the golla's cry

even the best of gollas*
you say, carries a neem seed of obstinacy**
yes. very true!
to disrobe your sins
to gather the debris of your oppression
to set on fire your wayward mane in the village
if you call all this obstinacy
it's not neem seed sized but as large as a palmyra fruit
what can you do about it? i do not care!
shattering the skies
with a golla cry, i tell you
from my forefathers' age
i've been watching your machinations
in the name of land cess
who grabbed the lone rupee from my grandfather
and stuffed it in his safe?
in the name of pasture tax
who took away our goats?
for chopping a branch for our sheep
who confiscated our axe?
'like a ball of butter
you look so lovely lachimi of the gollas
i'll cross your path singing
why don't you trample on my heart golla girl'
singing, who tore apart my grandmother's life?
you, i see, are born of your fathers' hair
like i catch the wolf hiding among the sheep
i've grabbed you by your hair
look! the one after me
sucking at the breast i left
is lying in ambush for the likes of you
'the karanam's grudge***
follows one to the grave you say?'
is your grudge
bigger than my neem seed sized obstinacy pantulu!****

my translation of the poem golla koota by prabhanjan kumar. this poem is also from the padunekkina pAta collection of dalit poetry.
* golla- yadav
** obstinacy- the telugu word used is verri or werri. inherited wisdom among the ruling classes in telangana (and other parts of andhra pradesh) says every golla shows signs of intractable obstinacy or stubbornness, at least once in his life. for the ruling classes, the golla seems unmanageable on those occasions. the stereotype further imputes a certain foolishness or irrationality to all gollas.
*** karanam- hereditary revenue record keeper in the village in telangana (and other parts of andhra pradesh, karnataka etc.,), following a tradition that goes back a few hundred years. the post was abolished in a widely welcomed move (by the lower castes) by the late n.t.r., a majority of karanams or patwaris were brahmins. karanams used to wield a lot of power in the villages and folk wisdom, even today, warns the unlettered to never cross the karanam's path.
**** pantulu- term used for a brahmin, schoolteacher or literate/learned man (again, mostly brahmins).



i am watching everything
observing your every move
the bodies that drifted away in the blood rivers of december 6th
i am still searching for them with wet eyes

while no foot can turn a man into man now
i watch them turn into rocks and maniacs

the al kabeer gherao
which stands between my hunger and my livelihood
the falling flag post which turned into a trishul in hubli idgah
'mathura' lying crushed under your kautilyan plans
i am watching all.

thinking, indivar- is the light of our home
rajeev- the fragrance of my heritage
i celebrated
you too turned into vamana's feet
walked over the guldastas of my dreams
to rip open the pyjamas of my trust
hacking me, anointing your foreheads with my blood
leaving me with a bougainvillea citizenship.

with nothing more to bring down
perhaps, you might be annoyed or impatient.
spread your hawk's eyes across the land once
by the yamuna, some mad dada of ours,
you'll find, had turned all his love for dadi ma
into a milk and cream moonlight mansion.
in delhi, someone had plucked a piece of the eastern sky,
you'll see, and planted it as a palace soaked in his blood
my traces shall continue stoking
as qutub minars char minars buland darwazas
jama masjids mecca masjids maharaja palaces
your restless fanaticism.
when you destroyed or cut down throats we stayed silent
as you set fire to our history
and announced compensation with another hand
but- when you break the country into pieces
stamp people down into graves
and raise beasts in the cities, i wouldn't tolerate that
you necrophiliac-
to release the dead if one needs corpses-
it's inevitable
the first corpse would be mine.
i am watching everything.

my translation (like my other attempts, this shall remain a work-in-progress for some time) of jehad, a telugu poem by khaja that i found in padunekkina pAta, a compilation of dalit poetry published in 1996.


why is renuka chowdhury a chowdhury?

because a certain group of progressive kammas, prominent among them being tripuraneni ramaswamy, in the early part of the last century, had started a rationalist protest movement, a rebelllion against brahminism, ritual and caste. forget the rationalist...rebellion... part, what remains of the movement now are vague theories about how the kammas are connected with the kayasths and jats and other equally interesting formulations. why was it important for the kammas to claim kinship with those north indian communities? because it'd place them on a higher notch in the varna hierarchy- the kayasths, depending on the region, claim a kshatriya or brahmin status.

the practice, among some kammas, of appending the title chowdhury to their names started around that interesting period in recent history. not all kammas like to embellish their names with that armour- only those who believe strongly, i guess, that the kammas have been wrongly thrust with the lowly status of shudrahood.

renuka chowdhury is probably the only politician to have spoken out, admirably and consistently, against the sri ram sene goons and in support of young women's right to choose how and where they spend their free time. but i still can't see why she chooses to be a chowdhury- the rationale behind the adoption of the title chowdhury, roughly, is an endorsement of the worldview the sri ram sene advocates: every man and woman should be aware of his/her place in the hindu social order.


how does this make sense?

nearly half of urban india wants to settle down in the u.s., says a survey conducted a couple of years ago. about 40% of india's farmers, according to another survey conducted a little earlier, would 'quit farming' given a choice.

the respondents in the first survey were people who belonged to 'lower middle classes and above'. you'll agree, india has been kind to those people: investing in their education & training etc., and offering them a far better quality and quantity of public services than those available to the rest of india. which helped them get better jobs.

and the finance minister has announced, a couple of days ago, a few more iits and iims for them. to improve their chances of securing american visas?

he has also announced increased spending on the bharat nirman programme and the nrega- most of that increased expenditure will finds its way back to the cities, of course. this would also improve the farmers' chances of moving up? to become wage labourers?

choice: the first category of respondents have it and the second don't. one would think the best way of creating choice for the farmers (or their children, actually) would be: investing in their education & training etc., and offering them a far better quality and quantity of public services (as available to the first class of respondents). so that they could move on to better jobs too (and to america, later?).

why doesn't that happen? one of the key elements is education. if the next generation of the second category of respondents, the farmers' children, have to move beyond farming, or at least get a fair chance at thinking of moving beyond agriculture, they will all need access to decent school education. the kind of education that's mostly unavailable to them now.

do you get any sense that the finance minister, or the central government, was thinking about that when he was making ritualistic allocations to that ugly, paternalistic sarva shiksha abhiyaan and grand plans for new iits while preparing this year's budget? did you get any sense that the issue seriously occupied his mind?

did you get that sense last year or the year before that or the year....?


kans' computer

had a computer
(why do you laugh)
got down from a 'helicopter'
in the kurukshetra
(please don't laugh)
where they didn't use nukes
(at krishna's command)
wasn't that good
wouldn't bharat's
nation have been wiped out?
you'll agree
we've long had telegraph
and widows*
ganda bherunda was our jet plane
it was called pushpak
i forgot
forgive me
just as kans had a computer
our vedas had marxism
believe it or not
(that's your karma)
if you think
our native toddy
is too potent
the mixed cocktail
of our ancestors'
ghee-soaked lips!

my translation of sivasagar's kansuni computer. the original poem was written during the period of emergency in response to s.a.dange's, leader of the communist party of india, claims that the vedas (or the gita?) contained marxist ideas.

* one telugu word for widow is vithanthu which, sort of rhymes with thanthi, telugu for telegraph.


the sun

the sun's a weaver
with rays as threads
sky as the loom
he weaves the rainbow

the sun's a hunter
with rays as arrows
the sky his forest
he hunts down cheetahs of darkness

the sun's a lover
in the first light of millions of rays
he descends from the sky
and loves earth's silent eyes, deeply.

my translation of sivasagar's sooryudu.


'Treat encounter killings as murder'

Hearing a batch of petitions filed by revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao and civil liberty organisations in connecton with encounter killing that took place at Manala in Nizambad district in March 2005, a five-judge bench of the High Court said,''in every case of an encounter death , a case must be registered against the police.'' The order was passed reversing an earlier judgement of another Bench dismissing a petition seeking registeration of murder cases in all encounter deaths.

The ruling assumes significance in the wake of a large number of killing of Naxalites in alleged 'fake encounters'' and also elimination of rowdy-sheeters in encounters.

torture is not interrogation. harassment is not investigation. now, get off your fat a%$@s, and serve the people for a change. not shoot them.



new tatvam
in old wine
like a new grave
covering the long dead
to provoke fresh grief
stoke old malice.

you are that
sanyasi with
a wife children
microwave tv
who'll give up
all for a place
in that shunya
where pakistan
fills the world.

several notes
one drone
several gods
one maya
several jatis
one chosen nation
several victims
one hangman.

my translation of avidhEya's tatvam (published in surya, august 2007).


vAkapalli's vow

it'd have been better if we'd related our woes to the trees, the forest,
with leaves and roots they'd have treated our wounds
it'd have been better if we'd told the wind, the earth,
we'd have received some cool relief;
in our heart's hamlet suspicions stoke our wounds,
for justice, we gave up shame,
we brought our pain to the cities
to heal the bruises in our hearts, our honour,
we opened them to the officers;
those who examine and those who rule
those who judge and those who looted us:
we didn't realize they're all one
we spit on you..you scoundrels!
it was our mistake to let you into the forest
it was a bigger mistake to plead for justice outside the forest
evil men!
between your sniggers, artifice and threats
we dusted our tearful skirts --
we're returning to our hamlet,
come into the forest and we shall decide;
one day we know we'll catch you
and we shall extract a just price.

