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Archive for October, 2010

The conspiracy against the pointer finger

Friday, October 29th, 2010

In the beginning, they came to the banks of the Sindhu for livelihood

With deceit, they drove out the Moolvasis who welcomed them


Next, with a sense of defeat, they infiltrated Buddhism

With treachery, they uprooted its foundation of equality


They penetrated Jainism, Shaivism as spies

and upheld the Manuwad of penal codes as the universal truth


In the guise of avatars they suppressed all Shudra emperors

With an axe they decimated all dynasties and seized control


Where they lost, they waited as ministers..where they won

they became prophets..and lords of Agraharas


Frightenened by British cannons, they ushered them inside

Brought down those who resisted with bullets

And sent the heroes to the gallows


When the time was right they called for a struggle..for freedom

Through the scheme of transfer of power they became the rulers..

and also the opposition

Sporting a red rose, they spread a red carpet

for capital

They penetrated Marx's beard and Lenin's button

and called themselves the left


If they approved, it was progress, and casteism if they disagreed

Russia's the weapon they said, China's empowered they said

The mind's Mao's, they said, and the patent is ours, they said

They turned specific realities unspecific

and became loudmouthed Gireeshams*.

* * * * * * *

The Vanara army has been wagging its tails..from then till now

If not, as feathers on tails..then as flies on feathers,

According to the only history of all the Mahaprasthanam** of progress


The history of speaking the truth and getting heads chopped is ours

Let us step into the cage+

By the people..for the people..that's the rulers' assertion

People are the builders of history….that's the revolutionary rulers'  statement

Who are the people? Where is people's history?

We have a glorious history of braving ostracisms

Let us step into the cage

Only the heirs of the bloodthirsty Parasurama clan

Became the leaders of the peace talks++

Only the middlemen of Hindu imperialism are talking about autonomy

The talk of land distribution here is a conspiracy..

The Brahmanyam hiding behind land is a conspiracy


History's a conspiracy..the progress of history's a conspiracy

The media's a conspiracy.. progressive intellectuals are a conspiracy

The parliamentary democracy guarding

the four-hooded Hindu caste serpent is a mammoth conspiracy


Our courage

is of those who were pushed into the list of traitors by back-stabbers

Let us step into the cage;

All through history, there's been a conspiracy against the Moolvasis

A conspiracy against the Sun of Mahajana revolution's pointer finger+++

A conspiracy against the fragrance of social democracy.


My translation of J.Gautam's Telugu poem 'chuupuDu wElupai kuTra' (from his collection of poetry 'nalu dikkula nuncii ranDi').


* Gireesham: pronounced 'giriiSam'; a character from the satrical epic play 'kanyASulkamu' written by Gurajada Apparao, a social reformer and writer-poet (in Telugu and English), in 1892. Gireersham is a smooth talking trickster who poses as a progressive thinker fighting for the freedom of 'nautch girls' and widow remarriage. Gurujada pioneered the movement for democratizing literary language by celebrating dialects of the masses and broke the hold of Sanskrit on written Telugu. A humanist, Gurujada in one of his popular songs pointed out: 'a nation is not land (or soil), a nation is people'.  Gurujada's work can be viewed as a perceptive commentary on the social reform and nationalist movements of the late nineteenth century; and Gireesham as an early representaive of Macaulay's savarna 'interpreters'?

** Mahaprasthanam: or 'mahAprasthAnam'; a poem, and an anthology, written by Marxist poet Srirangam Srinivasa Rao (popularly known as 'Sri Sri') in which he echoed the Marxian view that all history was the history of class struggles.

+ cage: the Telugu word used in the poem is 'bOnu', which also refers to the witness box in a court of law.

++ peace talks: probably refers to the peace talks between the Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Maoists (formerly 'People's War Group') held in 2004.

+++ pointer finger: the Telugu word used in the original poem is 'cuupuDu wElu' ('the finger that points', roughly). So I thought,  'pointer finger' was a better choice than 'forefinger' or 'index finger'.

A Rakshasa’s proclamation

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

'The poet should be a complete man'.


Feel angry


Feel impatient

Like pins are being stuck all over my body

Like I am being skinned and salt and pepper are being rubbed over my flesh

I feel stuffy, uncomfortable

Like being stranded in a tunnel

and struggling to find my way;


I am the carcass of the mosquito which died

stuck between palm leaf manuscripts,

I am the empty centuries bleeding

from the weight of the thorny crown of distorted oral literatures.


My mind

became fuel for some fictional fire accident

My imagination

is crouching in shame, fear and submissiveness

in some crevices of humiliations-filled latrines


I have no Jandhyam*, no Sandhya

You won't find a letter if you cut open my stomach,

I have no faith in prophets or reformers

and, especially, no loyalty either;


Feel hot

Feel a nausea stirring in my stomach

Feel like I am listening to Sanskrit Slokas


A desire resulting in action

A bird flapping its wings to fly

A man living as a man–

When all those remain mere illusions

When I always remain an unending debt

When un-men pass off as human and honourable–

how can I be a man?

How can I think with complete humanity?

I eat salt and pepper like everyone,

I am an ordinary living creature

composed of weaknesses, satiations and passions:

it might be possible for a Mahatma

to forgive and offer his tears

to someone who has raped his mother in front of his eyes,

stripped, paraded and banished her,

to wash his loins,

but not for me.


It might be possible for some good soul

even in the last days of this 20th century

to love Manu and his serpent offspring

and write worldly love letters, but

I can't do it

I was born to one father

I love my country and citizenship

From the age of the Vedas I've been dreaming with sweaty eyes

of realising here a heaven without caste and varna

I am not a complete man

You might not accept me as a poet

You might not have a seat for me in your literary sabhas

nor a page, a line

in your underhand literary history


it still doesn't matter

I still can't show my cheek again

I can't chop off and present my thumbs or heads

to prove my humility and loyalty


Feel foul

Feel very disgusted

Feel very Chunduru Chunduru

Feel very Karamchedu Karamchedu

I need a great bath now

I need a purification–

until then, the need to prove myself human

is a great historic un-necessity.


My translation of Madduri Nagesh Babu's Telugu poem 'oka raakshasuDi prakaTana' (from his collection of poetry 'velivaaDa').


*Jandhyam: janeu, the Brahmin's sacred thread.

Soyarabai’s abhanga

Friday, October 8th, 2010

A body is unclean, they say, only the soul is untainted.

But the impurity of the body is born with the body.

By which rule has a body become pure?

Not a creature in this world has been born 

            except in a gory womb.

This is the glory of God: defilement exists within.

The body is polluted from within.

Be sure of it, says the Mahari of Choka. 


Soyarabai, was the wife of the Mahar saint Chokhamela. She was a poet and belonged to the Varkari movement of Maharashtra during 13th-14th century. This movement was open to all castes and women, married or unmarried.. This abhanga is numbered 6 in the text and it is one of the 62 abhangas written by Soyrabai that has survived; in it  "she clearly protests the very basis of untouchability, pollution, in explicit and moving terms." 


Source: Untouchable Saints An Indian Phenomenon, ed. Eleanor Zelliot & Rohini Mokashi-Punekar

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