Can someone offer a translation?
1951ஆம் ஆண்டு திருச்சி வானொலியில் ""என் கணவர்"" என்ற தலைப்பில் திருமதி செல்லம்மாள் பாரதி ஆற்றிய உரை.)
S_P, here is an amateur attempt. Hope this helps.
A 1951 Speech by Chellammal Bharati on AIR Trichy
Soceity may think I have a celebrity’s life. My dream to live a life worthy of praise became somewhat true. Today my husband’s fame is sky-high. I am praised as the Mahakavi’s wife today, but not long ago I had to face insults of being a lunatic’s wife. In my life there are many such ironies. It may sound funny, but I lived an eternal life with a poet who could not live in conformity with society. You can be the wife of anyone else – but to be the wife of a poet is most difficult.
Poets are a breed apart. Not even in their eating and sleeping habits are they like other mortals. Can you expect someone who wants to soar high in the poetic firmament using their rich imagination as wings, to live an ordinary life in a dark tenement, earning to feed his wife and dependents?
Poverty is the exclusive preserve of poets. To a poet, nothing on this earth is more pleasureable than (writing and enjoying) poems. So it falls on his wife to find some means of feeding the family. How can a poet shine if all the time he is preoccupied with thoughts of earning a livelihood for the sake of his wife, whom he nevertheless treats as the queen of his heart?
A poet is an unconventional being – nothing matters to him. But can any woman spend her life filled with nothing but worries? Isn’t it natural for a young woman’s heart to be filled with desires and longings? But a poet’s wife is fated to find happiness only in heaven. Happy living has been a mirage for poet’s wives: this hasn’t changed from the days of yore (Right from the days of “sattimuttap pulavar” **) down to me. He (Bharati) may be sitting deep in concentration, but as the headwoman of the family can I afford to sit in yogic stillness?
There are many sorts of poets. Those who write devotional works on god, those who create epics of high literary merit – they don’t suffer from the world outside. My husband not only wrote works of fiction, but nationalist ones too. I had to suffer for this reason. The repression (by the British government) attempted to dam his creative outbursts. The whole family had to endure the consequent sufferings. But his poems gushed forth like a river in spate, breaking all shackles.
After waking up early in the morning, he loved going up to the terrace and face the crimson sky. Every day he would have a different kind of bath but he loved sunbathing the most. Standing outside facing the sun is his version of sun bath. He believed that sun’s rays helped cleanse the eyes. He loved his coffee and dosas at breakfast time. He would spread ghee, curds and fresh pickle on the dosa before eating. But whatever be the favourite food I prepare for him, three fourths of it would be consumed by his beloved crows and sparrows. Somehow I could never accept his habit of sharing his food with the birds. There was no dearth of friends / disciples (around him); (when he is around) nor has there ever been a shortage of information (news/ current affairs). His singing entered the ears like nectar and filled the whole body. But one thing would stop me from enjoying it all – my load of worries.
In a world filled with sycophancy, he ordered that we should always speak the truth. No matter what, lying was forbidden. We all know how difficult this can be.
Puduvai (Pondicherry) became my jail. What can a jail do to one? Of course it does not affect the learned/ self-realized. They have the mental fortitude to face anything. But it heaped on me, a simple woman whose only ambition was to manage the household well, newer and newer forms of suffering.
It was in Puduvai that many new things emerged: (his concept of?) new civilization, rise of the new (modern) woman, new poetry (“pudukkavidai” – the unconventional style of poetry that broke rules of established grammar) – all these were born. For many of these new discoveries, I ended up as his research material. After agonizing for a long time over whether women needed to be given equal rights or not, finally he came to the conclusion that it (equality for women) was essential, and wanted to practice it in his life with great eagerness. The hardships I went through, until he came to this decision (on equality of women), is beyond description.
Although he had no opportunity to take part in political affairs when in Puduvai, he had some peace of mind due to the chance to serve Tamil with his literary work. Most of his poems we treasure now were born there. My husband laboured to make man eternal, and went ahead bravely working for his objectives disregarding all obstacles and opposition.
The Mahakavi lived for our country and its freedom. It is no surprise that he, steeped in Tamil culture, lived a life filled with munificence, kindness and tolerance. Nor was it unexpected that he awakened the sleeping Tamils; what remains a wonder for me is that even after he passed away in the physical sense, he is a living part of every Tamil speaking person today. The best way to describe this is by using his own poetic phrase: “viNDuraikka mATTAda vindaiyaDA” (my poor translation: wonder that can’t be described in words)**sattimuttappulavar or sattimuRRappulavar is the famed poet who wrote “nArai viDu dUtu”. It is a classic Tamil poem describing the poet’s poverty, in which he sends a message through a red-legged stork (“nArai”), that has a beak like a palmyrah root split in two symmetrical halves (“panaiyin kizhangu piLandanna pavaLakkoorvAic cengAl nArAi”), asking it to convey his abysmal living conditions in the pANDyan kingdom to his wife living in the town of sattimuRRAm, in a house with leaky roof and clicking geckos…he describes himself as staying in a choultry, with no upper garment to cover himself, clasping his hands and pressing his knees against his chest as a protection against the cold, teeth chattering, and generally miserable. Chellamma says that nothing has changed in the living conditions of poets from then till her time.