Sunday, 15 May 2016

Smells and Smiles

Abhishek looked out of his car window, staring at nothing in particular. He was in his late thirties, but still managed to retain his boyish good looks. Only a bit of grey at his temples gave away his age. His long time driver, Nagaraj, drove the car at a steady pace. It was 11:35 PM on a Tuesday night and there was hardly any traffic. Abhishek allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction as he recalled his evening. He had told his wife, Aparna, he was working late. But he had got off work by 5 PM and had spent the rest of the evening making love, in an upmarket hotel room, to a lady called Saranya, He had met Saranya at an office party a couple of months back. Saranya was single, in her 30s and had been charmed by his good looks and easy grace and had indulged in what she considered to be harmless flirting. She had had no intention of having an affair with a married man. But she did not realize the ruthlessness and the need for conquest hiding behind Abhishek's relaxed outward demeanor. He had pursued her relentlessly over the last couple of months, until Saranya, overcome by the flattery and attracted by his good looks, agreed to spend an evening with him in a hotel room. After they had made love with wild abandon, Saranya wanted to cuddle up and spend the entire night in his arms, He gently but firmly told her he had to get home, called up Nagaraj and asked him to bring his car around to the hotel entrance. Abhishek dropped Saranya at her home and Nagaraj discreetly looked away as they shared a goodnight kiss.

Soon after, the car entered Abhishek's parking lot. Abhishek casually slipped a 100 rupee note to Nagaraj, told him to be at work at sharp 9 AM the next day and walked inside the house carrying his laptop bag and the lunchbox his wife insisted on packing for him every morning.

Nagaraj stared at the 100 rupee note for a few seconds, his face expressionless. He then carefully parked the car, got out and started walking towards the bus stop. Nagaraj was also in his late thirties, with a short wiry stature and thick dark hair that strangely had not grayed yet. He took a short bus ride, the city getting seedier as the bus went on and finally got down at a working class district.

Nagaraj had been working for Abhishek for over 5 years and they shared an easy working relationship. Nagaraj was discreet and could be trusted upon to keep Abhishek's secrets. Plus he drove, like all the activities he did, at a slow steady pace and treated Abhishek's expensive car well. He had never married. He had come to the city 17 years back in search of odd jobs to help his family back in the village. Over the years, he had sent home every spare penny for his sister's wedding and later his parents' medical expenses. After his sister's wedding, he had hoped his parents would find a suitable bride for him in the village. But his parents, fearing he may stop supporting them financially once he has a wife, never brought up the topic. And Nagaraj, shy and reserved as always, did not know how to broach this topic with his parents. And as the years rolled by, he stopped thinking about marriage and went on with his life. And when he did think about it these days, he felt perhaps it was all for the best. He had grown used to an independent life and was reasonably happy.

On this Tuesday night, he got down from the bus and walked down a dirty, narrow lane. As he saw the dimly lit 2 storey building on the left, his heart skipped a beat and he smiled to himself. He stepped into the shabby building and as always, a pungent odor assaulted his nose. Ignoring it, he walked up to the first floor. The Madam gave him a curt smile and a nod as he gave her the money. He then walked, with a confident familiarity, to the second door on the right and gave a tiny knock. After a few seconds, the door opened and he stepped in.

Nagaraj had first been brought to this brothel over a year ago, by his one-time friend, a guy who called himself Kumar, He had later borrowed money from all and sundry, including Nagaraj, and disappeared without a trace. Nagaraj had difficulty recalling much about Kumar, but he vividly remembered the first time he stepped into this brothel. The pungent odor had assaulted his nose as it had today and almost made him turn back. But he walked on, with a mixture of guilt and desire, with downcast eyes. Kumar seemed to know the Madam well and he asked her to select a suitable girl for Nagaraj. As she was busy called out to her girls, something caught Nagaraj's eye. He looked up and found himself looking at a woman standing in the corner. She was not as young as the other girls, but had a pleasant face. And as she smiled at Nagaraj, he found himself smiling back despite himself. He pointed out the woman to Kumar and the Madam introduced the woman to Nagaraj as "Suzie", a name he found incongruous with her rather rustic demeanor. He quietly payed the money and went with "Suzie" to the second door on the right.

