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
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.
While the statue in the wada got a new pen and books
This strange phenomenon in every village
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.
Mister writer is a Brahmin
and has turned seventy two
not his fault to be born
in a Brahmin clan
he says so himself, we do too
reaching this grand age
the writer has initiated
a massive programme to
wash away his Brahmin-ness
to wipe it clean
by breaking his janeu
despite his self-proclamations
or as per the worlds’ claims
in fact, because the world says so
people still accord him respect reserved for a Brahmin
even in this de-casting that unfolds
what’s his role?
to who all,
should he keep swearing by
this breaking of his janeu?
all exclusive savarna panels
still extend him ceremonious invitations
and his janeu-breaking,
has been deliberately ignored
by his friends and foes alike
who continue to revere him
at his savarna pedestal
even if he wants to escape all this
then how can he
or why should he?
given the benefits
of this special treatment
it is easier to break that janeu
because it only breaks on the surface
even as it stays intact under
seven layers of clothing
that this outward breaking
has some visible effect
is not necessary
to have that effect
a lot more than this thread
needs to be broken
the twenty two years Dasrath Manjhi took
is the kind of persistence one needs
janeu is brahminism
the claim to be a different being
to be born of the same mother
and yet imagine oneself to be differently born
it is a reflection of the hubris
of some false exalted origin.
It requires persistence
whether it comes from the heart
or against one’s wishes
I asked the writer:
good you broke it
but apart from this janeu
what else have you broken
in the thread that binds your caste?
The writer seems at a loss for words.
English translation of Musafir Baitha’s Hindi poem 'Janeu-tod lekhak'; translated by Gaurav Somwanshi and Akshay Pathak.
I kept silent at your death
didn’t speak with anyone either.
but then yesterday,
just across the metro
when I spotted a crowd of daily wage labourers
the thought of you came flashing,
in their faces
I searched for the elegy to
what followed those four days of your labour..
but I kept walking, didn’t stay there for long
there were moments when
the slogans to demand our rights
and your screams ground in that thresher –
both seemed the same to my mind.
and moments when
got drenched in fear
after looking at
a vacuum appear on the vast backdrop
of our movement.
then giving myself false assurances, I moved on
your last few pictures on facebook – I
have not been able to look at those.
But that image that moves faster than imagination –
it disappears somewhere
after witnessing your helpless last moments
at the unknown shores of your family’s remorse
but even in this
the memory throws forth,
the vast backdrop of our movement
where Khairlanji and other such massacres
appear holding on to canvases.
however, Manu Taanti
knowing my conscience
in whatever form,
today, I shall speak with my
broken, perhaps dwarf-like words
that the time will change
the news of your murder – all
have passed on to our marching feet
Our massacres do not die!
and this wasn’t about demanding your wage
for those four days of labour
this is the account of many centuries..
till it is settled,
You cannot die, Manu Taanti!
Akshay Pathak’s English translation of Gurinder Azad’s Hindi poem, 'yeh chaar din ki dehaadi ki baat nahin thi, Manu Taanti'.
mixed in the gudthi,*we got sorrows and woes
our nanis and dadis perhaps passed us those
on heaps of dung we spent our childhoods
working the fields of those jatts, our youths
sleepless nights and days, we spent brooding
for us poor folk, what lohris, what diwalis?
slept hungry at night, for us the morning is a doubt
if one meal we eat, over the next hangs doubt
all these worries, they swallowed even our joys
…for us poor folk, what lohris, what diwalis?
Mother went to work, isn’t back home till now
she has no warm clothes, and it’s biting cold now
lifting those bricks, and the pathana*
left her hands calloused and bruised
when they ask about our Father, we have no answers
many doubts arise for we have no answers
what fate has written, can’t be refused
…for us poor folk, what lohris, what diwalis
who desires to be the world’s laughing stock?
Sangdila* harsh is the heat of these fire-like taunts
the heart cannot endure, this heavy load of slander
…for us poor folk, what lohris, what diwalis?
*gudthi: the first food (mostly honey) usually fed by Grandparents (or some elders in the family or friends) to the newborn. It is believed that one takes a lot of the personality traits of the person who gave the gudthi.
*pathana: the process of applying liquefied mud to bricks to solidify them. Also used to describe the process of applying cow dung cakes on walls to dry them.
*sangdila: stone-hearted. Most likely the (pen)name of the songwriter.
Punjabi bahujan song translated by Gurinder Singh Azad (into Hindi) and Akshay Pathak (into English).
The translators came across this song on youtube during their usual search for Punjabi poetry and songs. The song, as shown in the video,is performed by these two very talented boys in a village in Punjab, Pakistan. The presence of the dhol in the video suggests that they belong to a caste of performers and the words of the song clearly reflect their concerns about the bahujan laboring castes. In the process of translating, we got stuck on some particular words and were fortunately helped by friends from across the border, in particular Farukh Hammad who helped us in getting one of the lines through his friends Jasdeep Singh and Khan Muhammad. If someone can share more details about the young artists, we would be very grateful.
Sona: Mother of Ten (Thig 5.8), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhiku. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November, 2013, http://www.accesstonsight.org/tipitaka/thig/thig.05.08.than.html
Source: The Therigatha, Verses of the Elder Nuns. The Therigatha, the ninth book of the Khuddaka Nikaya, consists of 73 poems — 522 stanzas in all — in which the early nuns (bhikkunis) recount their struggles and accomplishments along the road to arahantship. Their stories are told with often heart-breaking honesty and beauty, revealing the deeply human side of these extraordinary women, and thus serve as inspiring reminders of our own potential to follow in their footsteps.