and rivers tell me?
“selfishness is pain”
the great ocean said the same:
In the black nights
of the raging storm , my child,
I have cried under
the unbearable weight of pain.
But as the quite morning comes,
as the reflection of the whole universe
gathers in me, and forget myself,
then only then, child,
have i known joy’

“isn’t this that old philosophy?
how many these have i
written about it!
what value does it have beyond that?
mountain , rivers
and the great ocean

kept silent.
They might have remembered
that what can be learned
can never be taught.

Passage to America

It’s as if suddenly meet you on the way
when i go for my usual walk in the evening
the earth that begins at your feet
seems to end at mine
the air you breathe out
enters my lungs
and the light that escapes from your eyes
focuses on mine


i see your map
like the palm of a hand stretched out on my lap
Mississippi traces your lifeline to the south
while the great lakes draw circles
along the st Lawrence headline
but where is your heart line
on the mount of Jupiter
new England cocks its eyes at Europe
your Venus is still in heat
in the far south in Florida
and the mount of moon
shimmers on the California beach
but America
where has vanish your heart line?
has some test explosion
sucked it underground
i remember river phalgun
that goes dry in summer defying our prayers
where once the buddha got enlightment
and learned to take the earth for a begging bowl
but here the fission and fusion
your scientists envision
offer your palmist nothing but confusion
sailing back from mescalin to marijuana
someone said
there never was such a line
in this ancient newborn land
where we grow corn and PL480
and make colour TV sets in plenty
till our chests are nearly empty
and brains spout tons of TNT

it’s Christmas again
the shape of a heart neatly pinned to a cross
that stand on a hill we have set up with skill


One day Uncle Indan wiped the dirt
off his right foot with the left foot
then off the left foot with the right foot
then off the right foot with the left foot
then off the left foot with the right foot
off the right with the left
off the left with the right
off the…..

Video death

” Sister, sister, a foks has come from America”

” A fox? What do you mean? Go and see if is Uncle Clinton or someone of that sort.”
“No sissie, don’t I know brother Clinton This a kind of telegram”

Bring it to me; let me see it for myself. Ah, this is our brother’s letter. Okay,
you read it aloud”

“My dear Saro:

I have heard that our mother is serious. We were planning to come after the soccer. But we now have drizzling rain here. Because of this drizzle, we cannot travel. What if we catch a cold? So you do one thing. Take a video of mother’s dying moments. You know, the last breath and the final gasp as well as the kerala style of funeral in detail. Genuinely traditional rituals. Our friends here will like it very much. They have already seen on video Indian wedding, reception, honeymoon, first night, divorce, widow burning, delivery, etc. But the turn and twist of the very last breath, the obsequies, the body wash, the fresh drapery, or what you can call it, the last feed of rice, the ceremonial rites, the making of the pyre, the breaking of the pot, etc. they are itching to see all this. Well, I suggest you take both black and white and colour. Marylin prefers black and white. But what is death -cum-funeral without colour, asks Jaqueline. Book the cameraman early. Let us not have excuses like, the cameraman did not come o the mother cheated at the last moment. If electricity fails, ask mother to adjust. I can send you good blank videocassettes if you like. But for this gentle drizzle, I would have come. You know how much mother means to me. That is why I am very particular about the quality of the cassette. Also, we should not be put to shame before our very sophisticated gusts here. Your sister-in law cannot come because there’s a fashion parade, beside a discount sale somewhere. Before you ship the cassette, put the title” The Last Dying Moments of a Loving Indian Mother.” Let not our gust mistake it for a wedding, without the correct title, they won’t be able to appreciate it. Please, do not leave out the visitors, See that the video is not spoilt by their tears. A separate episode may be added to show the tears etc. Add a little folk or country music… genuine ethnic music, but sad tunes only- use some film hits, if you prefer. Please ask mother to cooperate and adjust- it is her son’s last wish from dear mother. REMEMBER we MUST have the video before Christmas. Hurry, and take care.

Your American Brother” ( 1993)


We first met at the peak
where danger is supposed to lie in wait
how did you happen to be there?
you too will say like others
that life brought you here
everyone has learnt to speak like that
I came not because of life
but because of the absence of life
the absence of life that doesn’t allow you even to sleep
I came to this peak because of boredom
I was astounded to see you here
were you too helpless enough to come here
this peak has drawn many people here
and blessed them
we didn’t get the blessings
after we saw each other here that day
this place was not in my mind for long
now we come here again
what for we don’t know:
to get the view from this peak?
or, to confirm the bad name of this peak?
why did you come here?
and why was I brought here?
what a strange dream it was
that we both saw!
( 2004)

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