Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Exiled Flowers

If that’s the order we bow our heads.
We will call flowers by any other name,
Will the fragrance die?
And if we call them flowers,
Will the stench go?

Where there is a village, there is a street of flowers.

These flowers since centuries were in the dark
Sometimes, if they got full moon night, bloomed like lotus.
Sometimes spread fragrance like ratrani
Sometimes would sob like Nargis silently.

But no sooner the sun of this century saw them compassionately
than they began blooming.
with such colors, that butterflies would fall in love.
With such fragrance, that bees would forget to sting.

Everywhere spread the fragrance of these rustic flowers.
Parliament, secretariat, schools and colleges
As if their exhalation alone
Polluted the environment.

Where there is a village, there is street of flowers.
That I understand.

But I cannot tolerate this disgraceful drama of these flowers.
They may enjoy loitering in the President's Moghul garden.1
But no, they cannot be in Nathdwara.
May Gandhiji put them on his head,
You trample them, crush them,
These untouchable flowers.

But how will we offer pooja without the flowers.
How will we fill swing of manorath?2
How will we worship our honorable god, the abdomen?
With blooming of these flowers
Joyous are our latrine-like lives.

These are parijats of the earth,
In every village, every city.
that’s why we shall have to nurture the street of flowers
as one would care for a silkworms.

If the government orders
We will call flowers by any other name
Will the fragrance die?
And if we call them flowers
Will the stench go?

( from Bahishkrut Phoolo )

Translator’s note:
The poet replaces Phool, i.e. Flower, for Dhed, i.e. derogatory word for Dalit used in Gujarat

1. Reference to dalit president

2. Vaisnavite pooja ritual

Saturday, March 7, 2009

welcome, friends

dear friends,

i am a gujarati dalit poet venturing for the first time to express
on net my thoughts and views and feelings - mostly in poetry
but occasionally in prose too.

i welcome you all to read and respond/react - by posting your
own poetry or prose as you wish. The common concern for
the victimised and despised community called dalits should
be our longer lasting tie as friendly bloggers.

To begin with, may i post a short poem :

The Song of Our Shirt

We are a fashionable caste
or tribe you may call :

our forefather Mayo Dhed
had a shirt of 3 sleeves,

his father had a shroud as his shirt
and his father wore a shirt of his own skin.

I am no less fashionable -
just got a pocketless, sleevesless, buttonless,
Peter England, the Second
from the pavements I sweep.

Every passer-by is tempted to pay his respects
to the label of the lords
but without touching my collar-bone.

Our shirt has a song to sing
of bizarre fashions.


Note :

In medieval Gujarat, untouchables were forced to wear
3-sleeved shirt so that caste Hindus can identify them
and keep away from them.
The dalit folklore has a hero called Mayo Dhed who sacrificed
his life for doing away with such humiliating practice.