By Madduri Nagesh Babu
'The poet should be a complete man'. Feel angry Feel impatient Like pins are being stuck all over my body Like I am being skinned and salt and pepper are being rubbed over my flesh I feel stuffy, uncomfortable Like being stranded in a tunnel and struggling to find my way; I am the carcass of the mosquito which died stuck between palm leaf manuscripts, I am the empty centuries bleeding from the weight of the thorny crown of distorted oral literatures. My mind became fuel for some fictional fire accident My imagination is crouching in shame, fear and submissiveness in some crevices of humiliations-filled latrines I have no Jandhyam*, no Sandhya You won't find a letter if you cut open my stomach, I have no faith in prophets or reformers and, especially, no loyalty either; Feel hot Feel a nausea stirring in my stomach Feel like I am listening to Sanskrit Slokas A desire resulting in action A bird flapping its wings to fly A man living as a man– When all these remain mere illusions When I always remain an unending debt When un-men pass off as human and honourable– how can I be a man? How can I think with complete humanity? I eat salt and pepper like everyone, I am an ordinary living creature composed of weaknesses, satiations and passions: it might be possible for a Mahatma to forgive and offer his tears to someone who has raped his mother in front of his eyes, stripped, paraded and banished her, to wash his loins, but not for me. It might be possible for some good soul even in the last days of this 20th century to love Manu and his serpent offspring and write worldly love letters, but I can't do it I was born to one father I love my country and citizenship From the age of the Vedas I've been dreaming with sweaty eyes of realising here a heaven without caste and varna I am not a complete man You might not accept me as a poet You might not have a seat for me in your literary sabhas nor a page, a line in your underhand literary history it still doesn't matter I still can't show my cheek again I can't chop off and present my thumbs or heads to prove my humility and loyalty Feel foul Feel very disgusted Feel very Chunduru Chunduru Feel very Karamchedu Karamchedu I need a great bath now I need a purification– until then, the need to prove myself human is a great historic un-necessity.
*Jandhyam: janeu, the Brahmin's sacred thread.
Naren Bedide's translation of Madduri Nagesh Babu's Telugu poem 'oka raakshasuDi prakaTana' (from his collection of poetry 'velivaaDa'). The original post appeared on The Shared Mirror on October 14, 2010. It can be accessed here