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The Rebellious Fields

October 8th, 2015 by naren bedide

Gaddar

The paddy fields ask, 
Where’s the farmer who quenched our thirst?
The cotton fields ask,
Where’s the farmer who sprinkled blood to protect us?
They hug each other and weep–don’t understand why
They roll on the ground and weep–Don’t understand why
The basmati asks,
Where’s the sweat-scented farmer?
The masoors ask,
Where’s that large-hearted man? 
They thump their chests and wail–don’t understand why
They question the dawn–don’t understand why
The palak asks, 
Where’s the farmer so dear to us? 
The coriander asks,
Where’s the farmer so full of goodness? 

They sobbed and sobbed and withered up–don’t understand why
They waited and waited and shrivelled up–don’t understand why
Windless, the red gram and the horse gram fields
Nod listlessly
They look in all directions and ask,
Where’s the farmer so full of love? 
They sink into sorrow–don’t understand why
They’ve fallen senseless in grief–don’t understand why
The snake gourd and the bottle gourd
The ridge gourd and beans
The eggplant so tender
Blood red tomatoes
All ask–where’s the farmer
Who kissed us before we started rotting? 
They slap their heads and cry–don’t understand why
They wail loudly and cry–don’t understand why

The onion and garlic
Groundnuts and potatoes – 
All of which nestle in the earth mother’s womb
As they grow up, ask
Where’s our father who would show us the world? 
They wept uncontrollably–don’t understand why
They rot and die–don’t understand why

All the cotton fields together
Spread a new garment over him
The dried sticks assemble themselves
Into a cot
The paddy straw becomes a mattress
So that his ribs wouldn’t hurt
The betel leaf presses her mouth 
Over his and kisses him
They cook seven kinds of rice
In a new pot
The kumkum tree shines 
As the crescent moon on his forehead
They all say
We will leave with the farmer who gave us birth
They hug each other and weep–don’t understand why
They roll on the ground and weep–don’t understand why
They cry, our existence has lost meaning
They burn and burn on the pyre
And rise as an inferno
They burn to ashes
The villain who poisons the farmer
The sugarcane fields dive into the water
Release the drawing bucket and return
The green fields become red–don’t understand why
They took to the path of the angry rebels–don’t understand why

Translation of Gaddar's Telugu song 'vori sElu aDiginaayi'. Translator: Naren Bedide. 

 

  

Nation of two statues

October 2nd, 2015 by naren bedide

Satish Chandar

Like everyone has his own mother

everyone has his own statue too

The statue in the village belongs to the village

The statue in the wada belongs to the wada

The village has a name and a voice

and a lifestyle,

The wada lacks air, water

and food to eat.

Look at the statue in the village

it wears only a loin cloth

Behold! The statue in the wada

sports a suit and shoes like a saahib!

A poor soul in front of the mansion

and royal splendour beside the hut

The agraharam sulked

while the slum beamed

Gruel filled the silver plate

while milk flowed in the begging bowl 

A cane and sandals for the statue in the village

While the statue in the wada got a new pen and books

This strange phenomenon in every village

mocked vedabhoomi

Why does the statue in the village exhibit humility?

Why does the statue in the wada display pride?

Those who had nothing.

Questioned the two statues.

Sacrifice, answered the statue with toothless smiles in the village

Justice, said the statue of fiery speech in the wada

The statue in the village said, 'I do not want

what you do not have'

The village maids wore many splendid silks

and expensive secret garments

While the mothers in the wada

covered their breasts with coarse cloth

The village lord

flaunted fancy dhotis and kanDuvas*

The poor father in the village

was satisfied with just a loin cloth

Stripped of his clothes

the village statue was a sorry, skinny figure..

While the statue in the wada

shone in garments the wada parents never knew

The whole village was startled

The wada sang its wisdom:

The village idealises giving up what it owns

The wada dares to dream of what it doesn't have

The statue in the village said: here's the wheel, spin it

The statue in the wada said: here's the state, rule it! 

 

*kanDuva: an upper garment worn by men, like the angavastram. 

 ~                    

Translation of Satish Chandar's Telugu poem 'renDu bommala dESam!', first published in 'soorya' newspaper on 10th March, 2008, and featured in the collection of poetry, Kavita 2008. Translated by Naren Bedide.           

