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Posts Tagged ‘Guda Anjaiah’

People’s song

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

In the Gummadis'* hut                                           // O Lachcha Gummadi //

the song was born and grew

Lachchumamma's womb bore fruit

and the people's song was born

In the Malas' wada

the Dalit song was born

On the Madigas' dappu

the song learnt rythm

To the tune of the coolies' anklets

it learnt to dance

With the Wadderas'** hammer

it learnt to sing together

At the dhobi ghat

it was taught to move faster

The barbers' razor

sang a refrain for the song

The Kammari's*** kiln

sang a beat for the song

The Golla Kurma's+ gongadi++

sang the chorus for the song

Flying past the farms and fields

past the factory gates

The song became one with the wind

and flew past the skies

The exploiters who heard the song

trembled in their hearts

All the songs became spears

and brought down the exploiters' fortress;

To strangle the song's throat

they started plotting:

twilight hadn't passed

the stars hadn't even appeared

but the villains attacked

and fired bullet after bullet

Struck by the rulers' bullet

the song collapsed

Struck by the killers' bullet

the song fainted

Struck by bullet after bullet

the dappu grew silent

Struck by a bullet in the abdomen

the song spurted blood

Collapsing in a pool of blood

the song bathed fully

Mother Earth became pregnant

and gave birth to the song again

Even though the big life started leaving

hanging onto the remaining life

the song stood up

and started walking

Even though it was losing breath

it rose hanging onto the remaining little

From the blood filled abyss

the song rose like the dawn

Mother moonlight smiled

because the song was reborn

Village after village smiled

as the Dalit jaatis' hearts were filled

Lathis and bullets

can't stop the people's song

Bayonets and bullets

can't stop the song's refrain

Every hour, a song will be born

and build graves for the exploiters

Every hut will give birth to a song

and bring down the exploiters' fortresses.                      // O Lachcha Gummadi //


My translation of the Telugu song 'janampaaTa' by Guda Anjaiah (from his collection od songs/ballads 'uuru manadiraa!'). This 'people's song' is most probably Anjaiah's tribute to 'praja kavi' Gaddar ('people's poet') who survived a muderorous attack by unknown assailants (most likely, policemen in civil clothes) who pumped five bullets into him, on April 6, 1997. Hundreds of songs written by Guda Anjaiah have formed a valuable part of the repertory of Dalitbahujan artistes across Andhra Pradesh, and across India (through translations). People's songs, the Dalitbahujan poets and performers believe (most times, the performers are poets themselves), belong to the peopleGaddar has consistently performed Anjaiah's songs over the years.


* Gummadi: pronounced 'gummaDi', it means pumpkin. But it is also Gaddar's surname or family name (his real name is Gummadi Vittal Rao). The original meaning (and origin) of the refrain 'O Lachcha Gummadi', which is repeated at the end of every line, is lost in time. It is taken from one of the many genres of work or chore related songs/ballads sung by Dalitbahujan women. Lachchumamma, in the song, refers to Gaddar's mother.

** Wadderas: pronounced waDDera; refers to the community of stone-workers (vaddera,  odde, oddilu, oddera, odra etc). 

*** Kammaris: refers to the community of smiths, metal-workers.

+ Golla Kurma: refers to the community of shepherds/goatherds (kuruma, kurma, kuruiba etc).

++ gongadi: pronounced 'gongaDi'; also called gongali. Refers to the coarse blanket or rug (made of wool, mostly) used by shepherds etc.

All Hindus are bandhus*, you say

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

All Hindus are bandhus, you say,

Every drop is a Hindu, you say,

Where have the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist Moolvasis gone?

Where have all the non-Hindus gone, O Hindu brother

Could you please explain, O bandhu brother?                                                      // All Hindus..//


You say you possess merit

because you've read all the shastras

You brag you're a pandit

because you've read all the vedas

Can you catch the flying bird? O Pantulayya**!

Can you weave like the weaver? O Pantulayya!

Can you practise the smith's craft? O Pantulayya!

Can you plough dry lands? O Pantulayya!

Can you clear jambu+ from the wetlands? O Pantulayya!

