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Smell of untouchability

June 21st, 2011 by admin

It is just as well
that I got to know 
your blindness
from the very start.

Simply because my feet
touched the ground
you are seeking to purify it, 
sprinkling holy cowdung water.

Had I requested 
your house on rent
you would have been enraged
and driven me out
like a pariah dog.

Perhaps you do not know
that the land your house stands on
is surrounded by air
suffused with my dirty breath.
The bricks of your house
have been made from clay
from the river bed
where my humble hut stands, 
moulded by the supple hands
of men whom you have discarded, 
calling them untouchable.

Now you have moved
into your beautiful house
you preach that untouchables
are not human beings, 
that they are worse than animals, 
to be despised.

Dear sir, 
if you have the moral courage, 
strip open the walls
and look at the rubble 
and see, 
how each atom of brick and sand
bears the sweet smell
of untouchability.  


Basudev Sunani is an Oriya poet, his poems have been translated by Rabindra K Swain and  J P Das. His poetry collections include Asprushya (Untouchable), Karadi Haata (Bamboo Shoots Market) and Chhi (Sneer), and several critical essays and short stories. He is a veterinarian by training, his blogposts can be found here.

Courtesy: The Poem Hunter


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