എലിപ്പത്തായം Elippathayam, Rat-Trap (1982)
At night we sleep with the windows bolted
in spite of the sweat,
in the women’s quarter,
elder sister and I.
The old house settles on my chest
like the grinding stone she uses each day
to make chili paste. My pale hands
burn my body.
Outside I can hear the kaju trees
growing, green poison, toward the house.
Today, again, brother
refused an offer for elder sister’s marriage:
Not good enough
for our family name.
Now from the main room, her frog-snores,
while night leaches the black from her hair,
cracks open the edges of her eyes.
I wait for the rat. In the passage
the coconut sliver I hooked onto the trap
is a thin white smile, moon
to my dark nights. Soon,
the clatter of the wooden slat falling,
the shrill squeaks, the frantic
skittering claws. Then silence.
In the morning, the huge eyes, glint-black,
will watch me as I carry the cage
through palms whose jagged leaves
splinter the sky.
Monsoon mud sucks at my feet. The pink,
hairless tail twitches. The green pond
closes over my wrist.
The cage convulses, quiets.
A few bubbles, stillness.
I know how it is.
I open the trapdoor. The limp brown body
thuds onto the ash heap
next to the others. The red ants swarm.
I watch and watch, then run
all the way home.
After bath, in front of the great gilt mirror,
grandmother’s wedding dowry,
elder sister combs the wet dark
down my back. I press on my forehead,
for luck, vermillion paste
like a coin of blood,
check my white teeth.
They look smaller, sharper, rodent-honed.
Our eyes meet, glint black, in the smoky mirror.
Red ants swarm up my spine.
—The Rat-Trap by Chitra Divakaruni
Stork! Stork! Red-legged stork!
Red-legged stork with the coral beak that tapers
Like the cleft root of the fruitful palmyrah tree!
When you and your wife have bathed at the southern cape,
If you should return to the North,
Stop at the home of Sattimurram at our village,
And tell my wife, who must be intently watching
The clicking lizard on the rain-wet wall,
That in the city of our king Maran,
without a garment, and shivering from the cold,
Covering my body with my hands,
Embracing my bosom with my legs,
And sighing like a snake within a case,
Me, you have seen here.
— Sattimurram Pulavar (translated by C. Jesudasan and Hephzibah Jesudasan)
Let us put aside the arms and convene a round table conference.
We have no nation, no identity,
We have no land to till, no house to live in.
You did not leave even a blade of grass for us since times of Aryavart.
OK, we would forget that.
Are you ready to break the walls that you constructed in the village?
We are ready to dissolve like sugar in milk.
Will you tolerate if your Draupadi selects our son Galiya as her husband?
And will your Arjun accept our daughter Raili if she comes as new Chitrangada?
Let us pull the dead cattle turn by turn, do you agree?
We are ready to eat your leftover food,
Will you eat leftover food at our marriage ceremony?
Let us remove provisions for reservation from our constitution.
Our Magan and Chhagan will compete on open merit basis,
But will you give admission to them in your convent schools?
Let us put aside arms,
and till the fertile land of our country together.
But will you give us half the share of the harvest?
—“Farewell to Arms” by Pravin Gadhavi (translated by G.K. Vankar)
Last night’s cooking fire
Whelped on your doorstep
Your core burned
Ceaseless in her womb
Your bed sucked
Her dry of
Now you must burn
Keep your nest
For her chicks
And of course you must
Bloody your hands
Seek a knife
To cut the cord
Cover yourself my girl
And don’t weep
For the cooking fire
Of yesterday birthed
On your doorstep.
—“Stove (Cul)” Prathiba Pore (translated by Gauri Deshpande)
When I was born I was not a child
I was a dream, a dream of revolt
that my mother, oppressed for thousands of years,
Still it is untouched in my eyes
Covered with wrinkles of thousand years, her face
her eyes, two lakes overflowing with tears
have watered my body
I remember she went for water at your well
a mile away scorched by the summer sun
breathless she returned home and what she offered me,
was not water
but her sweat.
You taught her respect:
‘brother, sir, father, mother, we are your children, let us live, father”
You allowed her not near the village well
You allowed her not near the village hall
You allowed her not near the letters
In the marshland of your cunningness
You trapped my mother and she struggled.
In your empire so violent
every moment my mother was slaughtered.
She will now breathe in a free air
Her body scorched by sun will get cool shade of neem
Your well will wash her feet and
Your village office will be her throne
Your letters will become her weapons.
Look, I am the lord of Saraswati who was thus far yours and yours alone.
I am the lord of Lakshmi who was thus far yours and yours only
My daughter pulls ears of Ganpati considering him an animal
I do not decorate her eyes with lampblack, but with defiance.
Now they will burn and burn
Your flats and tenements, your schools and your offices
Your chains and your police stations, your village offices and your temples.
I am the live coal, the coal that burns
In the hut that you set ablaze.
I have some wind of the freedom
Now I am the fire.
When I was born I was not a child
I was a dream,
A dream of revolt
That my mother,
Oppressed for thousands of years dreamt.
—“When I Was Born” Sahil Parmar
It is just as well
that I got to know
from the very start.
Simply because my feet
touched the ground
you are seeking to purify it,
sprinkling holy cowdung water.
Had I requested
your house on rent
you would have been enraged
and driven me out
like a pariah dog.
Perhaps you do not know
that the land your house stands on
is surrounded by air
suffused with my dirty breath.
The bricks of your house
have been made from clay
from the river bed
where my humble hut stands,
molded by the supple hands
of men whom you have discarded,
calling them untouchable.
Now you have moved
into your beautiful house
you preach that untouchables
are not human beings,
that they are worse than animals,
to be despised.
if you have the moral courage,
strip open the walls
and look at the rubble
how each atom of brick and sand
bears the sweet smell
—“Smell of Untouchability” Basudev Sunani