Saturday, August 26, 2006

10 | Gavirangappa       [sestina]

A driver named Raju
he works for the May-dum
he's Gavirangappa
(his dad Ranganatha)
this father of Hema
in fair Bangaluru

In yon Bangaluru
they now call him Raju
so proud of his Hema
he drives for the May-dum
Thankere Ranganatha
this Gavirangappa

When Gavirangappa
in vast Bangaluru
son of Ranganatha
received the name Raju
he'd drive for the May-dum
-- this sire of Hema

The father of Hema
our Gavirangappa
once drove the fine May-dum
to poor Bangaluru
in the household of Raju
she met Ranganatha

Erstwhile Ranganatha
(the grandsire of Hema)
would drive just like Raju-
in great Bangaluru
for another high May-dum

This Choudhury May-dum
who met Ranganatha
in poor Bangaluru
supported sweet Hema
our Gavirangappa's
now gladly called Raju

A May-dum named Hema!
R. Gavirangappa
Bangaluru ka Raju


Here (at last) I have a not-so-rhyme-besotted sestina. However, it is exceedingly story-dependent. The poem plays with the names and relationships among principal characters in Lavanya Sankaran's tale -- the title story in her collection, The Red Carpet: Bangalore Stories (2005). The story begins with these words:
Rangappa was content to live in a realm of different names. Officially, as per his one-page bio-data, prepared for a small sum by one of the roadside typists who serviced the lawyers outside Bangalore's Mayo Hall, his name was T.R. Gavirangappa.
    Thankere Ranganatha Gavirangappa. Anyone reading his name would instantly know that he hailed from the village of Thankere, near the hills of Chikmagalur, and that he was the son of Ranganatha. His family called him Rangappa for short.
    But at work he was known as Raju.
    This nominal transformation was announced to him, quite casually, at the end of his job interview.
    "Your driving test was satisfactory," his prospective employer said. "The job is yours, provided you are courteous, prompt, and steady in your habits." And then: "Oh, and on the job, you will be called Raju."
The employer is a Mrs. Choudhury, called -- by all the serving staff in her rather grand house -- "May-dum" (i.e., Madam). Rangappa's now-three-year-old daughter he named Hema (after a film star). Mrs. Choudhuri is represented by the narrator as exhibiting the ideosyncratic traits of being thoughtful, slightly unconventional, unprejudiced, and particularly humane in her dealings with Raju and the rest of her staff. After a time, she starts to take an interest in Raju's family life, supporting his desire for Hema to grow up with a decent education. Raju's father, Ranganatha, had himself been a driver (prior to retiring). Bangalore is, these days, generally known among its denizens by its now-official name Bangaluru (though not named as such in Lavanya's tale). So: the sestina's final line translates as "Raju of Bangalore."

Raju fondly dreams of his daughter rising out of poverty (via education and subsequent work) to a degree that, one day, she herself might become a May-dum (as suggested in the sestina's Envoy). The story effectively conveys various nuances of the underclass experience in this contemporary Indian setting. The feeling of mutual courtesy between the employer and employee, which figures among the story's central concerns, is brought forward ringingly.

The narrative's arc leads to its concluding incident: a rare visit by the May-dum to both the poor school where Hema studies, as well as to Raju's own humble abode, where she meets with his whole family. This happy occasion finds mention in the poem's 4th stanza.


Blogger Pragya said...

Enjoyed it immensely!


Sat Aug 26, 05:40:00 PM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Thanks Pragya--

I've a notion this particular one may mainly be appreciated by those who've labored with the sestina form a bit (and/or who've read and enjoyed the short story in question).

btw, I'm not aware that I've seen sestinas by other poets that employ so short a line. I wonder ...

Sat Aug 26, 10:55:00 PM PDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home