Lament of the Lonely

Blessed are those
loved in turn by their lovers –
they enjoy the sweetest
seedless fruits of desire.

The grace showered
by lovers on their beloveds
is like pouring rain
to life on earth.

Those lovers,
whose love is reciprocated,
alone have the swagger to say,
“We are living the life!”

Though loved (by others),
there is no deep connection
if one remains unloved
by ones own beloved.

What will the one
I love do with me,
if he does not
love me back?

One-sided love is bitter.
Like a dancer’s kavadi
poised on both shoulders,
only reciprocal love is sweet.

Love-God targets
and afflicts me alone –
Does he not even notice
my sadness and longing?

No one on earth
has such fortitude
as those who’ve never received
a kind word from the one they love.

My miser of a lover
shows not deep love,
and yet, his words are
sweet music to my ears.

You describe love pangs
to your unfeeling man.
Bless you, dear heart,
instead empty the sea.

My Heart, My Traitor

Think and tell me something,
my heart, of anything,
anything that will cure
this incurable disease.

When he lacks love,
it is foolishness for you
to be in pain, my dear heart –
just live long and prosper.

Will sympathy come your way,
my heart, for sitting here
in lovesickness, when the one
causing this sad malady is pitiless?

Take my eyes also
along with you, dear heart;
they devour me
in their longing to see him.

Can we abandon him,
my heart, saying he is cruel –
this man we love
who doesn’t love us?

When you meet the lover
who quells all your quarrels
by making love, my heart,
feigning slight is such a sham.

Give up desire or
give up shame, good heart;
I cannot suffer
the both of them.

Hoping, in his defence,
that he will show love,
my heart is a fool that follows
the man who left me.

The lover resides within,
and while this is so, my heart,
who do you think about,
in search of whom do you go?

He has deserted us,
he has renounced us –
If I keep him in my heart,
I will lose my beauty even more.

Reading the Signs

Overpowering you,
your painted eyes
tell me there is something
that you are hiding.

Sleek-boned like bamboo,
this young woman is a beauty
to behold – the most remarkable
is her feminine fluidity.

Like glimmering thread
that holds a beaded chain,
something runs through
this woman’s appeal.

Like the fragrance held
within a bud, something
lies concealed within
her blossoming smile.

In the hidden mischief
of my lady of many bangles,
there is a medicine to heal
heart-breaking sorrow.

He showers me with endearments,
pleasures me intensely – making me
feel (that soon) I will be surrounded
by the lack of his love (his parting).

My bangles perceived,
even before I did, the news
of the impending departure
of my man of these cold shores.

Just yesterday
my lover went away –
My skin betrays the sorrow
of seven long days.

Speaking with her eyes,
she pointed at her bangles,
her slender shoulders, her feet–
This is all that she did.

She begs with her eyes,
which speak of how she aches
for sex – it is said, then –
the woman is being womanly.


Stay put, do not embrace
your pouting lover;
let us watch awhile
their distressed state.

Like salt for seasoning,
proportion is everything;
in sulking – a little excess
spoils the taste.

To leave a sulking lover
is to inflict hurt
on the grievously injured.

To be unfeeling
to a sulking lover
is to cut a withered
creeper at its root.

Even great, good men
appear fetching when
their flower-eyed beloved
grows petulant.

Desire without daring
lacks the sweet-mellow,
and without sulking
the hard-raw fruits.

A single sorrow surrounds
every lover’s strife –
Will this not delay
our having sex?

What is the point
of my dreadful anguish,
if the lover who will notice
such grieving is not around?

Even water tastes
sweet in the shade;
even sulking is sweet
only in the eyes of lovers.

I am angry, my lover leaves me
drooping with dejection –
yet the desire of my heart
is that we come together.

Excerpted with permission from Tirukkural: The Book of Desire, Tiruvalluvar, translated from the Tamil by Meena Kandasamy, Penguin.