Sitting at the Bar

This is my quick attempt at translating a Tamil poem titled “Tequila” by Leena Manimekalai from a monthly magazine “Vikatan Thadam”. I liked it very much since it was simple and conveyed a strong feeling, beautifully. My translation is mostly word-by-word but I hope it passes the message across. Here it goes.

There, at every bar, is a man
staring blank through his half-drunk glass
and in that glass floats everything

The untold lust, betrayal of love,
the partings that are never complete,
the sex that has just been had,
the promises that had to be kept
and all those yearnings stacking up to mock at him
a pang
he shuddered, shaking the table
leaving the glass to dance and settle
spilling drops around
he passionately licked off the drops from his fingers
and sat there turning a deaf ear
to the cacophony of the crowd and everything else
he seemed to have nothing to do with them

the busboy was clearing the tables
and the server went around refilling the glasses
and returning the faces that his patrons had lost
as he moves from one table to another
over their forehead, the sides of the eyes, the cheeks
were their handprints misplaced by the liquor

Filled with failures, guilt
mercy, complaints,
pride, beauty,
the youth that has returned,
tears, celebrations, and stories
the entire bar floated
slowly like a fully-loaded coracle on a summer lake

Someone is giving and someone else is receiving
and then someone else is bearing it all
Everyone had their home under their own sky
without any shadows of friendship

There in a corner is a couple kissing
I cannot keep watching it anymore
I am thirsty
here is an empty chair
please come sit near me
I have so much to fill your glass with
a lot of words soaked in the drink
but are stronger than the drink itself
they are the secrets known to all
yet listen carefully
I shall say them all out while I am sober
before I am lost into whining
please show me some love

Original Tamil version

Tequila - Vikatan Thadam


A Lot Can Happen Over A Co55ee



She shouted at him furiously, “You! lazy hopeless egg head, made me wait for almost an hour, and you arrive as though you have just saved the world”. But he asked the waitress with a smile, without any hint of shame on his face for Espressos and added “Mademoiselle likes them steaming and in time”.

Looking at his anxious face, barely containing her excitement, she sat opposite him. He was so nervous, for her reciprocation would change his life forever.  Breaking the silence, “I too am in love with you” echoed a feminine voice few seats from behind her. Café, that evening witnessed the proposal of a couple of couples.

She loves me… He pushed open the Café door.
She loves me not… He fell onto the chair.
She loves me… He browsed the menu.
She loves me not… But settled with the regular.
She loves me… She smiled from inside the coffee steams.
She loves me not… He sipped.
She… Err… She can wait.

The couple ordered coffee. And some delicacies that are not technically cocoa but the Café offered anyhow. After everything was done away with, in what seemed like eternity, the menu was served again. But this time in print. Quickly and saucily she pushed the bill towards him and instinctively his hand went for his wallet.

The newbie asked, without taking her mouth off the Frappe cup, “Can anything in 55 words be a 55-Fiction professor?” Gesturing to wipe the foam around her mouth, the mentor responded, “No, not essentially, it requires a setting – like this café. A person or more – like us. And finally a problem and solution – like this.”