Storm Day Contemplations!

For us, here in Austin TX, the threat from #HurricaneHarvey seems to be over. A few uprooted trees, a few smashed fences and a lot of rain were what we had to endure. But a couple of hundred miles south east of us, Houston is having a rough time. That city has been inundated and with unprecedented rains expected over the next few days, the risk of more floods is going up. I pray for the safety of my family, friends and the public in general there.

While I was talking to my kids about the effects of this hurricane, the wind was still howling like a banshee and the clouds were still swirling overhead quite menacingly. I was reminded of how Perumal Murugan described this face of wind in his song “Kaattru”, part of a set of songs he has penned on the five elements. He describes the might of wind as

பெரும்புயல் வடிவெடுத்து எல்லைகள் அழித்திடுவாய்
அருஞ்சமர் புரியுமோர் அரக்கனாய் சுழன்றிடுவாய்
தருமூச்சு நிறுத்தியுன் தகைமையைக் காட்டிடுவாய்
முருகுவளர் உயிரெல்லாம் உன் வசம் ஆனதன்றோ

In English it would read as below. I plead guilty of having shorn all the beauty out of Perumal Murugan’s poem and making it sound pedestrian.

In the form of a storm, you destroy barriers
Like a demon in a mighty battle you spin around all
If one’s breath is taken away, your might is known
And hence all the beautiful beings are under your power

The swirling clouds and the howling winds just brought that poem to life. But the conversation around the first line was interesting.

Barriers created and brought down by Hurricane Harvey

Did he just mean it in the literal sense of a storm being unstoppable or would he have thought of blown fences when he penned those lines? Could it be that while the humans have demarcated land as plots and towns and countries and continents, does it matter to a storm which would treat everything in its way just the same? Or instead of this being a negative sense, does he convey that at such a time of distress, there would be no barriers such as rich and poor or black and white or right wing and left wing? Do we break all these fences and become just humans and help each other before going back and wearing our masks once normalcy sets in?

Well that is what a well written verse makes you do — read, understand, digest, regurgitate and rethink. While I would have enjoyed reading this poem as is, my kids got into this because of the rendering of the same by TM Krishna. He had sung this as part of the interview I had mentioned in my previous post (The Karnatik Showman). I thank Ananya Vajpeyi for sending me this clip of the song.

ராகம்: நளினகாந்தி
தாளம்: மிஸ்ர சாப்பு
எழுதியவர்: பெருமாள் முருகன்
மெட்டமைத்தவர்: டிஎம் கிருஷ்ணா
எங்கும் புகுந்து எதிலும் நுழைந்து
ஆங்காரமிட்டு வருவாய்
தங்கலின்றி தரணி எங்கும்
சுற்றி ஓடும் காற்றே நீ (எங்கும்)
அங்கம் தழுவிட உனக்குத் தடையேதும் கிடையாது
பங்க விலங்கிட்டு உன்னை வசப்படுத்த முடியாது நீ (எங்கும்)
சரணம் 1
மெல்ல வந்து மேனி வருடிச் சென்றிடுவாய்
நல்ல மணம் எடுத்து நாடெல்லாம் பரப்பிடுவாய்
வெல்ல யார் வந்தாலும் வெற்றி உனக்கேதான்
சொல்லற்கரிய சுதந்திர ஜீவன் நீயல்லவோ (எங்கும்)
சரணம் 2
பெரும்புயல் வடிவெடுத்து எல்லைகள் அழித்திடுவாய்
அருஞ்சமர் புரியுமோர் அரக்கனாய் சுழன்றிடுவாய்
தருமூச்சு நிறுத்தியும் தகைமையைக் காட்டிடுவாய்
முருகுவளர் உயிரெல்லாம் உன் வசம் ஆனதன்றோ (எங்கும்)

Listening to this song on a storm day and my mention to my kids that this is about wind and is apt for a storm day like this, piqued their curiosity. This led to my explaining the meaning of the lyrics and our discussion around it. I should thank Perumal Murugan and TM Krishna for providing me a chance to interact with my kids this way. Please do let us know your interpretations too.