A Kannada Lullaby

Bendre, Lorca, Tagore, Yeats
must all have cried their baby-cry;
before they ever wrote a song
they listened to a lullaby.

This one’s for Amma, who asked me to translate it into English for her.

Why do you cry, my ranga boy
I’ll give you all that you would like
Milk milked from four lactating cows –
With sugar whene’er you ask

Why does he cry they áll ask me
He begs me for my body’s milk
Asking for his milk my honey-boy
Fusses his way out of my grip

Crying kanda’s lips are pearly
His tender brows are petalled neem
The sparkle in his eye’s just like
The glint of shiva’s sword

Let him cry, avva, if he must
Just let him be all mine
Let all my housework go to waste
Just fill the house with kids like him

He only listens when I sing
Such lullabies to him
He then forgets his wish for milk
This lullaby’s his favourite thing

You are not one to cry and fuss
You do not even pester me
No tantrums that I lift and cradle you
Oh! I could have ten more of you

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

English and Kannada transcriptions of the lullaby:

Here is a guide to reading the Kannada transcription of the poem.

ಯಾಕಳುವೆ ಎಲೆ ರಂಗ ಬೇಕಾದ್ದು ನಿನಗೀವೆ
ನಾಕೆಮ್ಮೆ ಕರೆದ ನೊರೆಹಾಲು | ಸಕ್ಕರೆ
ನೀ ಕೇಳಿದಾಗ ಕೊಡುವೇನು || ೧ ||

yākaḷuve ele raṅga bēkāddu nīnagīve
nākemme kareda norehālu | sakkare
nī kēḷidāga koḍuvēnu

ಯಾತಕಳುತಾನೆಂದು ಎಲ್ಲಾರು ಕೇಳ್ಯಾರು
ಕಾಯದಾ ಹಾಲ ಕೆನೆ ಬೇಡಿ | ಕಂದಯ್ಯ
ಕಾಡಿ ಕೈಬಿಟ್ಟು ಇಳಿಯಾನು || ೨ ||

yātakaḷutānendu ellāru kēḷyāru
kāyadā hāla kene bēḍi | kandayya
kāḍi kaibiṭṭu iḷiyāṇu

ಅಳುವ ಕಂದನ ತುಟಿಯು ಹವಳದಾ ಕುಡಿಹಂಗೆ
ಕುಡಿಹುಬ್ಬು ಬೇವಿನೆಸಳ್ಹಂಗೇ |ಕಣ್ಣೋಟ
ಶಿವನ ಕೈಯಲಗು ಹೊಳೆದಂಗೇ || ೩ ||

aḷuva kandana tuṭiyu havaḷada kuḍi haṅge
kuḍihubbu bēvinesaḷhaṅge | kaṇṇōṭa
shivana kaiyalagu hoḷedhange

ಅತ್ತರೇ ಅಳಲವ್ವ ಈ ಕೂಸು ನನಗಿರಲಿ
ಕೆಟ್ಟರೇ ಕೆಡಲಿ ಮನೆಗೆಲಸ । ಕಂದನಂಥ
ಮಕ್ಕಳಿರಲವ್ವ ಮನೆತುಂಬಾ || ೪ ||

attarē aḷalavva ī kūsu nanagirali
keṭṭarē keḍali manegelasa | kandanantha
makkaḷiralavva manetumbā

ಜೋಗುಳಾ ಹಾಡಿದರೆ ಆಗಲೇ ಕೇಳ್ಯಾನು
ಹಾಲ ಹಂಬಲವ ಮರೆತಾನು । ಕಂದಂಗೆ
ಜೋಗುಳದಾಗ ಅತಿ ಮುದ್ದಾ || ೫ ||

jōguḷā hāḍidare āgalē kēḷyānu
hāla hambalava maretānu | kandange
jōgūḷadāga ati muddā

ಅತ್ತು ಕಾಡುವನಲ್ಲ ಮತ್ತೆ ಬೇಡುವನಲ್ಲ
ಎತ್ತಿ ಕೊಳ್ಳೆಂಬ ಹಠವಿಲ್ಲ । ನಿನ್ನಂಥ
ಹತ್ತು ಮಕ್ಕಳು ಇರಬಹುದು || ೬ ||

attu kāḍuvanalla matte bēḍuvanalla
ettikoḷḷemba haṭhavilla | ninnantha
hattu makkaḷu irabahudu

P.S: Here’s the same lullaby sung differently (in one of Carnatic classical music’s most ebullient, joyful rāgas, ānanda bhairavī.)

 

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