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Archive for the ‘Telugu’ Category

The Passion of Kanchikacherla Kotesu

Friday, March 31st, 2017

Kalekuri Prasad

Even as the wounds festered syam_kanchikahcerla

Wasn’t it your footprints

That I bore on my heart

Even as death approached, didn’t I seek life with only you?

Beloved, with the rice mixed with curd

That you served me in the morning as my witness

Shall I tell you the cause of my death?

 ‘Beloved’! To call you that

How the language of our hearts’ blood struggled!

Even as our bodies enveloped each other

In the dark

I could only call you ‘Mistress’

My wish was never fulfilled until death

Even as your folks tied me to a tree

And beat me like I was a beast

I imagined I was a prince in a swashbuckler film

If someone had asked, what happened?

I wanted to say that I loved you

But the raccabanda* had charged me with being a thief

Weren’t you the witness!

I know how to burn dead bodies

But you burnt me alive

"Father, forgive them,

for they do not know what they are doing"

I remembered what the padre told me

About our lord’s plea.

In remembrance of the sleepless nights we had spent together

If even a single tear drop had glistened in your eyes

I would have forgiven you and your race

The furnace you had stoked in my heart

The flames from the kerosene your folks poured over me

If asked, which hurt more

I can’t say anything, love

As these flames engulf me

It feels like you’re embracing me. 


This untitled poem by Kalekuri Prasad was translated from Telugu by Naren Bedide. The lynching of Kanchikacherla Kotesu for his love of an upper caste woman is illustrated in a series of drawings by Syam Cartoonist. Please see his album titled The Untouchable Love .

The village bench, where the elders hold council.


The Rebellious Fields

Thursday, October 8th, 2015


The paddy fields ask, 
Where’s the farmer who quenched our thirst?
The cotton fields ask,
Where’s the farmer who sprinkled blood to protect us?
They hug each other and weep–don’t understand why
They roll on the ground and weep–Don’t understand why
The basmati asks,
Where’s the sweat-scented farmer?
The masoors ask,
Where’s that large-hearted man? 
They thump their chests and wail–don’t understand why
They question the dawn–don’t understand why
The palak asks, 
Where’s the farmer so dear to us? 
The coriander asks,
Where’s the farmer so full of goodness? 

They sobbed and sobbed and withered up–don’t understand why
They waited and waited and shrivelled up–don’t understand why
Windless, the red gram and the horse gram fields
Nod listlessly
They look in all directions and ask,
Where’s the farmer so full of love? 
They sink into sorrow–don’t understand why
They’ve fallen senseless in grief–don’t understand why
The snake gourd and the bottle gourd
The ridge gourd and beans
The eggplant so tender
Blood red tomatoes
All ask–where’s the farmer
Who kissed us before we started rotting? 
They slap their heads and cry–don’t understand why
They wail loudly and cry–don’t understand why

The onion and garlic
Groundnuts and potatoes – 
All of which nestle in the earth mother’s womb
As they grow up, ask
Where’s our father who would show us the world? 
They wept uncontrollably–don’t understand why
They rot and die–don’t understand why

All the cotton fields together
Spread a new garment over him
The dried sticks assemble themselves
Into a cot
The paddy straw becomes a mattress
So that his ribs wouldn’t hurt
The betel leaf presses her mouth 
Over his and kisses him
They cook seven kinds of rice
In a new pot
The kumkum tree shines 
As the crescent moon on his forehead
They all say
We will leave with the farmer who gave us birth
They hug each other and weep–don’t understand why
They roll on the ground and weep–don’t understand why
They cry, our existence has lost meaning
They burn and burn on the pyre
And rise as an inferno
They burn to ashes
The villain who poisons the farmer
The sugarcane fields dive into the water
Release the drawing bucket and return
The green fields become red–don’t understand why
They took to the path of the angry rebels–don’t understand why

Translation of Gaddar's Telugu song 'vori sElu aDiginaayi'. Translator: Naren Bedide. 



Nation of two statues

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Satish Chandar

Like everyone has his own mother

everyone has his own statue too

The statue in the village belongs to the village

The statue in the wada belongs to the wada

The village has a name and a voice

and a lifestyle,

The wada lacks air, water

and food to eat.

