Corona is deadly, but not a bloodthirsty oppressor.
Raashid Maqbool – poet, teacher, scholar, journalist, friend-recited this ghazal to me in late December 2019 in his dusty car, parked on the side of a main thoroughfare in Srinagar, Kashmir. We had only an hour ago driven by a macabre spectacle: a young man, no more than 25 years of age, was being dragged by his long hair, his body bouncing against the rutted road as he flailed and kicked in protest.
Transcript and translation of Sharjeel Imam’s speech at AMU by Evita Das, Akshat Jain & Shahrukh Khatib
Poor republic labours
And asks for two handfuls of rice-
They find jaat paat under republic’s lungi.
Hunger burns in republic’s stove.
Republic is lame and maimed
Someone crushes republic in a mortar’s nook.
On 26 January, Indian Republic day— Late Namdeo Dhasal mourns the republic. Translated from Marathi by late Dilip Chitre. Taken from Navayana He’d be…
I never learnt Jana Gana Mana.
Every Independence Day was our annual celebration
As a day of burning flames and protests,
A day of complete shutdown.
Each day, a day of murder, a day of rape
A day when crimson tears fell on each memory’s hearth
My heart never could feel the love for Jana Gana Mana
This anthem did not bear the name of my land
Nor the names of my rivers, my hills.
My familiarity with the Shillong hills is not new. Probably Shillong will remind you of Amit and Labanya of ‘Sesher Kobita’ (the last poem). But however great a poet Rabindranath may be, there is no fitting image of Shillong in ‘Sesher Kobita’. The reason for this is that he never developed a kinship with Shillong. However, Rabindranath being an intelligent person, by naming it ‘Sesher Kobita’ he meant it to be a poem rather than a novel. If someone wants to write a novel, one cannot do it by excluding the inhabitants of Shillong, especially hill tribes like the Khasis. In his description and in the treatment, there is absolutely no flavour of Shillong.
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.
I have learnt from the Facebook that Ranjan has shot Lord of the Orphans in his I-phone. He admits at Dhaka this time that about 20% of the film is shot in 7+ and 8 models of I-phones. Rest was done in Sony Alpha 7S2 camera. Both are light-weight. So called professional camerapersons would not perhaps even dream to use them. Ranjan is professional nonetheless. He kept his profession aside for a while. This actually was the illness he was suffering from. He planned Lord of the Orphans while recuperating.
Everything will be okay tomorrow
Tomorrow everything will be okay
Tomorrow the great media will
Deliver the propaganda pizza
Tomorrow everything will be okay
There are political rights; a government is set up in the land. Democracy functions with total success. An election is held every five years. But for the people in this land there are no names. So for the nameless citizens the nameless representatives govern the land of the half-humans. Because whether to give human names to the head or to the body — no one can decide. A land such as this is very much in the news, a land much talked about.
Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, artist and author of the autobiographical Finding My Way (2016), found himself at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London speaking on 21 June at a seminar on “Indigenous Media, Self-Determination and Cultural Activism”. This poem came to him then as he first typed out Hindi in Roman script on his phone and sent it to his friend and accomplice S. Anand, publisher at large at the small Navayana. Anand felt impelled to find the words in English just like he did when working with Venkat on his autobiography. Venkat’s work has been exhibited worldwide, including at Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, in 2013.
“Bhairavi was trying hard to concentrate on her Haruki Murakami novel as she kept tossing on her mahogany bed. But she was frequently getting distracted by the beautiful sharp notes of Himachali folksongs she played on her laptop just a short while ago.
At that moment, she suddenly heard a hiss hiss sound coming from the window near her. She was dazed to see an enormous python creeping through her window railings and slipping along its body towards her room. A chunk of his large smoky body glittered in the mid-day sunlight.
At a book reading in Kolkata, about a week after my first novel, The God of Small Things, was published, a member of the audience stood up and asked, in a tone that was distinctly hostile: “Has any writer ever written a masterpiece in an alien language? In a language other than his mother tongue?” I hadn’t claimed to have written a masterpiece (nor to be a “he”), but nevertheless I understood his anger toward a me, a writer who lived in India, wrote in English, and who had attracted an absurd amount of attention. My answer to his question made him even angrier.
“Nabokov,” I said. And he stormed out of the hall.
My mother is a woman with ten tongues
That is why she raves incessantly
Unmindful whether it’s day or night!
I run from home to bazaar
Muddle-headed on lanes and streets
Like an owner-less dog;
When I returned she fumed again
“Offspring of sin why don’t you die
At least other children die by swallowing poison”,
I became so angry my blood boiled,
From my heart my pulse bounced in and out.
Soso Tham refused to believe that a people with no evidence of a written history was without foundation or worth. He set out to compile in verse shared memories of the ancient past—ki sngi barim—presenting his people with their own mythology depicting a social and moral universe still relevant to the present day. For him the past is not a dark place but a source of Light, of Enlightenment. It may lie buried but it is not dead, and when discovered will provide the reason for its continued survival. Ki Sngi Barim U Hynñiew Trep is the lyrical result of dedicated devotion. It is an account of how Seven Clans—U Hynñiew Trep—came down to live on this earth.
“Brothers and sisters
this day is dying
a two-minute silence
for this dying day
It was the fifth day of the new year. In the afternoon, Yakku looked out of the window of his taxi and shouted, “Mr Writer, happy new year has happened in Dhankheti!” A little joy was also mixed in his voice.