my translation of krupakar madiga's shOkapalli shabadham (first published in surya in december, 2007), a tribute to the women of vAkapalli.



land's the problem
the problem's only land
a little land for food
or for your death
the problem's wholly land
nandigram mudigonda*
today's proper nouns
land's always the common noun
the blood tears spilled for land
eternal historic voyages
when it rains four drops
it's land
that splits into ten seeds
when ten tear drops are spilled
it's land
that flames up in a thousand angers

july twenty eighth
caught in the mouth of the eagle of time
the chick
those who died
those who were wounded
behind the tragedies
carried as news
masked half-truths

yes land's always a problem
those who wilted
in the sun, all season
their plea for shelter
is truly a law and order problem

four of them, united, standing up for four feet of land
deserve, for that crime, to be shot
land to the limit of his padayatra
the one who claimed as his own
crossing nations
the one who gave up whole villages for adoption

the ruler's the same!

made to bear flags like sinners
or shot down like birds
under the ruler's hood
you find the same cunning!

those who lost
loved ones and land, their grief
that brings curses
is everywhere the same!

my translation of the telugu poem eppuDainA..ekkaDainA by narayanaswami, first published in andhra jyoti (august, 2007).
* mudigonda- refers to this incident.


the gallows trembled

the gallows trembled in fear
it'd heard, the hanged head
read out with pride
man's progress report

the gallows shivered
it'd seen, on the hanged head's lips
a smile that didn't wither away

the hanged head
hanged the noose.

sivasagar's tribute to kista goud and bhoomaiah who were hanged in december, 1975. [my translation of the poem: urikambam vanikindi].


cancel the licentious

She also shifted the probe focus to whether or not the pub had the licence to serve liquor.
sri ram sene needed guidance. of the temporal kind: the faithful were unsure about where is it okay to protect our sanskriti? considering, what the pub owners did or did not do seemed to be having more impact on our sanskriti than their own valiant efforts.

pub-disguised-as-a-restaurant and not having a license: is it okay to beat up girls there?
pub-not-disguised-as-a-restaurant-and-having-a-license: is it okay to beat up girls there?
pub-disguised-as-a-restaurant-and-having-enough-security: is it okay to beat up girls there?
pub-meant-for-lodgers-but-catering-to-outsiders: is it okay to beat up girls there?
pub-which-could-be-any-of-the-above-or-a-combination-of-any-two-er-three-or-something-else: is it okay to beat up and chase girls outside the pub etc?

the lord-disguised-as-a-lady answered: a pub or anywhere, as long as it's girls, with or without licenses. i mean,
anywhere without license, with girls, as long as it's pubs. let me do this slowly...girls anywhere, with or without pubs, as long as it's license...

s#$*...listen. girls, ok? beat. i grant you license.


liberal with your ears

this was not written as a post, it's a part of a mailing group discussion with a few friends (so, it's kind of wrinkled and rough, not that my other posts are very refined, but i hope this coarseness would be ignored), one of whom suggested that i should post it, as it is. so, here goes:

i thought the point you made about liberal values needs to be stressed. kunte probably wouldn't have had a case if he had taken it to the court- there was an imputation, i think, in his post that barkha's reporting had caused some deaths in kargil. this was a point she had spoken and written about a few times, on earlier occasions- it was obviously a sore point with her..her reputation itself has been built on her professed belief in liberal values (as they are seen by the elite)- she has just demonstrated how hollow those beliefs were.

it's big capital that drives our media but there is no need for individuals working in them to start believing in the illusion that it's their quality (of reporting etc.,) and hence reputation that is driving the channel..if she believed in liberal values, she'd have let it ride, especially because the small guy in india has very little control over how information is distributed (try taking ndtv off your cable or ask your local theatrewallah to exhibit certain films made by non-mainstream filmmakers) or 'opinion' is made.

if someone, a small guy, wishes to express his views publicly in india- where are the outlets? there aren't newspapers in every village. only the most fortunate classes can afford to make films or publish music or books. there is very little scope for little guys to join the almost-political associations like cultural organizations which are mostly caste or class based.. right now the internet is the only place (apart from elections) where with 5 rupees or so in probably half an hour of space, a small guy can have his say..but that again depends on very controlled distribution..less than 4 million indians can access internet occasionally. though, again, the elite have the highest access, i must emphasize, with his limited resources this is the only place where a small guy can air his views publicly.

if barkha reads blogs, i wonder if she ever wondered why the limited number of blogs by lower castes and other minorities are always so filled with bitterness? if there were other outlets for airing their views, on a consistent access basis, their bitterness would have worked itself off, over time and all those spaces. in india, liberal also means giving extra space to the small guys. being liberal with your ears.
Add to Technorati Favorites