Janeu-less writer 

September 25th, 2015 by naren bedide

Musafir Baitha

Mister writer is a Brahmin
and has turned seventy two
not his fault to be born 
in a Brahmin clan
he says so himself, we do too
reaching this grand age
the writer has initiated
a massive programme to
wash away his Brahmin-ness
to wipe it clean
by breaking his janeu

despite his self-proclamations
or as per the worlds’ claims
in fact, because the world says so
people still accord him respect 
reserved for a Brahmin 
even in this de-casting that unfolds
what’s his role?
to who all,
where all
should he keep swearing by
this breaking of his janeu?

all exclusive savarna panels
still extend him ceremonious invitations
and his janeu-breaking,
de-casting trick
has been deliberately ignored
by his friends and foes alike
who continue to revere him 
at his savarna pedestal
even if he wants to escape all this
then how can he
or why should he?
given the benefits 
of this special treatment
it is easier to break that janeu                                  
because it only breaks on the surface  
even as it stays intact under 
seven layers of clothing

that this outward breaking
has some visible effect
is not necessary

to have that effect
a lot more than this thread 
needs to be broken

the twenty two years Dasrath Manjhi took
is the kind of persistence one needs

janeu is brahminism
the claim to be a different being
to be born of the same mother
and yet imagine oneself to be differently born
it is a reflection of the hubris
of some false exalted origin.
It requires persistence
whether it comes from the heart
or against one’s wishes

I asked the writer:
good you broke it 
but apart from this janeu
what else have you broken
in the thread that binds your caste?
The writer seems at a loss for words.

~

English translation of Musafir Baitha’s Hindi poem 'Janeu-tod lekhak'; translated by Gaurav Somwanshi and Akshay Pathak

Burnt Skin!

September 23rd, 2015 by admin

Dickens Leonard M

 

I am a burnt skin

A burnt skin I am

Beaten to the death

For the death of the dead

I am a burnt skin

A burnt skin I am

 

Danda danda danda nakka

Danda danda danda nakka

 

I die to love and live

A truth I choose to give

To the ones who stay alive

For the ones who lie and die

I am a burnt skin

A burnt skin I am

 

Danda danda danda nakka

Danda danda danda nakka

 

I rot from within

Beaten black and blue

A flamed kovil theru*

A theru to be bombed

I am a burnt skin

A burnt skin I am

 

Danda danda danda nakka

Danda danda danda nakka

 

I stink from within 

Silent were the voiced

Kidnapped and suicided

Honoured on the rails

An engineer murdered*

Forsaken forgotten

 

I am a burnt skin

Flamed and bombed I am

Forsaken forgotten

A burnt skin I am

 

Danda danda danda nakka

Danda danda danda nakka

~

*Kovil Theru – Temple Car; a colony at Seshamudram, near Villupuram was attacked on August 15th, Independence day.

"A promise ends in a riot," see http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/state-view-a-promise-ends-in-a-riot-in-tamil-nadu/article7569721.ece

*An engineer Gokul Raj was reportedly murdered on June 23rd.

"Caste-gestapo in TN," see http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/caste-gestapo-tn-cracking-down-dalit-boys-falling-love-caste-hindu-girls-31893 

Dickens Leonard M is a research scholar at University of Hyderabad.

You cannot die, Manu Taanti!

September 1st, 2015 by admin

Gurinder Azad

I kept silent at your death
didn’t speak with anyone either.

but then yesterday, 
just across the metro
when I spotted a crowd of daily wage labourers 
the thought of you came flashing,
in their faces
I searched for the elegy to 
what followed those four days of your labour.. 
but I kept walking, didn’t stay there for long

there were moments when
the slogans to demand our rights
and your screams ground in that thresher –
both seemed the same to my mind.

and moments when
my conscience
got drenched in fear
after looking at
a vacuum appear on the vast backdrop
of our movement.
then giving myself false assurances, I moved on

your last few pictures on facebook – I 
have not been able to look at those.
But that image that moves faster than imagination –
it disappears somewhere 
after witnessing your helpless last moments
at the unknown shores of your family’s remorse

but even in this
the memory throws forth,
however hazily,
the vast backdrop of our movement
where Khairlanji and other such massacres
appear holding on to canvases.

however, Manu Taanti
knowing my conscience 
in whatever form,
today, I shall speak with my 
broken, perhaps dwarf-like words
that the time will change
your circumstances
your condition
the news of your murder – all
have passed on to our marching feet

Our massacres do not die!

and this wasn’t about demanding your wage 
for those four days of labour
this is the account of many centuries..
till it is settled,
You cannot die, Manu Taanti!

