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Archive for February, 2011


Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Dr.Yendluri Sudhakar, poet, professor and researcher (and also a translator:: some of his translations, of Urdu poetry into Telugu, can be read here), travelled to the United States of America in 2002, on the invitation of a Telugu association (ATA). The collection of poems 'ATA janikAnche', a journal of sorts in verse, carries his impressions from the trip. The short but eloquent poems have no titles, only numbers signifying their place in the collection.  Here are my efforts to translate a few of them:





cleaned cotton in

this sky?



this sky-sari?



those cloud-pots there?



this moonlight-scarf so white?


made those two ear-rings,

one for each ear,

for the sky-maiden?





if you think I'm not being sarcastic:

There are among us too

those who nurse prejudices about colour

They gather like ants

around white gur

But as soon as they see blacks

they run away

like bugs in the sun..

What is the difference

between the wadas here

and the ghettoes there..




When I walk in Chicago

Martin Luther King's

word flames' roar

rings constantly in my ears

like a slogan


If he split the Red Sea

Martin Luther King

created a black ocean

out of scaterred waves

He still reverberates

in race supremacists' hearts

as a blacker slogan




In Pittsburgh

Venkanna* appeared

Without a visa



Have their own lobbies

In every home

Spiritual hobbies

However hard I searched

Wherever I looked

I couldn't see my Yellamma+

I didn't meet my Maisamma


* Venkanna: refers to the deity Venkateshwara, or Balaji, of Tirupati.

+Yellamma, Maisamma: popular Dalitbahujan deities, village goddesses.

White gold

Friday, February 25th, 2011

The man

who sulked with land

stuck his head

into the sky


The pesticide that couldn't kill

the pest

swallowed the man


A lifeless


is putting the furrow

to sleep


The hut

with the broken supporting pole

Mother, children

like palmyra leaves in a storm


Like hunger

has many



have many, many



Those (aatma)hatyas

touch thirty


The hand that fed

is searching for the morsel


The sweat

that flowed in the field

is drying on the grave


A headless body

attached to its neck

a tree that had shed

its leaves


The overflowing tears

became questions

that walked


The kind-hearted

leaders say

it is

the cotton farmer's




to offer a gulp of water

they offer advice:

wet your throat

with pesticide




My translation of G.V.Ratnakar's Telugu poem 'tella bangAram' (from his collection of poetry 'maTTi palaka'). Written in 1998, the poet was responding to the suicides of cotton farmers.

For a fistful of self-respect

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I don't know when I was born but

I was killed on this very land thousands of years ago

punarapi jananam punarapi maranam

I don't know the karma theory but

I am taking birth, again and again, in the same place where I had died

My body dissolved in this land

And became the Ganga Sindh plain

When my eyeballs melted as tears

Perennial rivers flowed across this country

When my veins spurted minerals

This land became green and showered wealth

I was Shambhuka in the Treta Yuga

Twenty two years ago, my name was Kanchikacherla Kotesu

My place of birth is Kilvenmani, Karamchedu, Neerukonda

Now Chunduru is the name that cold-blooded feudal brutality

Has tattooed on my heart with ploughshares

From now on, Chunduru is not a noun but a pronoun

Now every heart is a Chunduru, a burning tumour

I am the wound of multitudes, the multitude of wounds

For generations, an unfree individual in a free country

Having been the target

Of humiliations, atrocities, rapes and torture

I am someone raising his head for a fistful of self-respect

In this nation of casteist bigots blinded by wealth

I am someone who lives to register life itself as a protest

I am someone who dies repeatedly to live

Don't call me a victim

I am an immortal, I am an immortal, I am an immortal

I am the poison throated one

Who swallowed the famine so that the world may have wealth

I am the sunrise standing on its head

It was I who kicked the Sun on the head

To make him stand erect

I am the one stoking slogans in my flaming heart's furnace

I don't need words of sympathy or tears of pity

I'm not a victim, I'm an immortal

I am the fluttering flag of defiance

Don't shed tears for me

If you can

Bury me in the middle of the city

I'll bloom as the bamboo grove that sings the melody of life

Print my corpse as this nation's cover

I'll spread as a beautiful future into the pages of history

Invite me into your hearts

I'll become a tussle of conflagrations

And rise again and again in this land.


My attempt to translate Kalekuri Prasad's Telugu poem 'piDikeDu aatmagauravam kOsam' (from the collection of poetry 'daLita kavitvam- 2' ; originally published in another collection 'manDutunna chunDuuru'). 