Laugh – you are being watched,
Laugh, but not at yourself because its bitterness
Would be noticed and you would not survive it
Laugh in a way that your happiness does not show
As it would be suspected that you do not participate in the remorse
And you would not survive it
RAIOT is pleased to publish this second extract from ‘Chandal Jibon’ (2009) by Manoranjan Byapari. ‘Chandal Jibon’ is the story of Jibon, a boy born into the hitherto ‘untouchable’ Chandal (or Namasudra) community in East Bengal, whose parents flee from East Pakistan and arrive as refugees in India. The story of the boy’s journey to adulthood – is also the story of the experience of the subaltern Bengali refugee community and of caste oppression, humiliation and violence, providing a trenchant bottom-up view of post-1947 Bengal and of Calcutta in the turbulent Naxalite era. It is an epic tale of the indomitable human will to survive.
That everything in Ayodhya
Which was demolished
‘Chandal Jibon’ (2009) by Manoranjan Byapari is the story of Jibon, a boy born into the hitherto ‘untouchable’ Chandal (or Namasudra) community in East Bengal, whose parents flee from East Pakistan and arrive as refugees in India. The story of the boy’s journey to adulthood – is also the story of the experience of the subaltern Bengali refugee community and of caste oppression, humiliation and violence, providing a trenchant bottom-up view of post-1947 Bengal and of Calcutta in the turbulent Naxalite era. It is an epic tale of the indomitable human will to survive.
One of the greatest Tamil poets, C. Subramania Bharathi’s wrote a poem welcoming Russian Revolution – in a translation by V. Geetha
9 poems of Pranabendu Dasgupta in a translation by Brinda Bose
In this excerpt from his autobiography, Syed Ali Shah Geelani talks of 1947, the tribal invasion and Indian Army in Kashmir
Even after hearing news of thirty or sixty or three hundred children dying
I don’t do much of anything at all, just close my eyes for a little while
Nothing has changed.
It’s just that there are more people,
and beside the old offences new ones have sprung –
real, make-believe, short-lived, and non-existent.
But the howl with which the body answers to them,
was, is and ever will be a cry of innocence
according to the age-old scale and pitch.
An extract from Assamese novelist Dhrubajyoti Bora’s novel Kalantoror Gadya (The Prose of Tempest) (1997) written in the background of the ULFA insurgency and counter insurgency operations by Indian Security Forces in the 1990’s. It deals with the arrival of AFSPA, army operations and state terrorism in the province and the changes it brought to the local landscape.
I am a Hindu and in these murderous Hindu times
I think they won’t kill me
But what would I do if spared
Two poems by Thangjam Ibopishak in a translation by Robin Ngangom
Rice! A mountain of cooked rice lay piled up on the cement floor. And standing by the door was Dhiren Roy, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment. Hot, steaming rice. As he inhaled the aroma, a strange transformation came over him. He began weeping convulsively. “Oh dear ones, look down from heaven, see how much rice I’m master of now! You died for want of a handful of rice, but see me now! I’m the king of rice today!”
The cow is the wife of the bull …
That day, my love isn’t very far away
When pain will end my life’s journeys
When my inner anguish transcend its limits
My desperate and unsuccessful glances tire
My sighs and tears lose their fire
And my hopeless youthful life be torn away from me
Karthik Venkatesh translates Sahir Ludhiyanvi’s poem aao k koi Khwaab buneiN
Ghosh babu said dryly, “Cut it into five or six bits. You’re used to cutting meat. After that wrap the pieces in a banana leaf and get to the road, go and tie it to stones and throw it into the river. That’s all the work there is. Dharmaraj remembered the time Ghosh babu’s elder daughter got married. He had been called to cut the goats. Ten or twelve goats were tied to a post. He had instructed him likewise, “Cut it nicely into medium-size pieces. Not too small, not too large, you can take the skin, heads and everything else.” Today it occurred to him that for these people there was no difference at all between men and goats. But Dharmaraj was just an ordinary butcher. His hands and legs turned icy. Sensing Dharmaraj’s plight, Ghosh babu said, “Liquor has been brought, gulp a bottle, once you’re intoxicated you won’t have a clue about what you’re cutting. Get to work at once. The work has to be completed in two hours.
Kashmir is no longer yours
Kashmir is no longer mine
Kashmir is for those
who are alive
in the breathe of Kashmir
My roots, and house and home and forest, my village –
All that I had left behind, in the folds of lost time.
Where was it that my traces were once alive –?
Medinipur or Bankura or was it Kalahandi?
I don’t like the boring drone of talk about literature. Instead let me now tell the story of a mosquito.
The mosque stands demolished
Judgements have been passed on genocides
Why then is Mr Justice asking for more judges
There is no difference,
between loving someone
and reading a book.
Remembering the birth anniversary of U Soso Tham, most celebrated poet of the Khasi Jaintia Hills, Raiot presents five of his most well known poems, translated into English by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih.
Forgetting, is it the same as getting justice?
Translation of a poem by Manglesh Dabral, one of the most important contemporary poets writing in Hindi. Manglesh recently returned his Sahitya Akademi award in protest at the silence of the Akademi at murders of writers and state’s complicity in rising intolerance in India.