I remember an anecdote when I was studying in class 8 in one of the schools at Madurai. It was a Tamil medium class. I had a teacher who was quite old with a completely bald head who used to teach English. One day as he walked into the class, he called four students to the front and asked them how would they carry if they were asked to carry a palanquin. As Madurai was famous for festivals where the statues of Gods are usually carried in palanquins, the four boys almost demonstrated it walking almost like soldiers. He stopped them and said “Oh no, if you are carrying a princess, you can’t do that. “Lightly, O, Lightly; softly, O softly” – he almost danced as if he was carrying a palanquin with a princess on it. I just can’t forget the way this man taught me poetry with action, emotion, grace and grandeur. The poem “Palanquin Bearers” by the Nightingale of India, Sarojini Naidu, is such a wonderful poem – one can bring to mind the complete imagery and enjoy every single word of it. I remember my English Teacher, this day, when I was reflecting on this beautiful poem of Sarojini Naidu, on her birthday, 13 February, which is also celebrated as the National Women’s Day. For those who have not read that poem, here is it.:
Lightly o Lightly, we bear her along,
She sways like a flower in the wind of our song;
She skims like a bird on the foam of a stream.
She floats like a laugh from the lips of a dream.
Gaily. O Gaily we glide and we sing,
We bear her along like a pearl on a string.
Softly, O softly we bear her along,
She hangs like a star in the dew of our song;
She springs like a beam on the brow of the tide,
She falls like a tear from the eyes of a bride.
Lightly, O lightly we glide and we sing,
we bear her along like a pearl on a string.