The fragrance of poet K.S. Narasimhaswamy's Mysura Mallige lingers on in the collective reminiscences of his readers and his family.
I have spent all my life answering queries about my father and it doesn't surprise me that even six years after his death, people continue to be curious about him and his personal life. What at times irks us (me and my siblings) is when we are probed about our inability to write a poem like him, not even a line they wonder, though he wrote more than five hundred poems!
Apart from such occasional intrusions, I feel blessed to be born as “Mysura Mallige” Narasimhaswamy's daughter. This poetic collection, which became synonymous with his name, was published in 1942, three years prior to my birth. My earliest memories of appa is watching him go to work at Ataara Kacheri, Mysore, dressed in a white dhoti and shirt.
When he got transferred to Bangalore, we initially lived in a small outhouse at Sannidhi Road, Basavanagudi; this house exists even now with its old tiled roof. In a corner of the living room sat a fat steel trunk filled with appa's writing paraphernalia, at times, serving the purpose of his writing table too; its key secured tightly to his sacred thread. He would retreat to this corner, spend hours in deep thought, which at times would be interrupted by exclamatory sounds like Ah! followed by quick scribbling. I rarely saw appa striking or tearing his writings; he abhorred wasting anything and perhaps the poem was written when he was absolutely sure of its entire structure. We got to read his poems only after it was published, some of them much later, when others informed us about it!
Life, as in his poems
I rarely saw him expressing anger and when he did, we would take the cue and disappear. But his temper was never loud nor did it last long. My parents spent 67 years together; my mother was 13 when she married appa, who was 21. They both were dissimilar in many ways — he was reserved and preferred to be alone, while she was an avid talker and loved company. Yet, untold understandings bond them.She was his muse, and efficiently donned many roles, as wife, mother, caring elder of the family and a devoted nurse in his last years. When questioned about her experiences as a poet's wife, she would reply, “When life itself is a package of joys and sorrows, how can married life be different?”
I have been asked frequently whether the incidents in his poems have really occurred. Well, in any writer's life, it is tough to draw a clear line of demarcation between reality and illusion, for a writer extends his imagination on instances around him and most times the illusion appears better than the real.
The hospitality he experienced at his father-in-law's house mingled with the separation from his young wife when she visited her maternal home may have inspired his famous poem “Raayarabandaru maavana manege”, and other marital poems of “Mysura Mallige”. When she went for her first delivery, amma found it extremely embarrassing to write a letter to her husband in the presence of her family members, while in anger, he wrote many. What he did not show was the poems scribbled in despair, missing her presence. Years later, while listening to his popular “Toura sukhadolagenna”, she would laugh with tears in her eyes at the painful portrayal of a married woman's dilemma when she visits her maternal house.
His short story “Naayi Mallige” is woven around a real life incident — I had fallen ill and was taken to a clinic in a tonga, when our adopted street dog faithfully followed us. It died later, as narrated.
Recently, I asked my mother about the poem written on me — “Tungabhadra”, and whether there was any preference towards me among the eight children. She denied any favouritism and said appa was not the sort to express any such emotions, even if he felt so. Among the few instances when he cried was when he came to bid adieu after my marriage. The picture of me looking back to have a glimpse of appa, but, he walking away brusquely with others and then disappearing at the corner of the street, remains etched in my memory.
When appa died on December 28, 2003, amma's stoic acceptance baffled us. God put an end to her agony six months back, but their memory will continue to linger like “Mysura Mallige”.
We will string the stars and cross the moon
In love, not for us sorrow and death.
From “Mysura Mallige”
(The author is the poet KSN's daughter)