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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

Son! Yesoba!

by K. G. Satyamurthy ('Sivasagar')
What can I say Sir!
My son Yesobu
died in the war.
my son, who could conquer Neerukonda,*
lies sacrificed on a slab of ice.
He left with a smile,
and returned a corpse,
smiling. He calls 'nAnna'.*
He went on foot to only return as a bridegroom.
a flowering plant has returned as a fallen banyan.
He has returned.
What can I say? And how?
People turn up here, as in a fair,
in hordes ,
and addressing them, speaking of
my son's 'sacrifices, patriotism'
is you, Sarpanch babu! Sir!
When he stopped,
people washing their animals
in the tank,
didn't you, with a whip
lash at my son's chest,
marked him with stains?
Didn’t you scheme to cut
his hands, his legs, for buying
a big ticket, and sitting beside
you in the cinema outside
our village?
Was it your daughter who glanced at him
or he at her?
I do not know, but-
to kill lion-like Yesobu
you wove the noose.
How can we forget this history?
We remember all this,
does the rain wash away the wounds, Sir?
On the untouchable's eyelids
these truths stand erect,
like crowbars driven into our hearts.
Mothers! Sirs!
My son's death:
this isn't the first,
many times in our village
he died and lived
To live, he joined the army,
and returned a corpse, alive!
Ayyo!
My mind's not in my mind.
My mind's not in my mind.
Sir! In my eyes
the pyre dances.
Son! Yesoba! Yesoba!
Yesoba! My father!
For you
I'll weep like Karamchedu,*
for you,
I'll weep like Chunduru*
for you,
I'll weep like Vempenta,*
I'll weep like yesterday's Gosayipalem*!
Father! A teardrop, large as the sky,
I'll pour like a storm for you!
Elders! Lords!
Salutations!
I wish to curse you;
a basketful of curses.
I wish to drive a basketful of wild ants
to bite you all over; you who are arriving like armies of ants
and disappear like swarms of locusts, to
see my son’s corpse,
you patriots!
Wait a second
if you're made of pus and blood, shame and honour,
if your liver hasn't melted yet,
answer this untouchable's questions:
it’s not my son you come
to visit, but his corpse.
don’t you agree?!
My son, dead, is a veera jawan,
Alive, he's a Mala* jawan,
What do you have to say?
Answer me!
Swear on your Manu.
Like a pigeon and a snake
can't be related,
your upper caste pride
can't go with patriotism.
Elders! Lords!
Listen! Listen to the untouchable word:
between the village and the wada*
there's a Kargil,
from grandfathers', forefathers' age,
burning between us
this Kargil war
hasn't stopped, it goes on.
Son! Yesoba!
On the third day
if you can't return,
find the time
to return some day
and wipe my tears! Father!

*neerukonDa, kAramcheDu, chunDuuru, vEmpenTa, gOsaayipaalem are all villages where incidents of organized 
violence against Dalits occurred. The word 'konDa' (in Neerukonda) means 'hill'.
*nAnna: father.
*Mala: a large Dalit sub-caste in South India, mainly found in Andhra Pradesh.
*big ticket: refers to a class of seating in village cinemas where patrons sit in chairs, unlike the other major class where 
everyone sits on the floor.
*wada: short for Dalitawada, or Dalit hamlet/quarter in a village.

Naren Bedide's translation of K.G.Satyamurthy's ('Sivasagar') Telugu poem kodukA! yEsobA!, written in 1999 (from 
his collection of poetry: 'Sivasagar Kavitvam').The translation first appeared on The Shared Mirror on June 15, 2012. 
You can read it here

Caste Certificate

by Madduri Nagesh Babu
He doesn't have a warrant,
nor is there any case filed against me,
but
his eyes search intensely for me,
while I cringe in fear and humiliation;

here, life is
a cops and robbers game.

II
When one gets admission,
the notice board
becomes an informer,
while fellow students become para-military squads,
until I finish my course
I am Christ carrying the cross.

III
After I get a job
my reservation becomes Judas,
selling me off to my enemies' mockery,
like I have no merit
except that piece of paper;
when the Tumkur B.E.,*
smirks maliciously at me,
I hang as a tear drop
from the thorn of many boycotts.

IV
Now it has become my crown,
the sword hiding in my scabbard,
my caste certificate
shall become the foreword
of the new history I shall write.
* Tumkur B.E: refers to someone who has an engineering degree obtained from a private college funded by capitation fees.
Naren Bedide's translation of Madduri Nageshbabu's Telugu poem 'Caste Certificate' (from his collection of 
poetry 'velivaaDa').The original post appeared on The Shared Mirror on April 28, 2010. It can be accessed here

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

I

by K.G.Satyamurthy (Sivasagar)
I am sleeping peacefully
in a sinking boat,
I will throw a net
and catch a dream-fish.
I am a long distance traveller
on hot desert sands,
I will kiss
the dates-like the beauty of  oasis.

I am the moonlight
in Guja-raatri*,
the last breath
in the ruins of the destroyed Babri masjid,
I am the beheaded stalk of grass
in Kargil.

I am sleeping peacefully
in a sinking boat,
I will throw a net
and catch a dream-fish;
I am the unheard
moment of silence on 9/11,
I am the Hurricane Isabel
which drowned
America,
I am the gathering wind of resistance
on the Cancun coast,
I am the fragrance
of the waves of tears welling up in the Tigris' eyes.

I am fire, water,
I am one soldier,
among the lakhs,
fighting in the battlefield.
I am the soldier!
I am the battlefield too!

