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Archive for May, 2011

Mother (ai)

Sunday, May 8th, 2011


I have never seen you

Wearing one of those gold-bordered saris

With a gold necklace

With gold bangles

With fancy sandals

Mother! I have seen you

Burning the soles of your feet in the harsh summer sun

Hanging your little ones in a cradle on an acacia tree

Carrying barrels of tar

Working on a road construction crew…………


I have seen you

With a basket of earth on your head

Rags bound on your feet

Giving a sweaty kiss to the naked child

Who came tottering over to you

Working for your daily wage, working, working………


I have seen you

Turning back the tide of tears

Trying to ignore your stomach's growl

Suffering parched throat and lips

Building a dam on a lake………


I have seen you

For a dream of four mud walls

Stepping carefully, pregnant

On the scaffolding of a sky scraper

Carrying a hod of wet cement on your head………..


I have seen you

In evening, untying the end of your sari

For the coins to buy salt and oil,

Putting a five paise coin

On a little hand

Saying 'go eat candy'

Taking the little bundle from the cradle to your breast

Saying "Study, become an Ambedkar"

And let the baskets fall from my hands…………


I have seen you

Sitting in front of the stove

Burning your very bones

To make coarse bread and a little something

To feed everybody, but half-fed yourself

So there'd would a bit in the morning………..


I have seen you

Washing clothes and cleaning pots

In different households

Rejecting the scraps of food offered to you

With pride

Covering yourself with a sari

That had been mended so many times

Saying "Don't you have a mother or a sister?"

To anyone who looked at you with lust in his eyes……….


I have seen you

On a crowded street with a market basket on your head

Trying always to keep your head covered with the end of your sari

Chasing anyone who nudged you deliberately

With your sandal in your hand…………


I have seen you working until sunset

Piercing the darkness to turn toward home,

Then forcing from the door

That man who staggered in from the hooch hut……..


I have seen you

At the front of the Long March

The end of your sari tucked tightly at the waist

Shouting "Change the name"

Taking the blow of the police stick on your upraised hands

Going to jail with head held high………


I have seen you

Saying when your only son

Fell martyr to police bullets

"You died for Bhim, your death means something"

saying boldly to the police

"If I had two or three sons, I would be fortunate.

They would fight on."


I have seen you on your deathbed

Giving that money you earned

Rag-picking to the diksha bhumi

Saying with your dying breadth

"Live in unity……. fight for Baba………. don't forget him……….

And with your very last breadth

"Jai Bhim."

I have seen you……..


I have never seen you

Even wanting a new broad-bordered sari


Mother, I have seen you………..


Jyoti Lanjewar's Marathi poem ai translated by Sylvie Martinez, Rujita Pathre, S. K. Thorat, Vimal Thorat, and Eleanor Zelliot. Asmitadars, Divali Issue, 1981.


Source: Images of women in Maharashtrian Literature and Religion.

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