Like many others, I came to know about Sugathakumari teacher through her poems. I had to teach poems written by her in college. Her poems like Rathrimazha were an inspiration for me and I ended up falling for her poetry. They revealed to me the depths of women’s minds, especially the concept of love. She had presented two shining examples of love — on how a man can love a woman and vice versa. These lines came from the bottom of her heart: Athramel agadhamay athra mel vishudhamay/ Athramel swayamsamarpithamay snehikkayal/Sweekarikkuka nithya kalpaka sumangalaal/ Arachichoree anaswaramam pranayakireedam. in this, a person is adorning a crown made of everlasting flowers on the lover’s head. It is the height of love, akin to ecstasy. While describing the love between Radha and krishna, she says about their kiss. She wrote: Pinne illallo kaalam, which meant that the kiss halted the past, present and future.
This description of extreme satisfaction resembles a painting. She has also written about the incompleteness of love. According to her, every woman nurtures the same love that Radha had. She wrote about Radha’s wait for krishna, her separation and her endless love for krishna in these lines: Aa Radha ullil vasikkayal theeraatha thedalaakunnu janmam.
For her, Radha is a symbol of love, a love that all women nurture. She depicted the women’s struggle to become complete, their anxiety and deep love. Another facet of her poetry is nature. Herself, her poems and nature weren’t different but a harmony. Her songs were not description of nature but of the nature which is hurt. Her topics were abused nature and dried-up rivers. All these songs were lessons for us. Her poems often ended up with a call for preservation like planting a sapling. Her poems reveal her deep love towards nature and a thirst for conservation.
But the same society which enjoyed her works opposed her environmental activism. Her activism was a conflict between truth and falsehood. Quite naturally, she had to face criticisms, brickbats and rejections. Another facet of her poetry was the wounded, abused and orphaned women. The rescue shelter for women is among her noted contributions. i was extremely sad when the news of her demise broke. I couldn’t speak for some time. I was with her like a shadow during many agitations like those at Aranmula and Gudalur and the many struggles for women’s protection and conservation of the Western Ghats. I have several memories with her of joy, sorrow and pride.
Like Kumaranasan sang, she had a meaningful life devoted to the others’ good. Bodheswaran’s daughters — Hridayakumari, Sugathakumari and Sujatha Devi — left this world leaving us with the blessings of their noble deeds. My most humble salute to her!
(As told to M S Vidyanandan)