~

Akshay Pathak’s English translation of Gurinder Azad’s Hindi poem, 'yeh chaar din ki dehaadi ki baat nahin thi, Manu Taanti'

Words

August 21st, 2015 by naren bedide

Ajay Tanveer

ajay tanveer

Words of my poem don’t do embroidery on paper,

Don’t make flowers and vines,

They don’t burn in the fire of lovers' separation….

They talk about those who can’t speak,

Who can’t hear, who can’t write,

Who can’t read…

That is why the trajectory of my thoughts is distinct..

Every word of my poem comes after touching the tip of the knife and the keen edge of the sword,

That is why my poem is very sharp and jabs the capitalists' chests

….be careful while reading it…..

The words of my poem also get hot like red hot iron,

They also glower in anger and then they revolt when there is any atrocity on the helpless,

Hence my poem is dipped in the color of revolt

~

Rajinder Azad's translation of Ajay Tanveer's Punjabi nazm 'Laphaz'. Ajay Tanveer is now based in California, and is popularly known as "Peeta Chandeli Wala" in the Punjabi literary world.

Self-respect

August 5th, 2015 by admin

 Kamal Dev Pall

Centuries ago

You abused him

He remained silent

You became extremely happy;

You tested the limits of his tolerance

Although you had forgotten 

How you had poured molten lead into his ears

So that he couldn’t hear anything

And you would keep reciting Vedas and Simrities 

And you would keep devising new tools to enslave him.

Even then when you abused him

He captured in the depth of his mind

The movement of your lips and the expressions on your face  

However he never showed such expressions on his face.

All the poison and anger he swallowed 

Which after digestion, entered his bloodstream

Ran into his veins rapidly and then 

Entered into the veins of his descendants;

That poison and that aggression 

Are now entering inside me 

And will grow hot like lava

Inside the blood of countless oppressed people

And an explosion is possible any time. 

Kamal Dev Pall's Punjabi poem 'Svey Maan', from the collection 'Din Part Aungey' (The days will come back), translated by Rajinder Azad

…for us poor folk, what lohris, what diwalis?

August 4th, 2015 by admin

 

गुड़ती में मिले हमें दुःख परेशानी

शायद देती हमें दादी नानी

रूढ़ियों पर गुज़रता बचपन हमारा

जट्टों के खेतों में जवानी 

 

सोचते हुए दिन रातें जागके गुज़ार लीं 

किस बात की गरीबों की लोहड़ी दिवाली

 

रात भूखे सोये हमें शंका है सवेर की

एक वक्त की खाली अब पता नहीं दूजी बार की

हमारी तो खुशियां भी फ़िक्रों ने खालीं

 

किस बात की गरीबों की लोहड़ी दिवाली

 

माँ गयी काम पर अभी तक आई नहीं

क़यामत की है ठण्ड उसने कोटी भी तो पहनी नहीं

पाथते ईंटें उसने उंगलियां घिसालीं

 

जब हमारे पिता बारे लोग हमसे पूछते

आता नहीं जवाब हमें सवाल लाखों उठते

लिखी हुई नसीबों की न जा सकें टाली

 

किस बात की गरीबों की लोहड़ी दिवाली

 

दिल करे किसका कि तमाशा बने जग का

संगदिल सेक बुरा तानों की आग का

आंचल में इल्ज़ामॊं की गठ्री जाए न सहारी

 

किस बात की गरीबों की लोहड़ी दिवाली

~

mixed in the gudthi,*we got sorrows and woes
our nanis and dadis perhaps passed us those 
on heaps of dung we spent our childhoods 
working the fields of those jatts, our youths

sleepless nights and days, we spent brooding
for us poor folk, what lohris, what diwalis?

slept hungry at night, for us the morning is a doubt
if one meal we eat, over the next hangs doubt
all these worries, they swallowed even our joys

…for us poor folk, what lohris, what diwalis? 

