If the world asks: what's your caste,
what can I tell society, the swine
the scoundrels and the sinners?
– Dudekula Siddaiah+
This is the story of how the world's crows ostracized me
by stamping me into eekus*
Like dividing the Masjid into four domes,
this is the tale of how the Manumullahs
tore the thread of faith which united all
into unequal parts
The betrayal of Moulvi Saabs
who threw pepper into the eyes of Allah who said everyone's equal,
and reduced me to a dwarf
chopping off the rungs of my ladder
The cunning of the Khandaani conspirators
who found impurity in my Kalma
and defects in my Duwa
and painted me as Laddaf Latif
I don't remember the prophets talking about it anywhere
I don't know how the plot was executed
but the river under my mat split
And before I could adjust the collar of my Nawabgiri
it threw me as a carpet beetle into cotton bales
The pride of my Moghlai-ness
evaporated like incense on burning coals
and as pale cotton like smoke
from the tongue of our faith of eeka-kulam**
I was born for the second time as the one who cleans cotton
I am now a Mussalman..
No, a sahib…
No, no…a Pinjari…
Hahaha.. a Noorbasha..
My translation of the Telugu poem 'EkEkulam' by Khaja ( from the collection of poetry 'alaava: muslim sanskRti kavitvam').
* eeku/Eku and EkEkulam: J.P.L Gwynn's Telugu-English dictionary says:' eeku I. n. flock of cotton or wool cleaned and prepared for spinning. II. v.t. 1 to gin or clean cotton. 2 colloq to criticise, condemn.' EkEkulam is a compund word conied by the poet to indicate a caste that cleans cotton, or a caste that's condemned and also a caste of the ostracised or abandoned. Because the new word sounds so very close to EkAkulam ( roughly, 'we're loners' ), it lends itself to more profound interpretations. The sub-caste of cotton cleaners, or cotton carders, in Andhra Pradesh and other regions in the south is known as 'duudEkula' (duudi- cotton, and Eku- to clean) which is also employed as a term of derision, often.
** eeka-kulam/Eka-kulam: another phrase coined by the poet to indicate lack of caste ( 'one caste' ) in Islam.
+ Dudekula Siddaiah: probably refers to the Muslim disciple of the 17th century mystic Potuluri Veera Brahmam who spoke against caste and Brahminism. The mystic attracted a large number of Dalitbahujan and Muslim followers in Rayalaseema and other Telugu speaking regions, but is now mostly remembered for his prophecies.