After the deed was done, as he was buttoning up his shirt, he asked "Suzie" her real name. She looked surprised that such a question would be posed to her, recovered, and answered simply "Subbalakshmi". Nagaraj nodded and walked towards the door. He then stopped, took a deep breath, walked back to Subbalakshmi and asked her during which days she was free. She said she entertained customers all days of the week, but on Tuesdays, she was not too busy as it is considered a religiously auspicious day. She smiled as she said it and once again, Nagaraj found himself smiling back at her. He playfully patted her head and stepped out.

Since then, he had made it a point to visit Subbalakshmi on atleast 2 Tuesdays a month, sometimes more frequently. The Madam tried tempting him with younger, more in-demand and "expensive" girls. But he was somehow not interested. And the others girls, noticing he had neither youth, nor good-looks, nor money were not interested in him either. After a while, they all came to an unsaid arrangement. He would make the payment and go straight to Subbalakshmi's room. If she happened to be with another customer, he would wait patiently downstairs before going up.

His relationship with Subbalakshmi was easy-going and relaxed. After making love, they would talk about random things. He never asked her how she ended up in a brothel and she never asked him if he was married or had ever been married. They instead shared random vignettes about each other's past. She told him about her elder brother teaching her to add simple numbers with a slate and chalk. About how she loved watching the boys in her village fly kites. He, in turn, unable to keep the boyish pride out of his voice, told her about how he was the best swimmer among the boys in his village. And they would lie side by side on Subbalakshmi's lumpy mattress and pillow, sharing these happy, painless memories from their past.

One evening, on a whim, he purchased a foam pillow and walked up to Subbalakshmi's room with a large plastic bag stuffed with the pillow. Subbalakshmi's eyes widened with curiosity and as she pulled out the thick foam pillow out of the  bag - she laughed in delight like a small girl. The first time he had ever heard her laugh. She hugged the pillow and told him no one had ever given her a gift, let alone worry about where she was resting her head while sleeping. Then, much to his chagrin, she wrapped the pillow lovingly back into the plastic bag and tucked it safely among her meagre belongings. She could not bring herself to use her precious "gift" and they had gone back to resting their heads on her hard lumpy pillow.

As Abhishek got into bed alongside his wife, she have a sleepy moan, turned and smiled up at him. He patted her head gently and whispered "go back to sleep". As she closed her eyes, he looked at her pretty face and slim body. She was very proud of her figure which she managed to maintain even post childbirth. The only daughter from a wealthy family, their marriage had been an arranged one. He remembered all his friends teasing him about how lucky he was to land such a beautiful wife from a wealthy family. He wondered idly, why he cheated on her. The countless women he had slept with before and after marriage meant nothing to him, including Saranya. On the way back from his tryst with Saranya in the hotel room, he was already wondering how to break up with her. She may cry a bit, maybe even a lot, but he could always handle women when they got emotional. He knew how to get rid of them once he was done with them. And his wife never suspected him. To her, he was the ideal husband and a perfect dad to their 3 year old daughter, Shreya. He presented her with expensive jewellery on every wedding anniversary. Some she kept, some she exchanged at the jewelers for something more suitable. As Abhishek cuddled up to Aparna, he inhaled her smell. It was familiar yet strangely indistinguishable from the smells of the other women he had slept with. He wondered if he loved her, if he would ever know what true love means, but told himself to stop being ridiculous, hugged her and went to sleep with a smile.

In a bed across town, Nagaraj lay next to Subbalakshmi, who was sleeping. He wondered what would happen if the Madam decided she was growing too old. Would Subbalakshmi go back to her village? What if Abhishek moved to a different city, would Nagaraj be forced to move as well? If such events happen, how would their last meeting pan out? Would she cry? Nagaraj had always been terrified of women's tears. Whenever he had seen his mother or sister cry, he had felt a strange mixture of helplessness, fear and rage. And he had fled the scene rather than face the tears. But he told himself he would not do that to Subbalakshmi. And as he cuddled up to Subbalakshmi and inhaled her scent, he marveled at how she smelled so wonderful to him. Her smell made him feel "at home" like nothing else ever could. He wondered if he loved her, if he would ever know what true love means, but told himself to stop being ridiculous, hugged her and went to sleep with a smile.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Does Mona Lisa know?