Mother went to work, isn’t back home till now
she has no warm clothes, and it’s biting cold now
lifting those bricks, and the pathana*
left her hands calloused and bruised

when they ask about our Father, we have no answers
many doubts arise for we have no answers
what fate has written, can’t be refused

…for us poor folk, what lohris, what diwalis

who desires to be the world’s laughing stock?
Sangdila* harsh is the heat of these fire-like taunts 
the heart cannot endure, this heavy load of slander

…for us poor folk, what lohris, what diwalis? 

*gudthi: the first food (mostly honey) usually fed by Grandparents (or some elders in the family or friends) to the newborn. It is believed that one takes a lot of the personality traits of the person who gave the gudthi.
*pathana: the process of applying liquefied mud to bricks to solidify them. Also used to describe the process of applying cow dung cakes on walls to dry them.
*sangdila: stone-hearted. Most likely the (pen)name of the songwriter.

~

Punjabi bahujan song translated by Gurinder Singh Azad (into Hindi) and Akshay Pathak (into English)

The translators came across this song on youtube during their usual search for Punjabi poetry and songs. The song, as shown in the video,is performed by these two very talented boys in a village in Punjab, Pakistan. The presence of the dhol in the video suggests that they belong to a caste of performers and the words of the song clearly reflect their concerns about the bahujan laboring castes. In the process of translating, we got stuck on some particular words and were fortunately helped by friends from across the border, in particular Farukh Hammad who helped us in getting one of the lines through his friends Jasdeep Singh and Khan Muhammad. If someone can share more details about the young artists, we would be very grateful. 

Ramai

May 28th, 2015 by admin

Pradnya Jadhav

ramai

It has been ages we since we have spoken

Perhaps, I never felt the need to converse with you, because I would see you around forever

But today, while seeing your picture, I realized your quietness; I realized it could not mean you are calm..

Ramai,

Let us speak today, I might say a few words, I might ask you a few questions..

I don’t know if you will answer those or respond to me, may I request you to listen to me?

Ramai,

I have always seen you as a very kind person, very patient, extremely tolerant

Through all those writings about you, you were constantly portrayed that way…

We admire you for your loving and caring nature,

for all the hardship you had to carry throughout your life,

for being a supportive partner of Babasaheb and for all the sacrifices you made..

But Ramai-

Was this journey easy for you?

Were you so extremely patient and forbearing that you never complained?

Ramai,

You were a thinking being; didn’t you ever say a word about your pain?

I am amazed and would like to understand how it would have been for you?

I’m sure you must have definitely talked to at least yourself, to someone close to you,

you must have become agitated..

But regrettably your words, your voice never reached us Ramai,

Because way before we had learned about your nature, about your feelings, about your sorrows and thinking

Perhaps, we had naturalized your hardships…

Ramai..

I can only salute you for being whatever you were!

~

 

Ramabai (1896-1935) was the daughter of Bhiku Dhutre. Ramabai was married to Bhimrao Ambedkar in 1906.

Today, 27th May, is the death anniversary of Ramabai Ambedkar

Sona: Mother of Ten

May 10th, 2015 by admin

Translated from Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu 

 

Ten children I bore

from this physical heap.

Then weak from that, aged,

I went to a nun.

She taught me the Dhamma:

aggregates, sense spheres, & elements.

Hearing her Dhamma,

I cut off my hair & ordained.

Having purified the divine eye

while still a probationer,

I know my previous lives,

where I lived in the past.

I develop the theme-less meditation,

well-focused oneness.

I gain the liberation of immediacy —

from lack of clinging, unbound.

The five aggregates, comprehended,

stand like a tree with its root cut through.

I spit on old age.

There is now no further becoming.

~

Sona: Mother of Ten (Thig 5.8), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhiku. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November, 2013, http://www.accesstonsight.org/tipitaka/thig/thig.05.08.than.html 

Source: The Therigatha, Verses of the Elder Nuns. The Therigatha, the ninth book of the Khuddaka Nikaya, consists of 73 poems — 522 stanzas in all — in which the early nuns (bhikkunis) recount their struggles and accomplishments along the road to arahantship. Their stories are told with often heart-breaking honesty and beauty, revealing the deeply human side of these extraordinary women, and thus serve as inspiring reminders of our own potential to follow in their footsteps.

 

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