(Pic source: http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/0_street_e/0_street_views_-_grassmarket_painting_matylda_k_weird_night_1024.htm )
Poem 28 – Agananooru
Shall I charge
or shall I lash out
against this town
Or shall I falsely wail
I dont know
my anguish of love
this town sleeps
This poem, like the last two poems we saw, is by Avvaiyaar.
Avvaiyar is an interesting and elusive personality. Randor Guy, the film historian, once wrote an article about making of the movie, ‘Avvaiyar’, in which K.B.Sundarambal played the key role. Randor Guy says, “…Vasan had given instructions to his story department to conduct research on the life and times of the famed poet Avvai and work on a draft script. More than two years were invested in the research. Vasan entrusted this job to Tamil scholar Kothamangalam Subbu. The result was a mass of information — some incredible, some highly controversial and some even objectionable! Some scholars even told Subbu that “there was no such person called Avvaiyar! All kinds of people wrote philosophical poems and songs and passed them off as written by Avvai!” “ (http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-columns/avvaiyar-1953/article3665697.ece )
There were indeed many Avvais. The poems we saw in the last two weeks were from ‘Purananuru’, the set of poems which deal with external events. The Avvai seen here is the friend of the chieftain Anji. There are lot of love poems in ‘Agananooru’ which are attributed to Avvai. Were these two the same people? It is well known the Avvai who wrote ‘Aathichoodi’ is a different Avvai altogether. In essence, the Avvai we seen in the films and the Avvai who is written about as a single person is actually an amalgamation of multiple personalities.
Given that the Valentine’s Day was celebrated just a few days back, it is but natural that we take up a love song this week. The love songs of the Sangam era are some of the greatest love songs ever written. More importantly, they are extremely modern in nature. They write about almost every shade of love with a subtlety which is missing even in the modern poems. The poem we have taken up is one such.
The surface meaning is very clear. The girl’s lover is not around; she is pining for him and is angry that the town sleeps peacefully. A wonderful contrast is made between the turmoil of the girl and the town which is not worried about her. The poem very casually tells us how deeply affected the girl is, being separated from her lover.
This poem makes me think: Is love is a synonym for loneliness? Does a person feel lonelier than when he or she is in love? During this period, there is constant sense of loneliness and need for communication, not just with the lover but with the world at large. They somehow want to make the world realize the depth of affection they have for each other and they want the world to participate in this charming new world they have built. (It is also during this stage that a person slowly realizes that it is almost impossible to express in words what he or she feels. ) Inspite of all the external manifestation of love, the doubt remains as to whether the society really understand the person’s feeling. This heightened sense of joy coupled with the inability of words to express it makes a person feel lonely. This is not the loneliness of a sad person. This is the loneliness of a man who has climbed the summit, is exhilarated but finds no one around who can understand the joy he is experiencing at that particular moment.
This also brings to fore the question about the troubled relationship our society has with love. Bharathiyar wrote a poem wherein he was very angry with people who praise love when it appears in literature but totally oppose it when it happens in real life. We read about khap panchayats and their diktat against love on a regular basis. Why is it that our society is so scared of love? I think it has to do with the fact that ‘Love is Blind’. I know it is a cliché and is generally used in a derogatory fashion but I use it in a different sense here. What I mean is, when people are in love they are blind to the ways of the society. They cannot see the various divisions in the society: division based on caste, race, religion, class and what not. For them, these are unnecessary divisions and in a way it is during this period of love that human beings go back to their primal state. A state wherein another person is just a human being and there need not be any other identity. This challenges all that the society has built till now and hence the clash and the intolerance towards love. A society which wants to protect its identity will always be at loggerheads with love, which want to destroy such identities.
Ofcourse I was romanticizing a bit about love and its power to destroy the structures built by the society. We have to understand that this is a very complex issue. The lovers are also a part of the society and in many cases their philosophy is not about destroying the societal structures but rather of ensuring they get to live with the person they love within the social structures. Else things would have changed a lot by now. I am reminded of my friend who fought tooth and nail to get married to the person he loved. The girl was from a different caste and her mother opposed this alliance vehemently. My friend’s perseverance paid off and he got married to the girl he loved. Yet, when his younger sister wanted to marry a Christian boy whom she loved, he was totally opposed to the idea and the love of his sister ended in failure. So if we understand that the society which opposes love also contains people who have once loved and won / lost and now are in the opposition party, you will understand why change is not simple and why the social dynamics are so complex.
It is possible that in a distant future our society will be more tolerant toward love and lovers but one thing will remain unchanged. While the lover is in turmoil and wide awake, the town will peacefully sleep.