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Posts Tagged ‘Jyoti Lanjewar’


Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Jyoti Lanjewar

Their inhuman atrocities have carved caves
In the rock of my heart
I must tread this forest with wary steps
Eyes fixed on the changing times
The tables have turned now
Protests spark
Now here
Now there.
I have been silent all these days
Listening to the voice of right and wrong
But now I will fan the flames
For human rights.
How did we ever get to this place
This land which was never mother to us?
Which never gave us even
The life of cats and dogs?
I hold their unpardonable sins as witness
And turn, here and now,
A rebel.


Translated from Marathi by Shanta Gokhale

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.

Sounds (be avaj)

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

What sounds are these?

Do fish in water weep

or waves sob?

We lost the way

but kept on, hoping

the way would end

but it's we who will end…

Look at the trees on the shore

lip to lip, whispering 

about us, but the birds

have closed their eyes

with the sun.

The sky garbed

in dark,

searching stars

heart swayed

by swaying waves

now aflame.

Let's plunge in 

and drown then.


Jyoti Lanjewar's poem 'be avaj' translated by Gauri Deshpande. Source: Stri Dalit Sahitya: The new voice of women poets. Images of women in Maharashtrian literature and religion. 

The nameless ones (anamikas)

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Begging won't get anything here

            not sympathy, not love

A suit in court wins injustice,

Tears are of no value,

Getting water is a struggle,

Wrapping yourself in smoke from a dead fire won't work

You have to plant the cinder of revolt in your own body.

At times there is a firefly of revolt flickering -maybe

    counterfeit –

But at those times give it outside air to see if it glows.

"The revolution will come through poetry"

Once I accepted that.

But poetry does not live by making revolution.

The same faithless faces of yesterday

        extend the hand of friendship

        while wounding with a sword…….. and

        in their struggle with the enemy were

       made impotent.

They burned houses down with words

But after the house burned, the words died.

For the sake of the poetry of humanity

      one must be so very human,

But they change with the wind…….

And these green parrots of the dry desert turn out to be 

       a mirage.

They turn their eyes where they wish, according to their 

      own convenience.

When there is no strength

      in their own wings

They find the convenient words

      to cut the wings of others.

They make palaces of words!

But I have seen them crumble.

"Kala Ram" and "Chawdar Tank" –

         the history of pain

         is carved on each of our hearts

But even if they could carve words on water

The Indrayani will not save them.


Eleanor Zelliot's translation of Jyoti Lanjewar's poem 'anamikas'.  Jyoti Lanjewar is a professor of Marathi in Nagpur university. "The nameless ones" is a criticism of those within the Ambedkar movement itself. Kala Ram and Chawdar Tank are places that witnessed Satyagraha between 1930-1935. The last line of the poem refers to the poet saint Tukaram who threw his poems into the Indrayani river at the behest of critical brahmins. 

Source: Images of women in Maharashtrian literature and religion


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