Will you agree, O Pantulayya,

That the creators of all wealth on land,

the creators of all wealth from the waters

are the Dalits? O Pantulayya!                                                                              // All Hindus //


We don't practise untouchability

you falsely claim now,

Carrying water from pits

to wash animal hides clean,

it was I who sewed sandals

for your paaduuka pattabhishekam++;

cleared gutters and drains,

carried excreta and other filth,

washed unclean clothes

and shaved your moustache,

Will you make me the chief  priest

of Pandaripur's Panduranga?  O Hindu brother!                                                                       

Have I broken the pot+++? O bandhu brother!                                                      // All Hindus //


It was you who chopped off Shambuka's head

poured lead in our ears

cut off our thumbs

treacherously shot arrows from behind to kill

disrobed women

molested them

drove nails into us

cut off tongues

stuffed us into sacks

trampled us into Thunga Bhadra

Should I trust you if you say you're a brother? O Hindu brother!

Why do you call me a Hindu? O bandhu brother!                                                     // All Hindus //


Chanting Rama Rama Rama Rama

you trumpet the tall claim

that Ram Janmabhoomi is yours

You took out rathyatras

and created bloodshed

you talked of temples and gopurams

and ground our people to dust

those who believed you

their heads have gone to rot now

and when you reached the shore on the ship of votes

where did you burn the ship?

You poured bran into grain ….O Hindu brother

You started a dogfight… O bandhu brother.                                                          // All Hindus //


You won't bleed milk if you're cut

I won't bleed water if I'm cut

If you and I are cut,

you can check: we'll both spurt red blood;

In dilapidated gopurams

the cicadas are breeding

Let's go together

to a place without caste or creed

and no shortage of food, clothing

where a man can live as man

with self-respect, O Hindu brother

let's procliam our nation's glory.. O bandhu brother..                                            // All Hindus //


My translation of Guda Anjaiah's' Telugu song ' hindu..hindu bandhuwulanTawu' (from his collection of songs ' uuru manadiraa!' ). It was probably written during the early nineties, during the height of the Hindutva movement over Ram Janmabhoomi.

* bandhu: (bandhuwu in Telugu); relation or relative.

**  pantulayya: term of address for a brahmin, here.

+ jambu: or jammu. sedge, a kind of wetland plant.

++ paaduka pattabhishekam: (pronounced 'pAduuka paTTAbhishEkam')– paaduuka is Telugu (archaic) for sandals or footwear; paTTAbhishEkam means coronation. This is a reference to the episode of the coronation of Rama's sandals in the Ramayana.

+++ 'Have I broken the pot?' : an expression that signifies speaking bluntly, fearlessly.

Missing sons

Friday, November 12th, 2010

My translation of two popular Telugu songs written by Guda Anjaiah ( from his collection of songs/ballads 'uuru manadiraa!'). Both the songs were written in the 70s and focus on 'sons' who had gone missing after joining various resistance movements: mostly ultra-left Naxalite groups, anti-caste, students' and peasant-workers' agitations. The first song 'Where could he be, my son?' ( 'ekkaDunnADO koDuku?' in Telugu) was written in 1972 and the second song, a kind of response to the first one, 'Ammaa..O Ammaa..' ( 'ammaa..O ammaa..' in Telugu) was written in 1976, when Anjaiah himself was in the Musheerabad Jail in Hyderabad, during the Emergency (a period during which over 450 activists, according to civil rights' groups, were killed in fake encounters across Andhra Pradesh, from Srikakulam to Telangana).


Where could he be, my son?


Don't know where he is, my son,

Don't know where he's wandering, my son,

Don't know if any kind mother has fed him a fistful of ganji*

Don't know if any father has given him shelter                       // Don't know where //


Son, Rajanna, you're young, I said,

We can't fight with the Dora**

We're poor, we're penniless

We can't stand against big, big people, I said,

He didn't listen to my pleading

He asked me to step aside                                                      // Don't know where //


Villages and wadas might be different, he said,

But the poor are one, their sorrows are the same

The greed of the rich is limitless, he said,

To unite the poor across villages, to prepare them for battle

He's goading them, they say,

And the police are pursuing him, they say.                           // Don't know where //


A couple of days ago, he was in the Mulugu jungles, they say

Before that he was in the hills of Guntur

He's spread into the Palvancha jungles, they say,

Look, in the jungles of Srikakulam, they say,

there's not an inch he hasn't traversed.                                  // Don't know where //


He's a brother to the Harijans and Girijans, they say,

A saviour for the poor

And a crowbar driven into the heart of the rich

A scourge for exploiters, they say,

He's marching ahead for a just society.                                // Don't know where //


* ganji: watery rice gruel, mostly water in which rice is boiled.

