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A River- A K Ramanujan- Poem

Updated: Jun 5, 2023


In this poem, A K Ramanujan articulates the poignant side of the beautiful Vaigai dam. He also brings out the ominous nature of the river in an artistic way.


In Madurai,

city of temples and poets,

who sang of cities and temples,

every summer

a river dries to a trickle in the sand,

baring the sand ribs,

straw and women’s hair

clogging the watergates

at the rusty bars

under the bridges with patches

of repair all over them

the wet stones glistening like sleepy

crocodiles, the dry ones

shaven water-buffaloes lounging in the sun

The poets only sang of the floods.

He was there for a day

when they had the floods.

People everywhere talked

of the inches rising,

of the precise number of cobbled steps

run over by the water, rising

on the bathing places,

and the way it carried off three village houses,

one pregnant woman

and a couple of cows

named Gopi and Brinda as usual.

The new poets still quoted

the old poets, but no one spoke

in verse of the pregnant woman

drowned, with perhaps twins in her,

kicking at blank walls

even before birth.

He said: the river has water enough

to be poetic

about only once a year

and then it carries away

in the first half-hour

three village houses,

a couple of cows

named Gopi and Brinda

and one pregnant woman

expecting identical twins

with no moles on their bodies,

with different coloured diapers

to tell them apart


Madurai - The city of Temples and poets, uncovers straw, sand ribs, and women’s hair in the scorching summer. This clogs the water gates underneath. The wet stones glistening underneath the sun appear like sleepy crocodiles whilst the dry ones like shaven water-buffaloes. The ancient poets wrote only about the romantic picture of the river. But they failed to describe when it was furious.

He says, the new poets, inspired by the old ones, saw only its elegance; but not the pregnant woman who was drowned bearing a child perhaps even twins kicking the blank walls even before perceiving this world. He says, the river has enough water to be poetic only once a year, after half an hour it takes away three villages, cows named Gopi and Brindha, a pregnant woman with twins that have neither moles nor diapers to tell them apart.


The Striders: Poems, Publisher: The University of Michigan, 1966.

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