As much as we hate pain, we often tend to forget how much we depend on it for our survival. Our inbuilt reflex to avoid pain goes a long way in keeping us safe and healthy, though we may not be too happy about the way it achieves that.

Why is pain so painful? Couldn't evolution/nature have found a less painful way to keep us from jumping off cliffs, touching red hot objects and various other crazy stuff we would do to ourselves in the absence of pain? As welcome as that would be, we have to accept the fact that there is really not a lot we can do to reprogram ourselves now.

So much for physical pain. Emotional pain is somehow a lot more fascinating. Of course, humans evolved to live in groups for our survival, hence anything that triggers this loss of societal bonds also triggers pain. It is quite fascinating that this one impulse (common to many species in wildlife) to live in groups and to be accepted in a group puts us in danger of emotional pain from so many varied circumstances. Someone mourning the loss of a friend. Someone publicly shamed for being insolvent. A child crying when teased in front of his or her peer group. A father angered because his daughter has done something to embarrass him in front of his peer group.

In many ways, when is comes to emotional pain, many of us don't really grow up. We may learn to tolerate physical pain as we grow older but when is comes to emotional pain, it takes a high level of maturity to withstand it. May sound insensitive, but how different is a 5 year old crying because she has lost her pencil to a 50 year old crying because she has lost her son? They are both feeling pain over something they lost. When an adult looks back and remembers the time she cried for a lost pencil, it seems comical. Could it be possible that if we achieve a higher level of maturity/evolution/spiritual awareness, crying over any kind of loss would seem comical? Maybe, maybe not.

Evolution gave us many tools to survive. And we humans manage to screw up most of them. Sometimes a little, sometimes to ridiculous levels. The instinct to band together as groups solidified into religion and castes with such tragic results. The maternal instinct gone nuts makes women fall for jerks. Our liking for sweet tasting and fatty foods, which once ensured we ate enough energy giving foods to help us survive, has turned into a liability in today's world. And our instinct to avoid pain has warped into a dangerous hankering for painkillers and drugs posing as medication. Not to mention, straightforward escapes into alcohol, drugs and nervous breakdowns.

There are different alleys through which we can run to avoid pain. One of them leads to beauty.

Pain creates beauty and beauty can be painful.

Pain can translate into beautiful works of art. But what makes this art, beautiful? Shouldn't something created out of pain turn into something ugly, thereby fulfilling evolution's goal of repelling us from all things painful?

A sad song might make us cry, but why does it haunt us in a most appealing way? A sunset can be painfully beautiful. The smell of a baby's head can cause a sharp pang in your heart. The mournful sound of the sea can be so soothing. And a gentlest touch can make you quake.

Can anything truly beautiful be pain-free? And vice-versa?

Wonder what misfiring in our biology or psychology made us so twisted up. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful twist up.

And I like to imagine Mona Lisa knows. That is why she is so haunted, so beautiful, so sad, yet smiling. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dreams from the twilight zone

He held me close. It was a timeless time and a space-less space.

Then, in a gut wrenching moment, we were torn apart. By forces beyond my control, forces without a conscience, forces under the dictatorship of life's insatiable need to beget more of itself.

He would not let me go so easily. He followed me into the watery prison. Waves of blood gushed around us as we enveloped ourselves in our tears, drawing sustenance from the salt.

But time was no longer timeless. All too soon, He softly let go, as I fell screaming into life...

He hovered over me, though I longer recognized Him. Caressed my hair in the dark and whispered in my ear about our time together, while I slept.

During the waking hours, I was taught to fear and revile Him. Fear His honesty, fear His integrity, fear His implacability, fear His complete freedom, fear His absolute impartiality, fear His refusal to cower before life, fear His fearlessness...

On a few occasions when I did manage to feel Him close, I ran away... too scared to notice the hurt in His eyes... too scared to look deeper... too scared to understand the gentleness beneath the terrifying facade...

But He would not give up so easily... He kept his distance when I was a child... but as I became a woman, He could no longer stay away. He could not bear to see me love anyone but Him. So He took them away and forced me to look at Him instead. To recognize Him. To love Him as I once did. But I could not.
I raged against Him. Hated Him for taking away all that I loved. Furious at my refusal, He tried to take me by force.