War Moon

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Hanging from the neck of the sky's skeleton

The war moon

He has nuclear bombs all over his body

The fangs of butcherliness in his eyes

Sitting as a judge

On the giant skeleton of the Pentagon

He passes the death sentence on some nations

He doesn't know of the full moon.

Amavasya is all that's there!


My translation of the Telugu poem 'yuddha chandruDu' by Sivasagar (K.G.Satyamurthy), from the collection of poetry 'kavita 2008' published by Sahiti Mitrulu. The poet says he was inspired by Janet Aalfs' 'War Moon'.


Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Beef beef

The meat I have eaten since my cord was cut

The meat that has risen as bone of my bone

The meat that has raced as part of my blood;

When you drove me far from the village

When you found even my footprints untouchable

When you couldn't even see me as human

What stood by me

And brought me here was beef;

When you bragged, presenting your side,

Your forefathers drank ghee

Undertook many exploits and so on

It was only beef which stayed with me

Stood by my side;

When its udders were squeezed and milked

You didn't feel any pain at all

When it was stitched into a chappal you stamped underfoot and walked

You didn't feel hurt at all

When it rang as a drum at your marriage and your funeral

You didn't suffer any blows

When it sated my hunger, beef became your goddess?


My translation of the Telugu poem 'goDDu mAmsam' by Digumarthi Suresh Kumar (from the collection of Madiga poetry 'kaitunakala danDem').

Backbones for broken skeletons

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Those who say that one race

is better than another

Or one man has more merit than another

are history's surviving nazis


Good for the world

that from this junkyard of caste skeletons,

from this merit-ridden chaos

Hitler didn't borrow a single page



puts more wrinkles into some brains perhaps,

because from a book's cover

or a person's appearance

or from someone's colour

they can judge their worth…

They can sniff

and without sowing a seed

tell you that nothing will grow…

If we turn

the wheel of time back

we'll see who poured lead

into the senses meant to absorb learning

and exploded them like landmines!

From whose head did that wisdom grow!

We can decide everyone's worth…

Whenever we say, reservations

should become a social pact

that acknowledges past crimes,

those who smile on the outside

but in their hearts

want to shoot us down with automatic guns,

chop the country into pieces of merit–

aren't they very meritorious!

Aren't they the doctors

who cut open OBC stomachs for free!?

In their utopian melodrama

aren't even the rats in their homes white!!


They keep singing of merit

but award contracts to the highest bidders

and seats in medical colleges to big money!

Every car owner who gorges on subsidised petrol

showers the choicest abuse

on those who buy rationed kerosene

calling them a burden on the nation…


Like some whites in America

who recommend killing blacks in their wombs

to reduce crime

the IIMs, building obstructive walls of marks,

produce only

expensive coolies

who leave behind a nation milked dry.


Ours is an unequal society

that allows only those who own horses to play polo..

Half-broken skeletons

should be fitted with backbones here!


Between you and me..

When lives are marked by caste

wouldn't there be caste based reservations!!

If you stuff the only available jobs into your pockets

on the grounds of marks,

Shouldn't all the land

be given to those who till it..!!


It is silly..

To think that any race in history that has never worked

ever possessed any merit!

Do they have any history of working as serfs..

Do they have any history of cleaning streets..

Do they have any history of being trampled

under the wheels of discrimination..


Now all asses

think of themselves

as being very smart..


My translation of the Telugu poem 'virigina asthipamjaraalaku vennemukalu' by Thullimalli Wilson Sudhakar (from his collection of poetry 'daLita vyAkaraNam').


Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I was born in a Turk* home because I was a kismetwali, they said,

as if I had grabbed an unattainable good fortune

and from that moment, as my folks had decided,

I had become a real Muslim

How low should one bow to each relative

Who should not see you

Why one should stick one's head inside the pallu..

Meaningless rasmo-rivaaj and a half-learnt language:

I became a rolled paan caught between two jaws

but my folks had decided that

I had become an asli Turk girl

Though realizing that I am being sacrificed, when like a dumb animal

I go to some Walima or Gulposhi

Amidst the rustle and flashes of their zari and Urdu

My voice shrinks and shrivels

into a lonely cotton sari

An unseen feeling of helplessness

clasps my mouth like a bridle

I am spun around the hall, even as I stand still,

by the whirlwinds of their stares

blowing through the branches of their eyelids,

Does she or doesn't she– my knowledge of Urdu

is tested by a display of their own skill and aptitude

and as the results show in the smirks on their faces

my tears of embarassment, which can't dare break boundaries,

wallow within my eyes, exactly like me.

