While it is wonderful to stay away from the din of social media which sounds like a large and crowded marketplace abounding with a million voices and white noise, there are also treasures to be found within the cacophony. A few weeks back, I logged into Twitter and was delighted to see a rare English poem by the legendary Tamil poet Subramaniya Bharati.
Celebrated for the eccentricities and charm attributed to the poet’s persona, Bharati was a polyglot fluent in eight languages including English and French and had so admired Shelley that he wrote for a while under the pseudonym Shelley-dasan (Shelley’s devotee).
An ardent admirer of Bharati, I wasn’t aware that he wrote in English. The poem was rather simplistic when compared to his fiery Tamil poetry that inspired, soothed and energised many generations of Indians. Reading it, I was reminded how Bharati personified the dichotomous attitude shared by millions of Indians, a strong sense of patriotism and love for one’s own country and culture that co-exists with a deep and enduring love of the English language and literature.
“Did you know that Bharatiyar used the pen name “Shelley-dasan”? He admired the poems of Shelley so deeply that he wrote under the name “Shelley’s devotee”. Wasn’t that a wonderful gesture of humility by someone who was such a great poet himself? And later, Bharatiyar had his own dasan, the poet Subburathinam, who took the pen name Bharathidasan. Subburathinam’s poetry inspired yet another poet who wrote as Surada, short for Subburathina-dasan. And to think this long chain of inspiration spans centuries, going back to the poets who inspired Wordsworth, who inspired Shelley, who inspired our own Bharati.”
The Reengineers, Chapter 7