For a fistful of self-respect


by Kalekuri Prasad
I don't know when I was born, but
I was killed on this very land thousands of years ago,
punarapi jananam punarapi maranam.
I don't know the karma theory, but
I am taking birth, again and again, in the same place where I had died.
My body dissolved in this land,
and became the Ganga Sindh plain.
When my eyeballs melted as tears,
perennial rivers flowed across this country.
When my veins spurted minerals,
this land became green and showered wealth.
I was Shambhuka in the Treta Yuga,
twenty two years ago, my name was Kanchikacherla Kotesu.
My place of birth is Kilvenmani, Karamchedu, Neerukonda,
now Chunduru is the name that cold-blooded feudal brutality
has tattooed on my heart with ploughshares.
From now on, Chunduru is not a noun, but a pronoun.
Now every heart is a Chunduru, a burning tumour.
I am the wound of multitudes, the multitude of wounds.
For generations, an unfree individual in a free country.
Having been the target
of humiliations, atrocities, rapes and torture,
I am someone raising his head for a fistful of self-respect
In this nation of casteist bigots, blinded by wealth,
I am someone who lives to register life itself as a protest.
I am someone who dies repeatedly to live.
Don't call me a victim,
I am an immortal, I am an immortal, I am an immortal.
I am the poison throated one,
who swallowed the famine so that the world may have wealth.
I am the sunrise standing on its head.
It was I who kicked the Sun on the head
to make him stand erect.
I am the one stoking slogans in my flaming heart's furnace,
I don't need words of sympathy or tears of pity,
I'm not a victim, I'm an immortal.
I am the fluttering flag of defiance.
Don't shed tears for me,
if you can,
bury me in the middle of the city;
I'll bloom as the bamboo grove that sings the melody of life.
Print my corpse as this nation's cover;
I'll spread as a beautiful future into the pages of history.
Invite me into your hearts;
I'll become a tussle of conflagrations
And rise again and again in this land.

Naren Bedide's translation of  Kalekuri Prasad's Telugu poem 'piDikeDu aatmagauravam kOsam' (from the collection of 
poetry 'daLita kavitvam- 2' ; originally published in another collection 'manDutunna chunDuuru').The original post 
appeared in The Shared Mirror on Feb 23, 2011. It can be accessed here
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