Life came to my rescue. I pushed Him away and eloped with life. I ran. Away from Him. Away from myself. Away from all I ever was. Ran till I was no longer me. Ran till I could no longer recognize myself. Ran away till no one remembered me anymore.

He remembered.

He followed me.

As I went cruising along with life, I knew He was watching me from a distance. Watching life drug me, watching life seduce me, watching life play with my heart...watching me... and waiting...

Soon life's promises started to ring hollow... life's little seduction game started to bore me... because I slowly started to remember...

As my memory came back, He came closer. And I no longer shied away. He did not say he loved me. He did not make promises. He did not know what those words meant. And I realized, neither did I. Because I could finally remember what it was like in a world that began and ended with the two of us, to be enveloped by Him in a cocoon so tight that words, even those like "love" and "promises", had no space to rattle around.

I told him I was ready to be His. But life tried to drag me back... life was telling me how much he loved me, promising me the world, promising to keep his promises, promising to cherish me forever, as if life could ever know what forever meant...

He cast an amused look at life. He told me go play with this handsome, heartless, ruthless rake called life for a little bit longer. While He keeps a watchful eye on me.

Because once Death decides to make you His own, it literally takes your breath away.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

I want to be a Tortoise

     Evolution provided life forms with an exoskeleton to begin with. As we learnt in school, the exoskeleton is a hard rigid outer structure that protects the organism inside, supports its musculature and allows for basic functions such as ingestion, excretion and a limited level of sensing geared towards survival.

     Then evolution decided to turn us inside out. Quite literally. It pushed IN the hard skeleton and pushed OUT the softer muscles. So we (the mammals) along with reptiles and birds have to cope with having our softer muscles and tissues exposed to attacks while our tough bones stay inside. This design makes us far more thin-skinned than most of our insect cousins. They waltz around with their soft inner bodies safely enclosed inside a hard shell, protected from bumps and bruises as they go about their daily business, being sure any predator having designs on them will have to think twice.

     But for the rest of us with endoskeletons... life can be a little scary.  The environment rubs up against us. Every little thorn under our feet to even a degree of change in temperature is a potential threat.

     However, as always, evolution had very practical reasons for turning us inside out. Endoskeleton allows for a far greater leavel of flexibility than an exoskeleton ever could. That means a higher level of sensitivity, greater variety of movements and a greater potential for growth. In contrast, the very rigidity of the exoskeleton limits growth. The endoskeleton is also, paradoxically, much stronger than an exoskeleton. True, an outer shell can make the organism completely immune to minor hurt and protect it from serious injuries to a certain extent. But once a major injury damages the exoskeleton, the organism simply dies. In the case of the endoskeleton, however, the orgamism is easily hurt, even a little scratch can bleed. However, in case of a major injury, the endokeleton proves to be much hardier and more resilient. This gives the organism a chance to bounce back even if serious damage is done to its structure.

     Can the same principle be applied to our hearts and minds? Or rather, our emotions and intelligence?

     The people who have unshakeable emotions and a firm stand on their ideas. Those who are envied for their thick skins. Life's nasty little surprises roll off their backs easily. Their limited or suppressed sensitivity allows them to cope with a lot of things life throws at them and keep away the predators of their life's goals. Their hard shell allows them only to perform "functions", not dance and cart wheel. This steadiness allows them to be successful in many ways. However, when a major blow stomps hard on their exoskeleton.... they seem to fall apart.... not unlike the snail whose shell is torn away....

     Then there are those whose emotions are always on the surface. The ones who cry buckets over poetry, those who are hurt by every real and imagined insult, those who dance in the rain and come down with a cold the next day... they seem to survive the major blows better.

     Is it the same exoskeleton vs endoskeleton theory at work?

     Another thing I noticed is that people who cry easily are not quite tender hearted as they make themselves out to be.  In the book "Catcher in the Rye",  Holden describes a woman crying over a stupid movie all the while ignoring the little kid with her who was in discomfort. And in the 12 years since I read the book, I have found that statement to be a very accurate description of the so called "sensitive" people, always allowing for exceptions, of course.

