Untouchable in Pune: Mixed media by SAVI SAVARKAR
Untouchable in Pune: Mixed media by SAVI SAVARKAR
  Listen, Brahmin
 

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  Omprakash Valmiki
  Rajendra Yadav
  Malkhan Singh
  Omcherry
  Abhayanand
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Malkhan Singh

Ink drawing by K.M. ADIMOOLAM

 

I.

The story of our journey

begins with your birth

and it will end

when your life ends

II.

Listen, Brahmin

the smell of our sweat

offends you

Why donít you

one day

send your woman

with my woman

to collect filth?

And you! Come with me

We shall sit together

and cure leather

With my son

send your son

in search of a daily wage

And send your daughter

with my daughter

to reap

the headmanís fields

Tired in the evening

spread yourself on the ground

smell yourself

your son

your daughter

and you will know

the smell of life,

which is sharpened

by the smell of the body

III.

We know you find

everything

about us ugly

To stand at our shoulder

makes you small

and to see us shoulder to shoulder

knits your brows

Listen, Lord of the Earth

you were reduced

the day when

in the name of Law you

stuffed life into a frame

like a cattle-pen.

and to secure your place

at the top

you put a lock on

the staircase of four flights.

There, in the middle of the courtyard

amidst Heaven and Hell

high and low

touchable and Untouchable

ghosts and ashes

mantra and Tantra

the limitless and Brahma

bitch, soul, karma

and the properties of matter

you made a strong, regal fortress

for your flock

that held the nation in thrall.

You often say

the soul is a well

connected to the source.

Then our disgust

must hurt you

like a stake

and if not ó

Listen, supreme man!

you listen too, Dronacharya!

We despise you

We spit on your past

and on your beliefs.

Remember that now

the working manís shoulders

are no longer ready

to bear your weight

ever again.

Look!

Look out of

your fortress shut tight

the ice is melting

the foals are snorting

bullocks chew sunlight

and Eklavya is burnishing

old, rusted arrows

in the fire

Translated from the Hindi by Pratik Kanjilal

 

Malkhan Singh is among the best-known Dalit poets of contemporary India. This was the title poem of his first anthology, 'Suno Brahman' (1996). He lives in Agra