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Eating Hunger: Selections from the Poems of Tukarama,
trans. J. Nelson Fraser and K.B. Marathe

Poems: My Mother's House

He to whom I belong from the womb

You need not hand a babe to his mother, she is drawn to him by her own nature. Why have I begun to be troubled? He to whom I belong from the womb will set my burden on his head. The mother unbidden offers her child sweetmeats; she takes no pleasure in eating them herself. When he is busy playing, she searches for him and puts him to her breast. She feels his pain herself, she grows as restless as corn that is parching in a dish. Tuka says, She forgets herself, she suffers no blow to touch him.

When shall I see him coming?

I sit at the door waiting for him with my hand upon my brow. My thoughts and eyes are fixed upon the road to Pandhari. When shall I see him coming? I count the hours and minutes on my fingers. My left eyelid itches; my right arm throbs; my mind in its impatience forgets my body. I have no pleasure in my bed, I forget house and wife, hunger and thirst. Tuka says, Blessed will be the day when I see a messenger coming from Pandhari.

The mother rules her children with knowledge

The mother puts a morsel in her infant's mouth, but she rules her children with authority; thus knowledge sets us far from God, and puts a growing interval between us and him. The same mother bore both children, but her affection towards them takes a different course. Tuka says, The stronger is separated from her, the infant is laid to her breast.

My mother's head

When the child's mouth touches her breast, the mother yields her milk. Both delight in their caresses, the desire of each satisfies the other's desire. As their bodies meet, their bliss increases through their love. Tuka says, I have laid all heavy burdens on my mother's head.

Going to my mother's house

I will go now to my mother's house; the saints have sent for me. He has heard the story of my joys and sorrows; his mind is moved to pity. Some messenger, it seems, prepared with food and raiment, is coming to take me. My heart is drawn towards the road; I see continually the path to my mother's house. Tuka say, Now my mother and father will come themselves to take me back.


What message will come from my parents' house? I cannot close my eyes for wondering. I am waiting hopefully, with my arms clasped above my brow. I count the days on my fingers; I am restless and excited I know not whether the saints will forget or my father and mother will be attentive. The place will be crowded, says Tuka; who will think of me there?


By whomsoever I sit, I feel no peace; my mind dwells on the comforts of home. From moment to moment I remember my mother's house, I can never forget it. I resolve not to talk of it, but when the moment comes I remember it keenly. In the course of nature my senses move in that channel; it is there they find rest. I am ever eager to go to my mother's house; this eagerness possesses my soul, says Tuka.

I have met my mother's house

This has been a lucky day! I have met my mother's house. My own eyes have seen the saints, my troubles are over. I am blessed now in embracing the saints; I have attained my wish, says Tuka, I am blessed.

My father and mother are waiting

The river of the world bars our way no more; it is dried up and we can cross it on foot. My father and mother are waiting for me, standing hand on hip. Tuka says, When I see the spire of the temple, weariness, sleep and hunger will vanish.

Gasping for life

A cow grazes in the wood; her heart is with her calf at home. Thus, O mother, do thou with me; give me a place at thy feet. If you draw a fish from the water it gasps for breath; Tuka says, So it is with the body, it delights in the breath of life.

Notice me!

I have called on thee till my throat is parched; my life is ebbing, my patience is gone. Why hast thou not yet noticed this, O mother's home of the wretched? I look on wealth as though it were a stone, on pleasures as poison. Pardon me my faults, embrace me and give me thy love. A longing for thy form lingers in my heart, within and without I never cease to feel it. All I have to help me now is thy feet, says Tuka.

Free to eat

When we meet our father and mother, all restraints vanish. Whatever pleasures men know are doubtless felt then; our mouth is free to eat without restraint. Whatever is best a mother keeps for her child; she puts it to his lips. We are fully satisfied, says Tuka.

He knows nothing but his mother

A babe goes to his mother for comfort, without any further thought. His mother knows exactly what he wants, she rushes to him with fond delight. A babe sees no difference between a rope or a snake; he will touch fire or anything. He knows nothing about anything but his mother, says Tuka.

God's protection

We are the nurslings of his favor, there is a mark set upon us from our birth, that is why he is solicitous for us. He takes his rod in hand and governs our minds; he suffers not our favored senses to stray. Tuka says, It is not hard for him to protect those who seek his protection.

O mother!

Where can a child go if he is forsaken by his mother? He cannot find his way by his own strength. Even if he frets and runs away from the table, he looks behind to see if she is following him. To show persistence is all our capital; O mother! You will come running after us. Tuka says, When we persist in very truth, you will be reconciled and give us pleasant morsels.

Her love pursues me everywhere

When she is called, she comes running; this is her true inward nature. She speaks compassionate words; she puts me to her breast. She knows my longings, for she is the running spring whence all the stream of our faith proceeds. Tuka says, When she hears her name, her love pursues me everywhere.

United in feeling

The baby often kicks his mother, yet even that gratifies her. When 'this' and 'that' are united in feeling, then happiness dwells in the mind. Whatever she eats to sustain her life, a portion of it passes on to him. I tell you all freely, says Tuka, the relation is like that of debtor and creditor.

God expects no gain

Parents take care of their children and cherish them in the hope of gain. The king of gods is not like them; he is compassionate in his own nature. A mother beats her child when he displeases her; how many fathers beat them, says Tuka, I cannot tell!

Tuka possesses this knowledge

The yearnings of love are something that comes from the heart; there is nothing like them. A mother will not let her child cry much; when he is fretful, she is not slow to move. When her face breaks into smiles, the child understands it. Tuka, with all his ignorance, possesses this knowledge; he is not like the run of men.

The father knows the secret

Parents will not injure their own child or see it injured in their presence. The father knows the secret of doing good to his child.

He is indeed our mother

My parents are full of mercy, but my own designs have severed me from them. This was not because my store of merit led me astray; destiny unseen has been my close companion. I am chafing now at my ignorance of thy secret, though I know well the rules of religion. Tuka says, He stands erect, he will not sit down; he is indeed our mother, and he is alarmed about us.

A child who cried for a cake

There was once a child who cried for a cake such as he had never seen before. They placed a potsherd in his hand, and put an end to his fretting and grumbling. O Merciful One, do not treat me so! It is a parent's duty to do good to their children, says Tuka.

Anger and love

A mother's anger and her love exist side by side in her; but she is careful to remember the difference between them. Her irritation passes in a moment when it arises; her love never ceases. She knows how to teach lessons that make life sweet; assuredly, nothing interrupts her love. Before the due time comes, what she says is make-believe; but she knows when the time does come, and gives her child what is best for it. She makes no promises on his behalf, and lets no one torment him, though she frightens her own baby by telling him there's a snake coming. Tuka says, She takes good care of her children's life; she trembles for them and draws them to her side.