No one recognizes me as human,

looking at me as a heap of cleaned cotton

they are always eager to blow me away with mere words

But my folks have decided

that I have become a pucca Turk girl.

Why should I become an answer in inverted commas

About unknown riiti-rivaaj

About unpronounceable Durood Suras–

To the endless question marks on their faces?


When my shouhar doesn't assume my Dudekula-ness**

Why should I bear the stamp of asli Muslim-ness?

When poverty swallowed my dreams and hunger my time,

my childhood, spent sobbing into floor rugs,

learnt only to stitch mattresses,

Why should I grieve

over the Urdu and Arabic I didn't learn?


Ab sau baar sabke saamne chillaaoongii

haan..main Laddaafni hoon..!

Laddaafni hii rahoongii!!


My translation of the Telugu poem 'laddaafni' by Shajahana ( from the collection of poetry 'alaava: muslim samskRti kavitvam' ).


* Turk: or Turaka ( pronounced turaka ); a term used by Non-Muslims mostly, often derogatorily, for Muslims. 

** Dudekula/Laddaf: community associated, traditionally, with cotton carding.

Other Urdu/Hindustani words/phrases used in the poem:

kismetwali: lucky woman/girl; pallu: loose end of the sari; rasmo-rivaaj and riiti-rivaaj: customs, rituals and traditions; shouhar: husband.


Monday, February 14th, 2011


if the sky sends a heavy downpour

you will gape in surprise, get drenched

I will spread my rug over my head

and beam like a lotus leaf on the ocean;

If you need fire in that storm

you'll stand on your head and do penance

to find a matchstick

I will produce my piece of flint

and a little cotton

and start a fire in an instant;

In winter, when you get the shivers

you'll roll on the ground begging God to save you

I use the the scissors from my Kammari* brother,

shear wool from my sheep

and weave a rug to wrap myself!

You grew into landlords from the crops

grown with my flock's shit

I offered you my sheep, raised like a child, for your feast

but you called me a crazy golla**;

You bania rascals!

Now I've come into the street,

my gongadi+ on my shoulder and holding my stick,

Now I shall watch over men not sheep

Now I shall fertilize the nation not fields

I''ll wrap my gongadi around this nation

shivering from your atrocities!

I can not only watch over sheep,

I also know how to cut down useless ones!


My translation of Kancha Ilaiah's Telugu poem 'gongaDi' (from the collection of Dalit poetry 'padunekkina paaTa' )


* Kammari: blacksmith.

** Golla: here, it means 'shepherd'. 'Crazy golla' refers to a popular stereotype, a negative trait (stubbornness etc) attributed to people from the communities raising livestock.

+ Gongadi: or gongali (pronounced gongaDi and gongaLi respectively)., rug or blanket made of coarse material (like sheep's wool).

The parrot and the jungle

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

This parrot

hadn't even seen eighteen springs.

Leaving the world, the cage of swords,

and its paper springs

it flew away to the faraway jungle,

eating guns and bayonets

as tender leaves.

It played ball with bombs.

While other children of its age

played with toy donkeys

it played with axes.

It hadn't even completed

practising on leaf slates

the alphabet of its experiences

to read and rule the world

when hunters, spotting its red beak,

shot it down.

The parrot died

but the jungle is still spreading.


My translation of the Telugu poem 'cilakaa-aDivii' by Sikhamani (from his collection of poetry 'muvvala cEtikarra' ).

Away from me…

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

The pregnant full moon

giving birth to moonlight

weaves a garland of jasmines

around my dark Malapalli*


Soft light

through the Rellu+ grass

flashes honed smiles

that pound my heart


The wild flowers by the stream,

dewdrops, like little bells around ankles,

touch my feet and beam


The sweat that silently drops

from the furrows of my forehead

becomes ears of rice

that bow and salaam me with humility



He, still adjusting his janeu, is edging,

towards the borders of the hill,

away from me…


My translation of the Telugu poem 'naaku duurangaa..'  by J.Gautam ( from his collection of poetry 'nalu dikkulanunchii ranDi' ).


* Malapalli : the Mala quarter of a village.

+ Rellu: kind of reed, saccharum spontaneum, used for thatching and as fodder ( J.P.L.Gwynn's Telugu-English dictionary).

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