Raghuvir Sahay (1928-1990) is among the most significant figures on the modern literary scene in India. A Hindi poet who belonged to a poliltical current which while calling for decolonisation of Indian cultural world, did not fall into the dark world of nativism. While his comrades were fighting to dislodge English from its position of socio cultural power, his poem simply titled Hindi challenged them to think through their Hindi supremacists biases. The poem was translated from Hindi by Harish Trivedi and Daniel Weissbort.
We were fighting
a language battle to change society.
But the question of Hindi is no longer simply a question of
we have lost out.
O good soldier,
know when you’re beaten.
And now, that question
which we just referred to in connection with the so-called
let’s put it this way:
Were we and those on behalf of whom we fought
the same folk?
Or were we, in fact, the agents of our oppressors–
sympathetic, well-meaning, well-schooled agents!
Those who are the masters are slaves.
Their slaves are those who are not masters.
If Hindi belongs to the masters,
then in what language shall we fight for freedom!
The demand for Hindi
is now a demand
for better treatment–
put by the agents
to their slave-masters.
They use Hindi in place of English,
while the fact is
that their masters
use English in place of Hindi-
the two of them have struck a deal.
He who exposes this hypocrisy
will dispose of Hindi’s slavery.
This will be the one who, when he speaks Hindi,
will show us what simple folk really feel.