Sanjyot Pia Walawalkar

Sanjyot Pia Walawalkar

Sanjyot Pia Walawalkar works as an Associate Professor and Equity and Outreach Librarian at Skyline College. Besides helping students develop their critical information literacy and research skills, she leads the library’s social-justice-centered programming efforts. Her research interests include critical information literacy, metaliteracy, and critical global citizenship education.



Original German by Friedrich Rueckert (1788-1866)

Translated into English by Sanjyot Pia Walawalkar and Susanne Schubert

Mit jeder Sprache mehr, die du erlernst, befreist
Du einen bis daher in dir gebundnen Geist,

With every language you master,
A spirit is set free within you
That until now was bound

Der jetzo tätig wird mit eigner Denkverbindung,
Dir aufschließt unbekannt gewesne Weltempfindung,

The freed spirit strives to make connections and 
unlocks an all-encompassing understanding of the world

Empfindung, wie ein Volk sich in der Welt empfunden;
Nun diese Menschheitsform hast du in dir gefunden.

It senses the world in the way it is sensed
by those whose language we learn

Ein alter Dichter, der nur dreier Sprachen Gaben
Besessen, rühmte sich, der Seelen drei zu haben.

A wise poet once mastered three languages and proudly proclaimed
That he had three spirits 

Und wirklich hätt‘ in sich nur alle Menschengeister
Der Geist vereint, der recht wär‘ aller Sprachen Meister.”

And only if all human spirits came together as one,
Can we understand the language of all

Note from the translators: Friedrich Rueckert (1788-1866) was a German poet and translator, who translated works from Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Hebrew, and Farsi into German. His work is very much influenced also by these cultures, and the original poem appeared in the anthology Die Weisheit des Brahmanen – which translates to The Wisdom of the Brahmins. We chose this excerpt from his collection because it talks about the importance of languages and bringing cultures together. We believe that it is as current now as it was in the 1800s.

The original German text is in the public domain. The English translation is used here with permission of the authors.



as I cuddled into my bed last night
the soul still drenched, holding the damp moments
lush with the warmth of your skin,
eyes moistened

the vase is now empty
tired flowers have now dried
dried petals sit clustered
among strands of golden hair

my heart aches, sweet sadness and pain
while love deepens and desires are gently stoked
the night is still dark

when in my girlhood, my heart was opening its petals 
it was trampled ruthlessly
will your tenderness and warmth help it bloom again?

but, I hear a cacophony
though headlights have gone dim
and wars are fought far away
I fear, the gentle whispers of my heart will drown
in the clang of tradition and the tumult of modernity

the spirit is shapeless, intangible, all encompassing
but, the transitoriness of modern life
of instant-mixes and buy-one-get-one-frees
will it let our spirits seep through our pores
and caress each other
and carry the messages of our hearts and bodies?

I fear.

Written May 30, 2005

missed him.. miss him.. 
4 years now
disappeared?  never even existed?
man of my dreams, stayed in my dreams
never realized

glimpses of hope 
4 years that's all
memories at furnishing stores
dreams lost in nurseries
no home, no love, no sweet voice cries mama

so many memories
of holding tight as things slipped away
of sadness cloaked in painful smiles
of beautiful places and alcohol stench
of loneliness in togetherness

empty promises for a broken heart
stomped all over
yet lovable, stoic
my phoenix heart

letters written
poems composed
songs sung 
never for me
my art never an iphone wallpaper
my juicy mangoes not as tasty as her shriveled grapes

countless lunches packed, dinners served
giving forgiving letting go
being there giving and more giving
accident scene and imprisonment
betrayals and abandonment

my fault —
a faulty seed in a barren land
my husband, a fake weak man

Written April 29, 2016

Copyright © 2022 by Sanjyot Pia Walawalkar. Used with permission of the author.

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