Look at the statue in the village

it wears only a loin cloth

Behold! The statue in the wada

sports a suit and shoes like a saahib!

A poor soul in front of the mansion

and royal splendour beside the hut

The agraharam sulked

while the slum beamed

Gruel filled the silver plate

while milk flowed in the begging bowl 

A cane and sandals for the statue in the village

While the statue in the wada got a new pen and books

This strange phenomenon in every village

mocked vedabhoomi

Why does the statue in the village exhibit humility?

Why does the statue in the wada display pride?

Those who had nothing.

Questioned the two statues.

Sacrifice, answered the statue with toothless smiles in the village

Justice, said the statue of fiery speech in the wada

The statue in the village said, 'I do not want

what you do not have'

The village maids wore many splendid silks

and expensive secret garments

While the mothers in the wada

covered their breasts with coarse cloth

The village lord

flaunted fancy dhotis and kanDuvas*

The poor father in the village

was satisfied with just a loin cloth

Stripped of his clothes

the village statue was a sorry, skinny figure..

While the statue in the wada

shone in garments the wada parents never knew

The whole village was startled

The wada sang its wisdom:

The village idealises giving up what it owns

The wada dares to dream of what it doesn't have

The statue in the village said: here's the wheel, spin it

The statue in the wada said: here's the state, rule it! 


*kanDuva: an upper garment worn by men, like the angavastram. 


Translation of Satish Chandar's Telugu poem 'renDu bommala dESam!', first published in 'soorya' newspaper on 10th March, 2008, and featured in the collection of poetry, Kavita 2008. Translated by Naren Bedide.           

In the orchard of graves

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Gurram Seetaramulu

gaza's child

The language of murder is the same everywhere

But we've to discover a new language to console you, child;

Bloodthirsty Uncle Sam

Has forcibly ended

Your parents' lives.

Now Gaza is bleeding

Your home has fallen;

Time is a butcher, child

Even the orchard of graves

Does not offer you a sapling.

The seed that was trampled

Under the march of the bunker busters

Promised you

A tree

Hope that grows

And offers you shade. 


My translation of Gurram Seetaramulu's untitled Telugu poem expressing solidarity with Palestinians.

Gurram Seetaramulu is a doctoral fellow at EFLU. 

I won’t spit on your face

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Gurram Seetaramulu

Now I understand

Why you tied a pot

Below my mouth, and a broom

Around my arse!

If I spat at your ugly face,

My spit would have been defiled!

I was nourished by amniotic fluid,

Not weaned on vomit like you!

I know everyone is born

From the loins, but weren’t you born

From the mouth!

That’s why you vomit vomit!

Aren’t you a septic tank from head to toe,

With a mouth that has gone to rot

From the chanting of dishonest slokas

For ages!

Aren’t you Manu’s child

Who remains impassive

Even when spat at or

Showered with dirt!

That is why

I won’t defile my spit

By spitting at your face!

abvp attacks prof. geelani

My translation of Gurram Seetaramulu's untitled Telugu poem written in protest against an attack by ABVP activists on Prof. S A R Geelani, at a Delhi University seminar in November, 2008.

Gurram Seetaramulu is a doctoral fellow at EFLU. 


Dalita Naaniis – 2

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Last night

Kanshi Ram appeared in my dream

he raised me from the floor

and placed me on a chair



The beloved crop

committed suicide

The farmer

only expressed solidarity




is a Hydra

If you cut it into pieces

it survives as sub-castes




the murderer


exactly like a man!




is not a clay idol:

She is the dalit mother

who changes mud into rotis



Not everyone

can become a Buddha

It is enough

if he doesn't lose his buddhi.




blew the conch:


this is the right beginning for you.



All the milk is from the buffaloes

but the cow is worshipped

Isn't that

varna discrimination among animals?



How does green grass burn?

Throw in some dogmas, 

politics into it

and you'll know how.



The one who is sold is the boss

and the buyer is the slave!


isn't even a business.


My translation of some of Netala Pratap Kumar's Telugu naaniis from his collection of poetry 'daLita naaniilu'. 

Naaniis are a new form of short poems, somewhat like haikus, that Telugu poets have been experimenting  with in the last two decades or so. Please read more naaniis by Netala Pratap Kumar here. 