     Would it be ideal to be like the tortoise? Which has both the shell as well as an internal skeletal structure? A predator may be put of by the hard shell whereas those who are privileged to flip them over get to experience the softness inside? Can the shell hide us from the scratches of a rough world while our internal structure gives us the strength to survive the major whacks?  Would this be the ideal emotional skeletal structure to maintain our sensitivity while not keeping our emotions so close to the surface that they lose their meaning and depth?

      Is this analogy making sense to anyone out there?

Saturday, 11 February 2012


     In William Dalrymple's "Nine Lives" (if you haven't read the book yet, please do so NOW!), I came across a Tamil poem translated by A.K. Ramanujan (The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology, Ontario, 1975). Here it is:

Her arms have the beauty
Of a gently moving bamboo.
Her eyes are full of peace.
She is faraway,
Her place not easy to reach.
My heart is frantic
With haste.
A ploughman with a single ox
On land all wet
And ready for seed.

     After a little online trawling, this is what I found...

     Ettuthokai (Eight Anthologies) dated anywhere between 600 AD to 1200 AD are a collection of poems dealing with both Akam (Private life) and Puram (Public life). The poems were composed by many poets and annotated into anthologies. Kurunthokai is the second book of the anthology and deals with Akam. It consists of 401 poems loosely woven together to form a story of love, separation and longing.

     By the way, the "Interior Landscape" is not what you would think :-). In Classical Tamil poetry (especially in those dealing with love), description of the landscape was woven into poems to convey the many moods of the lovers. For example, mountains, water falls, winter months (the only pleasant season in Tamil Nadu even 2000 years back, I guess) and kurinji flowers form the backdrop for a lover's union. Forests, rivers, late summers and jasmine form the backdrop for the heroine patiently waiting for her lover to return from battle. When the lovers are separated and there is no hope of union, the landscape is seashore, salt water and water lily. When the hero goes on a dangerous mission from which he may never return, the background is parched desert, cactus and the dry summer season. Arguments between couples are depicted along with ponds (maybe because the water is stagnant), plains and valleys and (for some strange reason) mangoes and water buffaloes. Maybe the other party in the argument begins to look like a clumsy buffalo. And another interesting point, no season is assigned for arguments between couples. The poets must have noted that they happen irrespective of the time of the year. :-)

Here are a few of the other Kurunthokai poems I liked...

Poem# 132

She is always eager to embrace,
Her softly blossoming breasts and long tresses
kindle my desire.

How could I bring myself
to forget her?
The dusky maiden looks at me with shy longing. 
Like a new born calf raising his trembling head
to search for his mother whose milk he seeks.

Poem# 101

The weight of this entire earth filled with great oceans and rolling waves
And the next world which few could hope to reach, put together,
Cannot compare with the delight I feel 
When I lay in the arms of my girl with golden skin,
kohl-lined eyes like lotus blossoms
And slender thighs freckled with beauty spots.

Poem# 119

Just as the young offspring
of the small white snake
with its pretty stripes
can wound a wild elephant,
this petite girl
with bright milky teeth
and arms laden with bangles
has wounded me.

Poem# 54

He has gone - and I am alone -
my Lord of the hill country
where a wild elephant,
startled by the whistling of stones
from the slings of watchmen
in the millet fields,
releases a green bamboo stem
so that it springs back
like a fisherman's rod landing a catch.
And with him has gone
all that I am worth as a woman.

Poem# 62

Like an exquisite, skilfully wrought garland
of white kantal flowers
and bright green buds of jasmine, yet to unfold,
interspersed with fragrant petals of blue water lilies
is my sweet one's fragrant body,
more delicate than a mango tree's tender shoots
and more delightful yet to embrace.

Poem# 116

My love has made for her
a dwelling-place in my heart.
Her tresses, besieged by honey-bees,
are like long ripples
in the fine dark sand
on the broad shores of Urantai
where the rich Chola Kings
make their dwelling place,
so sleek, fresh and so fragrant.

Poem# 168

Her dusky body
is fresh and fragrant,
like a green basket –
woven from the tender young leaves
and filled with the plump rain-drenched buds,
which, in the early morning,
burst open and scatter
under the monsoon's heavy downpour.
Her shoulders, slender as bamboo,
glide like a boat on the water.
I can neither embrace them
nor be separated from them.
And were I to depart from here,
to live at all
would be equally impossible.