** Dora: (pronounced 'dora'); upper caste landlord.


Ammaa.. O Ammaa..


Ammaa..O Ammaaa

don't grieve because your son

is not with you                                                                                 //  Amma..O ammaa //


In the path of battle

there are mothers like you, mother,

They watch over me

like the eyelid guards the eye                                                     //  Amma..O ammaa //


Tending to my wounds

applying pasaru* and bandages,

bringing me cold gatuka**,

feeding me with your hands,

O mother who sent me off to war !                                             //  Amma..O ammaa //


Birds with chopped off wings

are lying here like beggars,

A parrot is trapped

in the talons of vultures

The vultures have to be chased away

and the parrot rescued                                                              //  Amma..O ammaa //


When the enemy discovered my hideout

and surrounded the hut,

tightening the noose

lying in ambush,

mother village protected me

in the shade of her kongu+.                                                      // Amma..O ammaa //


Like the fish in water

I am among people,

To repay the debt to my motherland

I am in the battlefield

For tomorrow's dawn

I am pouring out my life.                                                             // Amma..O ammaa //


* pasaru: sap, or juice of certain leaves used as medicine.

** gatuka: (pronounced 'gaTuka' ); gruel made of cooked  jowar, maize or other millets.

+ kongu: free end of the sari, the pallu.

The village is ours!

Monday, November 8th, 2010

The village is ours! This wada* is ours!

The village is ours! Every job needs us!

The hammer is ours! The knife is ours,

The crowbar is ours! The hoe is ours,

The cart is ours! The bullocks are ours!

Why do we need the Dora**! Why do we need his tyranny over us,

why do we need the Dora! Why do we need his tyranny?              // The village is ours //


We yoke the plough! We plough the land,

It's us at this fence! It's us at that mance***,

It's us at the cowshed! It's us with the cattle too,

It's us cleaning the latrines! It's us shaving the beards too,

What's this plunder? What's this Dora's deceit with us,

what's this plunder! What 's this Dora's deceit?                                   // The village is ours //


It's us in the fields! It's us who perform Vetti+,

It's us at this planting! It's us at that baling well too,

It's us at the reaping! It's us at the loading too,

Why do we need this Dora? What's this Dora's zulm on us?

Why do we need this Dora? What's this Dora's zulm?                        // The village is ours //


We wield the guns! We shoulder the burdens,

It's us at the dhobi ghat! It's us unloading the saare++,

It's us at the graveyard! It's us playing the shehnai too,

Why do we need this Dora! Why do we need his authority over us?

Why do we need this Dora! Why do we need this authority…            // The village is ours //


Standing on the bund, like a big tree,

Why does the Dora curse everyone, beat them,

from mothers to wives!

What's this plunder! What's this Dora's arrogance?                            // The village is ours //


We're the labouring poor! We should live together

Under the Sangham people's banner! We should form a union,

We should break the bones of the Doras who loot us!                      // The village is ours //


My translation of Guda Anjaiah's Telugu song 'uuru manadiraa!' (from his collection of songs/ballads of the same name), first written in 1972. The Marxist poet Srirangam Srinivasa Rao ( 'Sri Sri') called 'uuru manadiraa' a 'siren call'. Gaddar describes it as the song that sounded the 'battle conch'.


* wada: (pronounced 'waaDa') locality, neighbourhood, quarter in a village/town.

** Dora: (pronounced 'dora') feudal landlord. Also a term used, traditionally, to address any member of the landowning upper caste communities; chiefly, the Velamas, Reddies and Brahmins in Telangana.

*** mance: (pronounced 'mance'), a machan-like raised platform, usually in the middle of a field, used as a kind of watch tower.

+ Vetti: (pronounced 'weTTi'), a form of bonded labour. Traditionally, labour/services rendered to a landlord (menial work in his household and fields), usually the headman, or a temple in exchange for certain 'privileges'.

++saare: 'presents from the bride's parents to the bridegroom's family and neighbours, brought by the bride when she goes to the bridegroom's house for the first time' (Gwynn's Telugu-English dictionary). 

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