by Kathi Padma Rao
A century will end, a new year will arrive. If what's happening now is war, why shouldn't the one arriving be war? You know the candles you're lighting are dying, the earthen lamps in your streets are signs of your darkness. why do you light up all the festive pandals, while leaving the lamp in your heart unlit? Yes, until yesterday your hut used to burn to ashes, today, used as firewood in the winter fires lit in your gudem,* you've turned into soot. It was in Vempenta** that they were burnt alive, you can go on celebrating the festival until those flames touch us. With the sharpened knives the babus gave you, cut your body into two, to inspire the fistfuls of blood, to flow as a canal in your gudems. This new year, take a manusmriti as a greeting from those babus. To commemorate your happiness, feast on your children's future, cut, like bread, into pieces, as a reflection of the blood, replacing the body of Christ. This is a happy occasion, we shouldn't think about anything. Even if the ground under our feet is cutting us like the teeth of a saw, we'll shout in joy and chase away all the street dogs to rule the alleys tonight. Students! Let's sweep all our university rooms clean. Come, let's pile up all those glass shards on pages torn from our books, Ambedkar will be born again anyway to light lamps in our dark rooms and burn our black lips with hot coals to purify them, to love us and then leave. Brothers! You, who ate the first fruits, are you handing over new begging bowls to the next generation? Yes this is a new year, only those who were martyred are singing the song of war, only that song is our guide. Men become lovers of war, not to walk with history, but to run it.
*guuDem: Dalit quarter in a village. ** Vempenta refers to this incident. Naren Bedide's translation of Kathi Padma Rao's poem 'Greeting' (from his collection of poetry, 'mulla kiriiTam'). The translation first appeared on The Shared Mirror on April 26, 2010. You can read it here