And the most famous Sembula Peyaneer (Red Earth and Rain):

Poem# 40

What could my mother be
to yours? What kin is my father
to yours anyway? And how
did you and I meet ever?
But in love our hearts are as red
earth and pouring rain:
beyond parting.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Who wrote Thirukkural?

Thirukkural, a classic of tamil literature. is a collection of couplets. 1330 of them, in fact. "Kural" means a short verse and "Thiru" is a prefix used to denote respect. The text is divided into three chapters, The first deals with individual character, the second deals with character becoming of a person in public life and the third deals with private life within the family.

We know very little about the exact date when the text was composed. Historians believe the text to have been written anytime between the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, more commonly referred to as the "Sangam" period (the Golden Age of Tamil literature). We know even less about the authorship of the text. We do not know who wrote it or even if it was composed by just one individual.

In present day Tamil Nadu, if you stop anyone walking down the street and ask who wrote Thirukkural, the reply will be "Thiruvalluvar". This is the general belief and this notion is propogated through the education system. Many legends have sprung around this belief, encouraged by the Dravidian movement in the 20th century. However, there is no evidence to suggest someone called Thiruvalluvar existed or that he wrote the text. The image of Thiruvalluvar as a venerable bearded old man sitting cross legged with palm leaf manuscripts in his hand is an artist's imagination created during the latter half of the 20th century.

There are many versions as to who could be the author. Some suggest that such an exhaustive work consisting of 1330 perfectly worded couplets about subjects ranging from ruling a kingdom, giving alms, spying, agriculture, education and making love could not have been composed by one individual. While the first two chapters could be written by either a man or a woman, some couplets in the third chapter, dealing with intimate relationships are written from a woman's perspective. Example:

Kural 1186:
விளக்கற்றம் பார்க்கும் இருளேபோல் கொண்கன்
முயக்கற்றம் பார்க்கும் பசப்பு.


(A woman in love laments)

As darkness waits for the lamp to be extinguished,
Weakness threatens to engulf me as soon as I am out of his embrace.

In Indian poetry, it is not unusual for men to write from a woman's prespective. This is quite prevalent in religious poetry where the male poet imagines himself to a woman in love with the male deity (notably Shiva or Krishna, the former known for his sexual prowess culminating in millennia long love making with his wife Parvati and the latter being a charming ladies man.)

Anyway, getting back to the topic :), in Thirukkural, the love and longing is not directed towards any deity. It is for, by all accounts, a normal man to whom the lady has lost her heart. So were some couplets composed by women poets?

As we know, during the Sangam period, women poets contributed to Tamil literature and poetry. Most notably, Avvaiyar. "Sangam" means "confluence" or "assembly". The Tamil Sangams were, quite literally, assemblies were poets gathered. And some of them were definitely bound to be women. Is it possible that, given that the Thirukkural covers almost every aspect of private, social and public life, many poets (both men and women) contributed? And the best verses were chosen and compiled into what is today known as Thirukkural?

Assuming various men & women contributed to making Thirukkural what it is, why is that such an intriguing thought? Because, in that case, the credit for composing such a timeless classic does not rest with one venerated individual (with magical powers, if some legends are to be believed) but with an entire society consisting of ordinary men and women who could create verses that are as true today as they were a thousand years ago.

And for what makes Thirukkural so special (beyond what was taught to us at school, of course) next post....

Saturday, 31 December 2011

What is anichcham?

          Anichcham is a mythological flower mentioned in ancient Tamil literature. It is supposed to be so delicate that it withers even when smelled. I came across it in Thirukkural.
          I shall explain more about Thirukkural in my next post... This post is for all of you who learnt Thirukkural in school and didn't follow up on what was NOT taught. :)
          Here is a selection of my favourite kurals about love & longing. Thirukkural has an entire section titled "Kamathupaal" - quite literally the book of desire. Classical Tamil poetry, like its temple sculptures, is subtly sensuous. Very rarely is it in-your-face erotic. Here are a few of my favourites, they range from tender to passionate, mischievous to heart-broken. Straightforward literal translations simply do not convey the beauty of the kurals, so I'm just providing an explanation in English for each kural. 

