'The poet should be a complete man'.
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.
became fuel for some fictional fire accident
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 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 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.
Tags: Madduri Nageshbabu