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

Poems: Tuka's Wife Speaks

What shall I give the children to eat?

"Where I am concerned he has renounced the world; what enjoyment of his own has he given up? For him all pleasures come walking to the house; but I cannot escape disgrace. Whom shall I marry to keep things going? How much family trouble must I suffer? What shall I give the children to eat? They will devour me for very hunger; it would be a good riddance if they died. He has swept the house clean and emptied it; there is not a cow left to give us dung for the floors." Tuka says, Miserable and thoughtless wretch; she loads her own head and grumbles at the burden.

The brute was my enemy

"Perhaps the brute was my enemy before we were born, and has gained his end now by marrying me. How long must I bear this unceasing misery? How often must I beg my food from others? Curses on this Vitthala! What has he done for me and my family?" Tuka says, These are my wife's vagaries; she laughs one moment and cries the next.

He would not let the children eat

"I had a bag of grain sent me; he would not let the children eat it. He fills up baskets for other people. He is a gluttonous thief!" She grew quite wild and seized his hand like a wolf. Tuka says, It is idle to talk of a harlot's stored up merit.

He has no interest in us

"Now my son, what will you eat? My husband is grown a devotee of the temple. He wears garlands on his head, he does not care to be a shopkeeper as he was. He has made arrangements to feed himself. He has no interest in us. He goes about with cymbals and open mouth; he sings before God in the temple. What are we to do now? He is gone off to the jungle." Tuka says, Show some patience now, if you never did before.

Good, he is gone

"Good; he is gone; now we have got all we want! Now I shall have plenty to eat; bread and soup and all. Wretch as I am, how could I go on quarreling with him forever?" Tuka says, When I showed that I despised her words, she began to like me.

His women folk are frightened to death

"He cannot follow his trade; he gets bread thrust into his mouth; he gets up and strikes his cymbals and makes no end of a noise. He is a dead man; he has pounded up shame and swallowed it. He forgets all about his family; they are ruined; his women folk are frightened to death; they hate their own existence." Tuka says, All right wife, I will leave you alone; I give you a written promise.

She sits fondling her children

Dragging her children after her, she comes disturbing my preaching; fall at her feet and entreat her, or else seize her by the hand and drive her out. She sits fondling her children; why does she spoil the people's affection for me? Tuka says, She distracts the people's minds, so put her to shame.