Kural 1091:
இருநோக்கு இவளுண்கண் உள்ளது ஒருநோக்கு
நோய்நோக்கொன் றந்நோய் மருந்து.

Her two liquid eyes affect me in two very different ways.
The glance of one eye afflicts me with pain,
While the glance of the other eye provides the cure. 

Kural 1094:
யான்நோக்கும் காலை நிலன்நோக்கும் நோக்காக்கால்
தான்நோக்கி மெல்ல நகும்.

When I look at her, she timidly bends her head and looks at the ground,
But when she thinks I am not looking at her, she steals a glance at me and smiles softly to herself.

Kural 1104:
நீங்கின் தெறூஉம் குறுகுங்கால் தண்ணென்னும்
தீயாண்டுப் பெற்றாள் இவள்.

How is she able to contain this wondrous fire within herself?
It burns me when I withdraw from her,
But soothes me when I embrace her.

Kural 1110:
அறிதோறு அறியாமை கண்டற்றால் காமம்
செறிதோறும் சேயிழை மாட்டு.

The more one learns, the more one realizes the gaps in his knowledge.
The more I get to know her, the more I thirst to understand the depths of her secret soul.

Kural 1113:
முறிமேனி முத்தம் முறுவல் வெறிநாற்றம்
வேலுண்கண் வேய்த்தோ ளவட்கு.

Her shoulders are as delicate as a bamboo shoot
Her body is just ripe and her complexion, pure
Her fragrance is intoxicating and her teeth look like pearls.
Her sharp eyes, however, cut through me like a lance!

Kural 1121:
பாலொடு தேன்கலந் தற்றே பணிமொழி
வாலெயிறு ஊறிய நீர்.

While her voice is soft and musical,
Her wet mouth tastes sweeter than a mixture of milk and honey!

Kural 1134:
காமக் கடும்புனல் உய்க்கும் நாணொடு
நல்லாண்மை என்னும் புணை.

A man's self-control and a woman's modesty are but flimsy rafts in the sea of love. They do not stand a chance when the storm of desire approaches.

Kural 1171:
கண்தாம் கலுழ்வ தெவன்கொலோ தண்டாநோய்
தாம்காட்ட யாம்கண் டது.

These eyes that caused me to fall in love and experience such pain,
Now why do they weep with longing?

Kural 1218:
துஞ்சுங்கால் தோள்மேலர் ஆகி விழிக்குங்கால்
நெஞ்சத்தர் ஆவர் விரைந்து.

When I am asleep, I dream that he is resting his head on my shoulder,
And when I wake up, he slithers down into my heart.

Kural 1226:
மாலைநோய் செய்தல் மணந்தார் அகலாத
காலை அறிந்த திலேன்.

Now that I have experienced separation from my beloved,
I understand what cruel pangs the twilight hour is capable of afflicting.

Kural 1273:
மணியில் திகழ்தரு நூல்போல் மடந்தை
அணியில் திகழ்வதொன்று உண்டு.

Like the unseen thread holding together a string of pearls,
There is a secret in her beauty that is playing hide-n-seek with me. 

Kural 1280:
பெண்ணினால் பெண்மை உடைத்தென்ப கண்ணினால்
காமநோய் சொல்லி இரவு.

Never is her femininity more pronounced
Than when her eyes are unafraid to show the lust and longing plaguing her. 

Kural 1274:
முகைமொக்குள் உள்ளது நாற்றம்போல் பேதை
நகைமொக்குள் உள்ளதொன் றுண்டு.

Like the fragrance hiding inside a bud yet to blossom,
A secret is hiding within her close-lipped smile

Kural 1290:
கண்ணின் துனித்தே கலங்கினாள் புல்லுதல்
என்னினும் தான்விதுப் புற்று.

Her eyes shone with anger,
But when we made love, her passion exceeded mine.

Kural 1293:
கெட்டார்க்கு நட்டார்இல் என்பதோ நெஞ்சேநீ
பெட்டாங்கு அவர்பின் செலல்.

It is true that the despairing are abandoned by those around them.
Why else would my heart leave me in this pitiable state and follow him?