Dr Kathi Padma Rao, talking about Pratap Kumar's naaniis, says:

Buddhism is the philosophical foundation of 'daLita naaniis'. Ambedkar vaadam (Ambedkarvad) is its sociology. The idiom is of the Dalit wadas. The expression stems from struggles and conflicts that are a part of life. Reading these aphorisms is like listening to my father, or my uncle, or my grandfather.

Black Sun

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Black black Sun

Blackish Sun

Blackness blackness Sun

The Sun of the winning path


          The Sun of charms

          The beautiful Sun

          The beautiful Sun

          The Sun of the leaf sandals


The Sun of the sowing season

The Sun of the dark clouds

The Sun of rain drops

The little Sun

The Sun singing lullabies

In the eyes of the corn


          The Sun on the food basket slung from the beam

          The Sun in the clay pot

          The Sun of beef curry

          The Sun of cold food


The Sun who dances

In the thatched hut


          The Sun of the ear of corn

          The toddy tapping Sun

          The matangi1 Sun

          The gosangi1 Sun


The Sun who smiles in the cockleshell mirror

The Sun who dances wearing snail-shell anklets


          The Sun of charms

          The beautiful Sun

          The beautiful Sun

          The untouchable Sun


The Sun who was burnt to ashes alive

The Sun who rose from the ashes blazing

The Sun who bled on the fields of Karamchedu

The Sun who learns to walk on the path of blood

The Sun in the gunny sack on the waves of the Tungabhadra2


          The Sun who befriends

          Swarnamma3of the sweat drops

          The Sun who gives his heart

          To the crescent moon Yesanna3


The Sun of the flaming spark in Alisamma'svows

The Sun of righteous sharpness

In Anil Babu's5 eyes

The Sun of the army of ants ithe Sikkolu6 hills

The Sun who swims against the flood of the Godaari7

Shambhuka's decapitated head like Sun

The Sun of Ekalavya's chopped thumb

The handsome Sun with the index finger


The Sun of twilight

The moon like Sun

The Sun of the blue flag

The Sun of black gemstones


          The brave Sun

          The Sun of daggers

          The Sun of tears

          The Sun of timeless wisdom


The Sun who has bloomed

On the righteous path of Dhamma

The brave Sun

The Sun of the winning path


My translation of the Telugu poem 'nallaaTi suuriiDu' by K. G. Satyamurthy ('Sivasagar'); from his collection of poetry 'Sivasagar kavitvam'.

The poet says this poem is a continuation of his efforts to define 'daLita soundarya Sastramu' or Dalit aesthetics.

[1] matangi and gosangi: a reference to the Madigas; gosangi also refers to cobblers, ascriptive occupation of the Madigas. 

[2] Tungabhadra: a reference to the Tungabhadra canal of the Krishna irrigation system which supplies water to farms in parts of Guntur district. Here, the poet talks about the mutilated bodies of the Dalits killed in the Chunduru massacre (1991) which were wrapped in gunny sacks and thrown into the Tungabhadra canal.  

[3] Swarnamma and Yesanna: some common names among Dalits in Coastal Andhra. The poet could also be referring to the Dalits' role in labour (Swarnamma is derived from 'swarNamu' which means gold or wealth or its production, in general); yEsanna refers to Jesus Christ, or spiritual liberation.

[4] Alisamma: was a key witness in the Karamchedu massacre (1985) as her own son Duddu Vandanam was also killed in the massacre. The courageous woman had braved many threats and inducements to speak about the killings in many public meetings and was ultimately also murdered, two years after Karamchedu.

[5] Anil Babu: Kommerla Anil Kumar was a witness in the Chunduru massacre. Balagopal, the human rights activist, had written: Anil Kumar was 'an articulate young dalit who survived the massacre of August 6 to give a graphic account of the incident but was shot dead by the police on September 10 in the course of an attempt by the latter to remove a hunger strike camp set up by the daiits at Chundur.'

[6] Sikkolu hills: Srikakulam; this is a reference to the one of the earliest Naxal movements.

[7]: Godaari: The river Godavari.  

