I am pleased to announce that the current issue of THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS (September 2019) is carrying a piece by David Shulman on Journeys. A Poet`s Diary (by A.K. Ramanujan), edited by Krishna Ramanujan and me (Penguin Random House 2019). Shulman`s highly perceptive and thought-provoking article is titled “Waiting for the Perfect Word”:

Adiós, Girish Karnad!

Very saddened to know that Girish Karnad, legendary actor, playwright, filmmaker and social activist passed away in Bangalore on Monday 10th June 2019 after a prolonged illness. We had recently worked together on Journeys. A Poet´s Diary (A.K. Ramanujan) which I co-edited with Krishna Ramanujan (AKR`s son) and for which he had kindly agreed to write the Foreword. The book was published by Penguin in April this year and I am glad he got to see it before his demise… He was delighted to be part of this the volume as AKR had been a close friend and remained a strong influence on him.

I last met Girish when we shared a session on Ramanujan at the Bangalore Literature Festival in November 2017:

We were discussing AKR and my book When Mirrors Are Windows. A View of A.K. Ramanujan`s Poetics, which had recently been published by OUP (also carrying Girish`s Foreword), and we got so immersed in the conversation that it became a jugalbandi of sorts: a Spanish scholar from the Castilian plains and the towering figure of Karnad, the essential Kannadiga, a modern quixotic genius bridging past and present, drama and poetry,  reciting AKR`s verse as if this gentle bard had composed it for that very moment! To enact, -and possess- its hidden meanings and be possessed by his own words, – Vac, the goddess of speech in full ritual...

Girish was a great artist, thinker, mentor and friend…

and, above all, a free spirit!


…This is to you, Girish:


Still Another View of Grace

I burned and burned. But one day I turned

and caught that thought

by the screams of her hair and said: ‘Beware.

Do not follow a gentleman’s morals


with that absurd determined air.

Find a priest. Find any beast in the wind

for a husband. He will give you a houseful

of legitimate sons. It is too late for sin,


even for treason. And I have no reason to know your kind.

Bred Brahmin among singers of shivering hymns

I shudder to the bone at hungers that roam the street

beyond the constable’s beat.’ But there She stood


upon that dusty road on a nightlit april mind

and gave me a look. Commandments crumbled

in my father’s past. Her tumbled hair suddenly known

as silk in my angry hand, I shook a little


and took her, behind the laws of my land.

(Poem by A.K. Ramanujan. Published in his first collection The Striders by Oxford University Press, London, in 1966 thanks to Girish Karnad`s recommendations)


The Takeover


   beware, your life is in danger:

the lord of gardens is a thief,

   a cheat,

master of illusions;


he came to me

   a wizard with words,

   sneaked into my body,

            my breath,


with bystanders looking on

   but seeing nothing,

he consumed me

   life and limb,


and filled me,

            made me over

into himself

(A.K. Ramanujan,  “The Takeover”, translation from Nammalvar’s Tiruvaymoli 10.7.1, Hymns for the Drowning  (Princeton University Press 1981) 76.)

“Journeys” by A.K. Ramanujan, edited by Krishna Ramanujan and Guillermo Rodríguez

Posted by Penguin India on Friday, September 21, 2018

When Mirrors Are Windows. A View of A. K. Ramanujan`s Poetics

By Guillermo Rodríguez

In an ocean where myriads of rivers converge, can one sole river lend the ocean its distinct flavour? For someone who is at home with several languages, literary traditions, and disciplines, is it possible for one form to criss-cross the landscape of another? In a poet’s world of mirrors, where stream and earth are sky, one may ‘sometimes count every orange on a tree’, but can one count ‘all the trees in a single orange’?
In this volume, I explore these possibilities by analysing the works of one of India’s finest poets, translators, essayists, and scholars of the twentieth century, A.K. Ramanujan (1929–1993).

A spectrum of published and unpublished sources—including some of Ramanujan’s hitherto unknown private diaries, notes, poetry drafts, and scholarly writings sourced from the A.K. Ramanujan Papers archived at the University of Chicago—are studied to illuminate the influence of classical Tamil, medieval bhakti, and oral folk aesthetics and literature on his work. This critical work published by Oxford University Press in June 2016 draws attention to the various aesthetic and poetic contexts in Ramanujan`s life and work, and shows how these are reflected in his writings as a way of thinking and nurturing force behind his creative self.

For more informaton see