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Archive for June, 2010

Aadu Pambe

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

 

We'll set fire to the divisions of caste,

we'll debate philosophical questions in the market place,

we'll have dealings with despised households.

We'll go around in different paths –

Aadu pambe! aadu!

 

This verse is from a six hundred-line long Siddha poem, by Pambatti Cittar. 

The Tamil Siddha poems are a “grand remonstrance against almost everything that was held sacred” in their time. The Siddhas were “implacable opponents of the caste system and the gradations of orthodoxy and respectability it gave rise to”. The period of Siddha poetry stretches from 6th century onwards, with the major contribution peaking between 14 and 18th century. Pambatti Cittar's poetry has a characteristic refrain aadu pambe! aadu! (dance, snake! dance!), the snake as a metaphor for the soul seeking liberation.

 

Source: K, Kailaspathy in The Writings of the Tamil Siddhars. An essay in the book, The Saints, and from Dance, snake! dance!, a translation with comments of the song of Pampatti-Cittar by David C. Buck.

Poetry Reading

Monday, June 21st, 2010

As I was reading out a poem
the audience was listening as I read
And as the audience was listening to me
I was reading the faces of the audience.

As I continued to read…
There came a moment – who knows why –
when a couple of them wrinkled their noses
And astonished, I said to the poet in me
"What's the reason for this?"
And he answered me,
"It was to be expected…
All that's happened is
the settled sludge has been stirred
and the water's grown cloudy."

As I was reading out a poem
the audience was listening as I read
And as the audience was listening to me
I was reading the faces of the audience

As I continued to read…
There came a moment when
a couple got up and left
But the eyelids of the others
seemed ready to shed rain
And, distressed, I said to the poet in me,
"Why is this happening?"
And he answered me,
"It's only natural
All that's happened is
the moisture pent up till today
is looking to break out."

As I was reading out a poem
the audience was listening as I read
And as the audience was listening to me
I wa reading the faces of the audience

As I continued to read…
There came a moment when
I saw embers flaring in the pupils of their eyes
And, frightened, I said to the poet in me,
"What's this that's happening?"
And he answered me,
"It was this I was waiting for
All that's happening is
the dynamite fuses, nearly burnt out,
are trying to falre up again."

As I was reading out a poem
the audience was listening as I read
And as the audience was listening to me
I was reading the faces of the audience

As I continued to read…
There came a moment when
I saw a dazzling brilliance in their eyes
And, curious, I said to the poet in me,
"Why is this happening?"
And he answered me,
"It's inevitable.
All tha's happening is
they're marching in battle
on this fearful darkness."

As I was reading out a poem
the audience was listening as I read
And as the audience was listening to me
I was reading the faces of the audience

Found that interesting Marathi poem by Damodar More (translated by Priya Adarkar) at Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi's Social Activism blog. Thanks Rahul Gautam Vardhan, for the tip.

God’s caste

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

 

What is the caste of God Narayana?

And Siva?

What is the caste of Atman?

And of Jiva?

Why talk of kula 

When God has blessed you.

 

By the Saint-Poet Kanakadasa. Eleanor Zelliot and Rohini Mokashi-Punekar in the book Untouchable Saints: An Indian Phenomenon write:

The sixteenth-century Kanakadasa of Karnataka was low caste although not untouchable. He was not allowed to enter the temple at Udipi and so, according to legend similar to that told of Chokamela, he went behind the temple to pray and the image of Krishna turned to face him, remaining in this position even to this day [….] Not surprisingly, Kanaka had strong words about caste and lineage (kula).

To Dear Aana

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The sunset does not bury our sorrows,

nor does sunrise bring new hopes.

Everything continues, relentlessly.

Society, bound by her rituals of ages,

chews up chunks of human flesh

in blind fury:

the horse she rides

bleeds and foams at the mouth;

she holds the reins

of an ancient system;

her predator's ears

listen to the twittering of birds;

in the orthodoxy of her world

passion and intensity are ridiculed.

Therefore, dear Aana,

you ought not to have cherished expectations 

of a lingering kiss in the long night. 

 

By Suresh Kadam, translated by Vilas Sarang. Source: Poisoned Bread: Marathi Dalit Literature.

Texts

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Waking up,
Sitting up with a yawn,
Rolling up the tattered mat,
Tucking up the torn mundu,
Walking along the hedges.
Not for a lark.
The muddy fields grimace,
The cows wag their tails.

Where is that long night –
The one they sang their fervent hymns about,
The one they said spring thunder
Would light up with brilliant flashes
Before the great new dawn arrived?

Hate, anger –
Glinting knives
Still whetted
On racing pulses.

They stood leaning against the good old walls,
The graying firebrands.
Out of the dry, cracked, poetry-less soil they had sprung.
Drained by the waters of compassion
They had grown dreams on their bodies.

They now watch
As texts are served on a platter. 

 

By Raghavan Atholi, translated by K.M Sheriff  who writes "He has forged a unique idiom and unique imagery, distilled from Dalit culture and experience. The fierce expressions and torrid images in Raghavan’s poetry appear destined to be lasting influences in Malayalam poetry. He has certainly been an influence on the rise of his younger contemporaries like S. Joseph and Renu Kumar in Malayalam poetry.”

The novel Chorapparisham by Raghavan Atholi  won the prestigious Vaikkam Muhammed Basheer Memorial Award in 2006.

Life’s like that

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

To the ka ka

sound of cawing

crows

father gets up, says

"mother the white

dawn has come."

 

Picking up his sleeping rag,

he puts it on, thinks

the calf might stray, and runs

to his master's house.

 

My mother his wife

follows behind him,

mucks out the byre,

spreads fresh dung on the floors,

cleans her teeth and cringes

outside,

filling a fold in her sari,

with the house's leftovers.

 

Under the noonday sun

father ploughs and sows

and draws water from the well;

he pours drops of blood

turned to sweat, and all

to fill someone else's corn bin.

 

Milking buffaloes, grazing

cows, fattening sheep,

taking them to water and bathing them,

herself without shelter,

my mother stands –

and not even a cup of milk

for her own child.

The lambs are sold for necklaces

for someone else's throat.

 

In her own house

there's no calf to prance around,

no cows to swing their horns,

no veranda to decorate

with rangoli.

 

But what devotion

to things that don't belong to her!

 

The bodies so battered

by master's bad temper

and mistress's selfishness

cling together and enter their hut.

As they fall asleep

an owl

says "guk".

 

Life's like that is a poem from Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy's selection of poems translated by Prof. Rowena Hill. In 2002, he conceptualized and directed the play 'Bahuroopi' with the Rangayana Repertoire for the National Drama festival held at Mysore. This poetry based drama reflected the theme of social justice in Kannada Poetry from the 10th Century onwards. 

M. Chinnaswamy is a noted public speaker and a vocal advocate for eradicating caste system, the inhuman practice of untouchability and against fundamentalism. He is the founder President, Buddhist Literary and Cultural Association, Gadag and Director, Dalith Sahithya Parishath, State Committee which is instrumental in spreading subaltern culture and literature. 

 

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