The Bridge of Migration: Introducing a tongue that wasn't 'chiselled by school'


Round Table India

We publish here an excerpt from the newly released collection of poetry by Yogesh Maitreya titled The Bridge of Migration. Following is the introduction by Kuffir, Editor of Round Table India, featured in this book of powerful series of poems.

the bridge of migration cover

we must fill blood in our pens
instead of ink, and write

That's what Yogesh does, fill his pen with blood and write immortal photos of his ancestors, imagine the persona of the mother who gave birth to the Sun, sketch the shackles on the feet of the brother who couldn't visit his immolated sister, rediscover the language of his father's songs which lent clarity to his rage.

He is not afraid of crying, because only cowards believe men don't cry. But his tears do not roll out; they illumine the paper as profound Zen stories.

He says of Dalit writers:

They gift me
The seeds of Bodhisattvas.

I carry them in my bag.

When I fetch them out
They transform into books.

His poems are lessons from history:

Roof of our homes
Made up of Banyan leafs
Under which
Siddharth became the Buddha.

But he's still a seeker in the Buddhist way:

An ignorant hunger asked him:
What is the source of sufferings?

He said:
Everything and, basically nothing.

He knows poetry can't bring money, but might become the 'dream or a medicine' that will nourish his father's eyes and help him see 'even in the darkest time'. Is he an angry poet? He is a resolutely angry poet. He says of the 'Angry Young Man' project of the seventies:

That it only tells how to be angry at the start,
And all is well at the end.
His anger rises above the momentary passions of the sloganeers and can see through the sweet machinations of Brahmin saviours:

But whenever someone
Front of me
Says 'Jai Bhim' while
The white thread looms through his parasitic belly,
I get very scared.

Yes, the resolute anger that his poetry reflects is what he has learnt from Babasaheb:

The fire inside you, Babasaheb
That kept you awake
While we were dead sleep

The spirit that transformed the animal into a human being: that is what sustains Yogesh's ever probing voice. And he is not 'defending myself through words', as he says. He's constantly attacking, chipping away at caste, all its adornments and structures. He's a patient, very meticulous soldier, having inherited the 'weakening eye-sight' of his father, his forefathers, all Dalits, which strengthens his awareness about all 'new enticing poisons'. Having lived the knowledge that

If I say, 'my caste does not follow me',
It would be wrong.
It is more inseparable
The shadow of my flesh.

Scratch any poem in this collection, and it bleeds history. Call it Dalit history, but he's writing about 'About anything That relates to me.' He is looking at the same scene as you, but his eye-sight is so remarkably clear:

While they reluctantly admire
Your beauty,
I try hard
To search for the people
The names,
The hands,
The passion,
The love,
That carved the womb
For enlightenment.

This eye-sight sees things, shows things, thrusts things into your guts so very sharply. Ask him what happened after Khairlanji.

Traffic halted
Youths got agitated
Demanding an arrest
Of the perpetrators.
By the evening of that day,
The Police van took
Hundreds of youths
Who were seen in protest
Both men and women
Into the police station, and,
Charged them
Days passed
And no perpetrators were arrested.
Days went by.

hundreds of falsified cases against those protesting because no perpetrators were arrested, and no perpetrators were arrested, again. He isn't pointing out the irony, he's bashing its head against the wall, quietly, so the thud thud hurts someone's eardrums, and keeps others awake. Others whose eyes are 'silent and calm',

But there is rage,
An indication of an unpredictable storm
In the silence
Of their innocent eyes.

You may not want to look through his eye-sight, because his 'tongue wasn't chiselled by school'. Because he might bury you under the 'Ajanta of his poems'.

yogesh for book excerpt

But you should, you should read his poems. Even if your hands and legs are chopped off, because you'll know Pochiram Kamble:

'Pochya', asked the Upper Caste goons, 'will you say Jai Bhim?'
Pochiram says 'Yes I will. Jai Bhim',
Pochiram's hands were chopped off.
'Pochya', asked the Upper Caste goons, 'will you say Jai Bhim?'
Pochiram says 'Yes I will. Jai Bhim',
Pochiram's legs were chopped off.

How can you know world history if you don't know Pochiram Kamble? India, Maharashtra, Marathwada, Dalit, Mahar. Erase those fences that distance you from him, he's human history.

Yogesh tells you how fake is the history that was built over the chopped hands and legs of Pochiram Kamble. Like the false cases against the protesters in his basti. The truth becomes Dalit history only after it is persistently rejected.

But in Yogesh's hands, it is not going to be deterred by rejection. He promises:

I will prove my murder
Slowly, gradually
With my words
As I grow old.

The words are lucid, the lines crisp, the images they create sharp, and the emotions and the knowledge that they share will last a long time. Babasaheb Ambedkar observed (Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability):

Is there anything peculiar in the social organisation of the Hindus ? An unsophisticated Hindu who is unaware of investigations conducted by scholars will say that there is nothing peculiar, abnormal or unnatural in the organisation of the society to which he belongs. This is quite natural. People who live their lives in isolation are seldom conscious of the peculiarities of their ways and manners. People have gone on from generation to generation without stopping to give themselves a name. But how does the social organisation of the Hindu strike the outsiders, non-Hindus? Did it appear to them as normal and natural?

Yogesh's poetry illustrates the horrors of the 'normal and natural' of Indian life. It also speaks with confidence of those who are fighting it, undaunted. It is not a complaint, far from it. It is a challenge thrown at the normal and natural. It is a celebration too, of

'the smile
Offered to the dead flowers.'

As I finish this write-up on the anniversary of Babasaheb's Mahaparinirvana Diwas, I also feel like celebrating the arrival of a remarkable new poetic voice. I don't wish to overstate it, but I also see the unfolding of a new history in Indian literature. Jai Bhim.

~ Naren Bedide (Kuffir)


To order the book online, please click here



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