Song of the gallows

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

I shall stand

on the gallows

and indulge

in daydreams


Another world

whispers endearments

on the swing

of my dreams


I shall stand

on the gallows

and envision

sweet dreams


My sweet dreams

shall come true

and the whole world

shall smile


The red army

shall open its wings 

and spread

in all directions


The fearless

red army

shall achieve



The wind

from the villages

shall encircle

the cities


It shall

build graves

for evil spirits

and demons


I shall stand

on the gallows

and gaze

upon another world



shall bring down the curtain

on this inhuman



On the Himagiri*

of humanity

the red flag

shall fly


From the great flames

of the revolution

the new man

shall rise



the Kalahari desert

new lilies

shall bloom


I shall stand

on the gallows

and sing

the radiant song


I shall place

my neck on the executioner's block

and play the lute

of the universe


The seven seas

as one

shall sing

the universal song


The camaraderie

of the hammer and the sickle

shall show

the path of light


Holding the sun

in his palm

the peasant

shall plough the field


The moon 

in the factory

shall spin

the wheel


The worker

of the clenched fist

is the helmsman

of the new world!


The glorious


is the wearer 

of the crown of stars!


I shall stand

on the gallows

and indulge

in daydreams


Another world

whispers endearments

on the swing

of my dreams



Don't spill

your tears

for me!


Don't forget

the struggle!

Don't give up

the red flag


Hold fast to

the gun in your hand


great caution!


My blood

shall not go to waste

My death

shall not go to waste


In the pond

of my blood

a new world

shall bloom


The music of life

shall be heard

in the presence

of my death

I shall adorn

my neck with the noose

and hail the revolution!

I shall hail victory!

I shall stand

in the face of death

and sing the song of life!

I shall sing the song of new life!




Farewell! Farewell!

Farewell to the gallows!


Farewell to the noose!

Prison wall! Farewell!

Serpent hood! Farewell!









My translation of the Telugu poem 'uri paaTa' by K. G. Satyamurthy ('Sivasagar'); from his collection of poetry 'Sivasagar kavitvam'.

*Himagiri: The Himalayas. 

Written in May, 1972. The poet says he composed it when two guerilla activists, bahujan peasants, Bhoomaiah and Kishta Goud were sentenced to death. 


The east wind prevails

Friday, October 12th, 2012

The east wind prevails

The east turns red

India opens its eyes

And showers sparks of light!                    || The east wind blows


A bundle of cold food on the back

An axe in the hand

Mao Tse Tung on the mind

And the red banner in the heart

The peasant has risen!

The peasant  roars

As the guerilla!                                        || The east wind blows


As the current in the wind

As the water in the stream

As the fish in the water

As one among the people

The peasant has risen

The peasant sounds the battle conch

As the guerilla                                         || The east wind blows


As a poisoned arrow in the enemy's heart

As a spear in the traitor's bed

As the fierce daring of the axe

That breaks the necks of the rich

Yours is the exemplary courage

Yours is the righteous battle!                    || The east wind blows


Let the machine guns ring

Let the toxic flames spread

Let many sorrows and burdens

Surround you and rage

You stand as a rock!

Yours is the high road!

Yours is the people's path!                       || The east wind blows



The east wind prevails

The east turns red

India opens its eyes

And showers sparks of light!                   || The east wind blows


My translation of the Telugu song 'tuurpu pavanam viicenOy' by K. G. Satyamurthy ('Sivasagar')– from his collection of poetry 'sivasagar kavitvam'. Written in 1968.  

The poet says:

This is the first song I had written during my journey in the revolutionary movement. It conveys the message of the slogan, 'The east wind prevails over the west'. This was a slogan of Chinese communist party during the Cultural Revolution. The slogan and the song express the aspiration that the east wind, or the gathering revolution, should prevail over the west; that the eastern nations- Asia, Africa, South America- should subdue Europe and the west.     


Thursday, September 27th, 2012


Why do you stand near that grave

And weep like that? 

Why do you grieve so alone,

Sobbing uncontrollably? 


The son you raised and who fought for you

Is no longer in that grave.

Instantly, he had shaken himself awake

Rose from the grave and taking up his weapon,

Returned to the battlefield


Mother! Wipe your eyes

And bless the struggle. 


My translation of the Telugu poem 'ammaa!', from the collection of poetry 'Sivasagar Kavitvam', by K. G. Satyamurthy ('Sivasagar').

Written in July 1972 when the leader of the Naxalbari movement, Charu Mazumdar, was martyred in police custody.

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