The Sparrow Song

When we talk about birds, we cannot but talk about sparrows. The sparrow has been used as a metaphor for freedom. In one of his songs, Bharathiyar has written “be unbound and free, as this sparrow is”. The sparrow is a bird that would nest in our houses and people often do not disturb it. They would protect and maintain it till the time, the eggs are hatched, and the sparrow flies away with its chicks. It is our belief that the nesting of a sparrow in our house foretells joyous tidings.

In this song, I have used the notion of the sparrow to express my inner self and have also attempted to maintain the stress on the second syllable throughout this song. This is my “sparrow song”.

— Perumal Murugan


The sparrow takes off into the space
Sails into the expansive skies


Kicks offs and soars
Its silken torso in orbit


Away from the nest, it built with care
It grazes and grazes the soft white clouds
It grazes and grazes

Cuts off all the ties and
It kisses and kisses the blue sky
It kisses and kisses

Round and round, in all directions
It traverses and traverses, with all grace
It traverses and traverses

The Crow Song

When I was able to learn about birds, I collated a book on birds. As I had spent my youth on farmland, I was aware of many birds but until then, I hadn’t observed any of them with care. This book project gave me an opportunity to learn about them in detail.

A bird I studied then was the crow. Not a day passes without us encountering a crow. It is omnipresent and very approachable. But in general, people do not have a good opinion about them. It is a bird that has learnt to co-exist with humans and helps us a lot too. Like the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”, we do not care much for crows and they are taken for granted due to their proximity.

When I was at Singapore, I had looked around for crows. There were many birds, but I couldn’t find a crow. I was surprised that there was a place that did not have crows! When I enquired, I was told that crows would be shot dead if seen. I was surprised to see a country that did not have crows and was reminded of a line from Kannadasan’s “Kaakkai Illa Cheemaiyile” (A place abroad, with no crows). I wrote this song with my memory from Singapore in mind. Earlier, I had written a song for children earlier about the crow. This song is an enhanced version of that.

— Perumal Murugan


Have you seen, Have you seen
A bird like the crow
Have you seen, Have you seen


So approachable and so friendly
Soars all around with no worry


It comes down to the places where we live
It comes down to those places
Displays closeness, it demonstrates friendship – with us
Displays closeness, it demonstrates friendship
Inky blackness are its wings

Slender neck, to see us, it swings
Caws and caws, it caws and caws – with the graceful
Song of the crow, the world, it calls

A “Kaigal” on manual scavenging

In 2015, I had an opportunity to meet Bezwada Wilson for the first time. Since then, I have met him many times and have even conducted an in-depth interview with him, which will be published as a book soon. It is only after meeting him that I was able to understand the life of manual scavengers. We may think that the days of manual scavenging are in the past, but that is not true. Wilson, as a person involved in this cause, provided us statistics of where and how many people are still involved in this practice. It was shocking to me, and I have been thinking about these people since then.

Later, when I met TM Krishna, he suggested that I write a song about manual scavengers. While I had many ideas, it was difficult for me to express those in words. I pondered over it for over a year, wondering what should make the central theme of the song. I wanted the song to talk about the lives of the manual scavengers and raise many questions. These people were scavenging with their hands. So, I wanted to make their hands central to the song. It has has been performed many times by TM Krishna and is well known today.

— Perumal Murugan


Should fetid faeces (shit) be picked by hands?
Should fetid faeces be picked by human hands?
What eternal suffering! Do we care?
Is this civil? Is this fair?
This society, is this civil? Is this fair?
Are we even human beings?


These are hands that are meant to plough
To eat the food, that they produce and grow
By hugging, mercy, they will show
Hands are gifts from God, we pray and bow


To lose one’s life in putrid cesspools
To live in sewers, cleaning stools
To pick up all the refuse and litter
To clean everything and make it better
Do we need a human hand?
Why would that be the right stand?

Also ReadPerumal Murugan’s “Koel Song”

Would we not be spat at?
Spat at by the entire world.
Spat at, spat at, spat at, spat at
Spat at by the graceful world

In solidarity with the farmers

Poet Perumal Murugan and Karnatic musician TM Krishna have come together to create a song in solidarity with the protesting farmers at New Delhi’s borders. The song, simply titled “Dedicated to the Farmers of India”, talks about their pathetic condition in the country and the apathy of the powers that be. Written in the rural Tamil dialect that characterises Murugan’s writings and set in Raga Dhanyasi, the song was released on social media on December 8. Murugan, who has widely written about the plight of the farmers in his region in western Tamil Nadu, wrote these verses around two years ago but they were set to tune now by Krishna, in the light of farmers’ resistance.

The seeds that were sowed did not sprout
And few that did, did not flourish
With no rain, no water, we perish in this drought (drylands)

Is this forever, we worry
Scorched lands are all what we get?
We, poor, beg and beseech
Is this our fate?
When will the rain come, with the scent of the earth? (drylands)