I am sleeping peacefully
in a sinking boat,
I will throw a net
and catch a dream-fish.

I am sitting
beside the grave, laughing,
I will play on my heartstrings,
the melody of life.
*Guja-raatri: a reference to the Gujarat carnage of 2002.
Naren Bedide's translation of the Telugu poem 'nEnu' (from the collection of poetry 'Sivasagar kavitvam') by 
K.G. Satyamurthy (Sivasagar). The original translation appeared in The Shared Mirror on May 14, 2012. It can 
be accessed here

I am the Yanadi

by G.V. Ratnakar
I put the whole village to sleep
while spending sleepless nights,
I keep guard over the roads leading to the village
while Brahma Jemudus grow in the path of my life.
Who am I? I am human too.
I am Yanadi Yenkanna.
I swear on my father that I believe in the sun,
I have been withering in the sun for ages,
I have no shade to turn to;
hitching the sun to the sky directly on top of my head
to keep watch,  and swearing by the crowbar
I tied a thaali around Lachchi's neck.
I don't know
whether it is atheism or animism,
but I am the Adi Dalit
who first excommunicated Brahmanvad.
With Lachchi by my side,
I cross streams and ponds
to catch a few fish;
following the flow of water,
I throw baits and catch fish.
But now
I am aiming my spear
at the hearts of those
whales which swallow the fish;
the rich landlords who swallow our lives.
Hey! I am fumigating your homes
to collect
my dried
drops of sweat.

*Yanadi: pronounced 'yAnAdi'; the Yanadis are an extremely marginalised, pre-dravidian, tribal community who live 
in Nellore and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh, mostly. Traditionally,their chief occupations have been hunting, 
gathering, fishing etc. Though many of them are now engaged in jobs involving manual labour, a section of them still 
lead a semi-nomadic existence.
* Brahma Jemudu: a kind of cactus.
* Thaali: pronounced 'taali';  the mangalsutra.

Naren Bedide's translation of G.V. Ratnakar's Telugu poem 'yAnAdOnni' from the anthology of Dalit poetry 
'padunekkina pATa'.The translation first appeared in The Shared Mirror on March 25, 2012. It can be read here

Awwal Kalima

by Yakoob
You won't believe us,
but no one's talking about our problems
now, again, it's the tenth or eleventh generation scions,
of those who lost glories,
are speaking for all of us.

Is this what they call the  loot of experience?!

In reality, Nawab, Muslim, Saaheb, Turk-
whoever's called by those names belongs to those classes
those who lost power, jagirs, nawabi and patel splendours,
they have retained, at least, traces of those honours,
while our lives have been caged between our limbs and  bellies.
We never had anything to save.
What do we have to recount….?
We who called our mothers 'amma',
never knew she was to be called 'Ammijaan'.
Abba, Abbajaan, Papa- that's how fathers are to be called, we're told
How would we know- our ayyas never taught us that.
Haveli, chardiwar, khilwat, purdah-
how could we, of the thatched palaces, know about them?
To perform Namaaz is to bow and rise, my grandfather said!
The language of Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem, Allahu Akbar, Roza-
we never learnt them.

A festival meant rice and pickle for us,
Biryanis, fried meat, pilaus and sheer khormas for you.
You, in Sherwanis, Rumi topis, Salim Shahi shoes,
soaked in itr.
We, resplendent, in our old rags.

You won't believe us if we tell you,
and we might end up only embarrassing ourselves.

Scentusaabu, Uddandu, Dastagiri, Naagulu, China Adaam,
Laaloo, Pedamaula, Chinamaula, Sheik Srinivasu,
Bethamcharla Moinu, Paatikatta Malsooru- aren't these our names.

Sheikh, Syed, Pathan- flaunting the glories of your khandaans-
did you ever let us come closer to you?
Laddaf, Dudekula, Kasab, Pinjari
we remained relics of the time when our work bit us as caste.
We became 'Binishtis', carrying water to your homes,
and 'Dhobis' and 'Dhobans' who washed your clothes,
'Hajaams', when we cut your hair,
and 'Mehtars, Mehtaranis', when we cleaned your toilets,
we remained as relics of the age when our
occupation swallowed us as caste .

As you say, we're all 'Mussalmans'!
We don't disagree- but what about this discrimination?

We like it too- if these excavations will
unearth those accounts that remained
buried for long, why would we object?
What more do we need to know about the common enemy,
we need to discover the secret of this common friendship, now!
We agree: all those who are oppressed are Dalits
but we need to define what's oppression now!

Surprise- the language we know isn't ours, we're told!
We don't know the language you call ours,
We've ended up as a people without a mother tongue.
Cast out for speaking Telugu.
'You speak good Telugu despite being a Mussalman'!
Should I laugh or cry?

All our dreams are Telugu, our tears are Telugu too,
when we cry out in hunger,  in pain,
all our expression is Telugu!

We stood clueless when asked to perform Namaaz,
jumped up in surprise when we heard the Azaans.
We searched for only ragas in the Suras.
When told to worship in a language we didn't know,
we lost the right to the bliss of worship.

You won't believe us,
no one's talking about our problems.

Self respect is a 'dastarkhan' spread before everyone.
It isn't a privilege that belongs only to the high born.
No matter who belittles a fellow man's honour, a betrayal is a betrayal

And the loot of experience is a bigger betrayal.

Naren Bedide's translation of the Telugu poem 'Awwal Kalima' by Yakoob (from his 2002 book of poetry 'sarihaddu rEkha'). 
The original post appeared on The Shared Mirror on May 6, 2010. It can be accessed here