Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Girl becomes tree becomes girl
Girl becomes tree becomes girl
-A Kannada Folk tale collected and translated by A.K.Ramanujan.
Interpreted by Usha and Vanitha
This is a women’s tale but voices universal concern about concern for environment, and plea to be gentle to all that is fragile. One could say many things about this story. For instance one of its themes resonates with our present concerns with ecology. The girl becomes a tree and begs to treat her gently, not to pluck anything more than the flowers.
Once upon a time there was a girl who lived with her older sister and a poor mother. She told her sister that she could become a flowering tree and the sister could gently pluck the flowers and sell them and make a living. There was a condition that she should be gentle and pour a vessel of water on her, she would become a flowering tree. And after she flowers the older sister had to gently collect the flowers and pour another vessel of water on her to become a young girl.
The flowers were collected and stringed and sold, soon the prince at palace heard about Cheluvi and wanted to marry her. The marriage happened and the prince wanted her to become a flowering tree every night. She obliged and asked him to follow all the conditions. His wicked sister got the fragrance of the flowers and forced her to come to the garden with her friends and demonstrate the magic of becoming a flowering free. Cheluvi reluctantly obliged.
Unfortunately they were not gentle with her and ripped at the fragrant flowers. They also forget to pour the vessels of water. There was gusty wind and all of them abandoned Cheluvi and disappeared. She was caught between becoming a tree and being women. The prince looked for her and could not find her and kept wandering the world looking for her.
After many days someone found the fragmented trees and the cries of Cheluvi. They put her together and found her older sister. The older sister treated her and poured water gently on her and reconstructed her. Soon they found the wandering prince who was bearded and dejected in life. They united the couple together and the evil sister was punished. Cheluvi and the prince lived happy ever after.
The recurrent unit of the story is girl becoming tree becoming girl .this is also the whole story; the recurrent unit encapsulates the career of this woman in the story. What are the differences between a woman and a tree? A woman can speak, can move, can be an again in her own behalf, in ways a tree cannot. Yet, symbolically speaking, the tree isolates and gives form to her capacity to put forth flower and fragrance from within, a gift in which she could glory, as well the vulnerability that goes with it. It expresses a young woman’s desire to flower sexually and otherwise, as well as the dread of being ravaged that the very gift brings with it. In telling such a tale, older women could be reliving these early, complex, and ambivalent feelings towards their own bodies – and projecting them for younger female listeners. If boys are part of the audience, as they often are, the male could imaginatively participate in them which might change their sensitiveness towards women.
This project is supported by BOSCH Engineering Solutions, Bangalore Habba and Carlsberg
1.Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery