Greetings


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
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