Sarojini Naidu’s poetry has a magical and musical charm that kindles your imagination and satiates your sense of beauty and joy. Her poetry, enhanced by mellifluous rhythm and captivating imagery appeals to our senses. Bangle sellers, street vendors, palanquin bearers, weavers, royalty and mythological characters are all painted in vibrant strokes in her poems.
Sarojini Naidu, hailed as The Nightingale of India, was a freedom fighter and a great inspiration to women in India during India’s independence struggle. She delivered impassioned speeches, supported women’s rights and stood shoulder to shoulder with Mahatma Gandhi in his Swadeshi movement. She was the first Indian woman to become the president of Indian National Congress and was also the first woman governor of an Indian state. Her contribution to Indo-Anglian literature is of great prominence. Her poems are remembered for its vivid images of India, richness and variety of themes and are flavoured with patriotism, romanticism and lyricism. I am an ardent admirer of her poetry that pulsates with beauty, imagery, symbolism, passion and simplicity.
A recent trip to Long Hai, a small coastal town in South Vietnam and the early morning sights of the fishermen out for their first catch of the day reminded me of Sarojini Naidu’s ‘Coromandel Fishers‘. A beautiful poem addressing the fisherfolk of the Coromandel Coast of India to gear up for the day’s action. On a serious note it is a bugle call to the battlefield; a poem of Hope and Faith. Here is the poem and a few early morning pictures of ‘the kings of the sea’; set in another land, these are men from the same walk of life!.
Rise, brothers, rise; the wakening skies pray to the morning
The wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has cried all night.
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the kings of the sea
No longer delay, let us hasten away in the track of the sea gull’s call,
The sea is our mother, the cloud is our brother, the waves are our comrades all.
What though we toss at the fall of the sun where the hand of the sea-god drives?
He who holds the storm by the hair, will hide in his breast our lives.
Sweet is the shade of the cocoanut glade, and the scent of the mango grove,
And sweet are the sands at the full o’ the moon with the sound of the voices we love;
But sweeter, O brothers, the kiss of the spray and the dance of the wild foam’s glee;
Row, brothers, row to the edge of the verge, where the low sky mates with the sea.
Coromandel Fishers is a rhetoric and a clarion call to the humble fisherfolk and to the nation as well. The poet invokes the fishermen to take their oars and catamarans, to listen and follow the seagulls’ call and capture the wealth of the tide. Their everyday pattern is full of hardship and is entirely different from their brothers on the land. But they are the kings of the sea; the natural elements are their family, their strength and support. The strength,unconditional love and devotion of these sons of the sea towards their brethren were at its peak when a deluge mercilessly hit our state Kerala after ninety-five years. With their boats and oars and dauntless spirit these savoiurs reached every nook and cranny of the flood drowned districts and saved hundreds of lives. Every Keralite is eternally indebted and grateful to the sons of the sea!