If you were not there..
Those who stitched chappals
would never even have ascended the steps of parliament
wouldn't have trembled while grudgingly giving us some space,
Buckets filled with excreta
would never have descended from our head
a Narayanan would never have been crowned president
For this sovereign, democratic republic
you effortlessly wrote a constitution
and as adroitly gave it a direction,
but like no one noticing
the elephant standing in the drawing room
some blind elements still don't seem to have understood you:
as glibly as if he was chanting 'India Shining',
look, how a villain declared
that cows are more sacred
than the lives of Dalits in Gohana..
Look, how in this great civilized nation,
where in Khairlanji
even Priyanka's corpse was raped,
citizens have become so uncivilized!
Like the Pharaohs of Egypt
supervising, personally, the building of the pyramids
look, how this nation,
speeding ahead with shopping malls and express highways
has risen to the racist status
of overseeing the rape of a Dalit woman every half-hour
and the murder of a Dalit every three days!
Like the sulking wife who refused food
because she wasn't gifted a sari, when a half-naked fakir
went on an indefinite fast
to oppose separate electorates for Dalits
you consoled him with orange juice,
but how cleverly you managed to tell the whole country
that what he had drunk was the blood of millions of lower jatis…
Like he had isolated Subhas Chandra Bose
he tried to drive you away from our hearts,
but what did the khaddar old man know
about how you flowed in our veins like good blood
like the perennial rivers flowing across the country,
about how you had built a nest in every Dalit's heart!
Don't understand why people of this country,
who so eagerly try to find out
why we lost in a cricket match
or when certain Bollywood stars are getting married,
don't wish to know why the Dalits of Nagpur got angry…
The same TV anchors who shut their mouths tight
when crazed goons supervised the burning of Bombay
because Meena Thackeray's statue had been desecrated,
complain loudly that
the Dalits' self-respect movement
Why are those who can't distinguish between Lal Salaam and Jai Bhim,
the Janeu skeins wearing Dalit garments,
posing as bearers of the Dalit rath
and cycling around Dalit wadas..
You also know
that just as a warning sign bearing skull and bones stops no one
this war is not going to end with Buddhism;
You might have become the first citizen of Cuba
if you had undertaken this struggle there
your movement might have inspired many more people's revolts..!
Even in South Africa,
in the race for human rights,
Mandela might probably have trailed behind you..!
Sigh.. you were born in our land..
how could you have bagged the peace prize..
Isn't it because you're a Dalit
that an earthworm called Arun Shourie
can spit venom at you like a serpent..
Now when I look at your statue
standing upright in the Dalitwada
I see a Dalit Messiah
who gathers the lost sheep
Or as the simhaswapnam
who haunts them
and turns their sacrificial buffaloes and sheep into tigers and lions;
Or you look like you're issuing directions,
like the baptised Christian,
to journey from freedom to freedom
Your index finger seems
like a compass that shows us the way
like a double barreled gun
like an assurance
that we can sleep peacefully
who caned brahminical education into discipline
you seem like
you're slapping the grocery-store religion into restraint
Breathing into our ears
the message that education is a weapon
you seem to tell us: it's the Dalit era that shall follow the Christian era.
My effort to translate the Telugu poem 'nuvvE lEkapOtE' by Tullimalli Wilson Sudhakar (from his collection of poetry 'daLita vyAkaraNam').
The Shared Mirror gratefully remembers Babasaheb Ambedkar on his 120th birth anniversary. Also very happy that our 101th post, at the end of the first year of our exciting journey of self-discovery, pays such a fitting tribute to Babasaheb. Jai Bhim to all!
* simhaswapnam: 'lit. the elephant's dream of his mortal foe the lion' (C.P.Brown's Telugu-English dictionary).