Untouchable in Pune: Mixed media by SAVI SAVARKAR
Untouchable in Pune: Mixed media by SAVI SAVARKAR
  My ancestors

  Vol VI : issue 4 & 5

  Sukhadeo Thorat
  Thomas Weisskopf
  Sitaram Yechury
  Omprakash Valmiki
  Rajendra Yadav
  Malkhan Singh
  Only in Print
  Current Issue


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Omprakash Valmiki

You said

The Shudra is born from the feet of Brahma

And the Brahmin from his head

And they did not ask you

Where was Brahma born from?

You said

Service is the duty of the Shudra

They did not ask

What will you give for it?

You were happy

You now had slaves

They were happy too

Happy for you

They had put all their power

In your hands.

The body unclothed

The stomach unfed

Hurt, and yet

They smiled

For they saw you smiled.

They did not know

How to loot

The weak and the innocent!

Did not know

That murder

Is the badge of courage

That robbery is not a crime

It is but culture.

How innocent they were

My ancestors


Yet untouchable.

  What would you do?

If you

Are thrown out of your village

Cannot draw water from the well

Are abused

In the screaming, echoing afternoon

Told to break stones

In place of real work

Are given leavings to eat

What would you do?

If you

Are told to drag away

Animal carcasses


Carry away the filth

Of a whole family

Given hand-me-downs to wear

What would you do?

If you

Are kept far from books

Far from the threshold

Of the temple of learning

If you are hung up like Jesus

On a blackened wall

In the light of an oil-lamp

What would you do?

If you

Have to live

In a hut of mud and straw

Which can be flattened by a breath

Or swept away in a night of rain

If you are told to sleep

In knee-deep water

What would you do?

If you

Have to swim against the current

To open the doors of pain

And do battle with hunger

Send your newlywed women

To the landlordís mansion

On the first night

What would you do?

If you

Are denied in your own land

Made slave labour

Stripped of your rights

Your civilisation burned away

The pages of your glorious history

Torn to shreds

And thrown away

What would you do?

If you

Cannot vote

Are beaten bloody

Beaten in the name of democracy

And at every step reminded of

How insignificant your race is

If your life stinks

If your hands are raw

And yet they tell you

Dig canals, dig drains

What would you do?

If you

Are insulted in public

Your property is snatched away

In the name of religion

Your women told

To become devdasis

And made prostitutes

What would you do?

Your fair complexion

Would be burned black

Your eyes would be dry, dead

You could not write on paper

Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.

Descendant of the gods, you

Would be lame, a cripple

If you had to live thus for ages

Like me

What would you do?

Translated from the Hindi by Pratik Kanjilal


Leading Dalit poet and fiction writer, Omprakash Valmiki is best known for his autobiography, 'Joothan'.
He lives in Dehradun