From the Diary of a Desolate Immigrant

On June 20, 2015 by admin




Shubha [translation HUG]


One of the finest poets of contemporary India, these pages from Shubha’s diary were first published in Jalsa 3  (2010). It took HUG four months to go back and forth over the writing in order to come close to the myriad shades of meaning,intonation and diction that stamp this shining work of reflective art, the nub of a lifetime.




Staying Alive


Toast your state. Stay hidden. How many of them! Many. There may be many more. Almost like infinity. Numbers mean nothing. Do not get into that groove. Numbers cannot measure their schemes. Their schemas.That job is yours. Do your job.


Be conscious. Secure your interests. If they celebrate their shamelessness, crack inane jokes, project their idealism by ridiculing their own selves, if they exhibit glossy, expensive dress, and laugh with a ho ho, you too laugh with a heehee and quietly save the vignette of a silence.  Conserve self-confidence for yourself; between them and your own self, place a sheer curtain of inferiority. If they are able to plainly see your self-confidence, they shall make you their target. Within the circle of their haughtiness, their booming presumptuous voice, do not make your sensitivity apparent. Speak to them in their own language but in lieu of arrogance, fill it with a shade of astonishment, so that you can speak to yourself in your own language. If they stand up, you stand too, if they sit, do the same and secure yourself. Never be the first one to stand in a queue. In praise, in eating and drinking, in accepting something—ignore the largest portion and pick up a smaller one—the one with a soul. When they praise and commend you, do not take that as truth; keep a close watch on their hatred. Whenever they distribute workload, hiding your own wish accept the given load, and blend your wishes into it. You have to take a call on your own work. When they express their happiness, be with them like a badge of approval and save all your sorrows within your heart; do not let that bit vacillate. Without sieving and filtering, do not let their sorrows make way to your heart. Conduct the task of sieving when you are on your own, alone, and carefully let your own sorrows mingle with theirs.


Sometimes they cannot identify their own sorrow. But you cannot safeguard yourself; in order to preserve your own sorrows, you have to share their sorrow. Keep those other eternally sorrowful ones silently in your heart, who hiding their own sorrows, are with them and pose like them. Remember, you have an alliance there.


If you feel like crying and if your eyes well up in front of them, withhold those tears. Hold those teardrops and do not forget. Cry to your heart’s content when you are alone. It gives succor the way one receives after a bath. The heart turns clear and limpid, all gloom and murk disappear and every tense muscle relaxes.Just like in the rain everything is cleansed and drenched. Crying makes you clearly see your sorrows, your happiness. Then you can carry on the sieving-work unrestrained, in a spree. Never ever ignore your tears and never be oblivious to them. Nurture this natural cascade all alone; do not waste them away.



Forgetting Claims


After all, when you left home, it was not just in search of roti and love. Roti you have anyway and these days love is a compulsion, so that life can go on. When you were turned into a refugee, you did not just wander about seeking a home. No one casts about only for a home. At that point when you feel that you are helpless or lonely, think about all those people who are in a similar state.  They are many and their ghettos and quarters are multiplying in leaps and bounds. You will notice that along with everybody, there are those too, who have been able to secure for themselves a good house and employment. But about material things they have acquired, they are never completely certain. Though not scared of natural calamities, they are forever vexed with the disquiet that something will be snatched away from them. They feel as if they have lost forever some kind of a group-song, a choir that can only be sung in a collective. At certain moments when they look at children as harbingers of hope, a threat, as if some impending menace runs through the hub of that hope. The two broken corners of the torn hope flutter above it.  They tend to overlook and forget their legitimate claims. The people, who have been constantly rendered unwanted, considered burdensome and alien—how can they place any claim as their own? Their very existence is that of an unsanctioned, forbidden creature. In spite of all these tribulations, holding onto the earth as one’s home, one must keep on placing assertions.  Only then can you think about justice perhaps. Though justice is virtually a forbidden area for you.  If you demand it, you will discover that the preparations to chase you away from the forbidden area and to annihilate you have long been finalized.




Relief Camps


The quest of being reinstated after being uprooted has made you an immigrant, although there is no space for you to return, not even in the imagination. Had there been a secure place for you to come back to, you would not have been displaced in the first place. Often people are displaced and ruined in their own place. Sometimes, as soon as a girl child is born, she immediately realizes that she is alien to that place. At the time of her send-off after marriage,she advances to a new address, baggage and all, like a desolate-disinherited soul, bestocked with provisions, goes to a relief camp. Dispossessed people are repeatedly displaced. In spite of relief camps they continue to remain landless. For such people claims cannot even begin to germinate: like after the encroachment of his land, the deposed landed farmer appears with a claim, but the copyholders and landless labourers with none such. This is how people get robbed of their home and colonies, whole districts and countries are ravaged, people are stripped of their identity, language, hope and claims. Unless one’s home, identity, language and hope are restored, no claim can be instated. People without ownership can never demand any claim. They live like immigrants with others who enjoy ownership. It is impossible for desolate immigrants to settle these days. They just live in relief camps, by buying favours from others. When goodwill and amiability dry up on the other side, tagging along their smutty canvas, polythene sheets, utensils, bed and bedding, they proceed in search of a new relief camp. Relief camps are swelling in numbers and so are the ways and methods of dispossessing people. Actually, this world is full of desolates and immigrants and yet they are in a minority, without claims and possessions.  Only when the relief camp turns into a union office like a platform for the desolate can they become claimants. But that will be a miracle.




Being Dispossessed


To settle down is a primitive urge. The one who wanders around the world in some esoteric and extended quest has also felt this urge. This urge is most fierce in the desolate immigrant. In the desolate immigrant, this longing gets stifled. There is a pause. Sometimes for a lifetime. Sometimes such longings become the denizens of the ruins and the netherworld, where only bats encircle and roam about.


Those dispossessed by natural calamities can keep their claims alive and in circulation; but the ones who have lost everything by the machinations of political force and their pimps, have nowhere to go, no claims to make whatsoever.  First their possessions and workplaces are destroyed and then their character and trust are sullied. When humans ruin other humans, their homes and family, their country and their world, all become estranged.  The dispossessed gradually forget that they too were born of the wombs of women and nurtured on suckling milk from their breasts. The ones who give birth kill their own children, the closest relations murder young boys and girls who fall in love. Lovers kill lovers, countrymen kill countrymen and the denizens of this earth kill their kindred. This insatiable lust to render people dispossessed gains such a momentum that it turns eventually into an ambition to make earth and nature barren and desolate. These days the earth is like a relief camp.  The earth itself needs relief. These lost and defeated souls must turn into something like a collective union, some platform.  After all, everything is not out there to be destroyed. That is why despite being rendered homeless and declared immigrant repeatedly, people still look for ways to settle and continue with life.






Whatever you may do, among the majority you shall always remain‘other’. May be you have turned into a minority owing to your religion, race, locality or pedigree or it could be your talent or principle or perhaps for not any of these reasons. Suppose you are, by virtue of habit, minority—then you shall be pigeonholed to the category of ‘others’. ‘Others’—those who can be made the butt of insult or ridicule. Those who earn insecurity with respect and insult alike.  Because the majority can unmaterialize any damn thing and materialize events and things that never were. The cruelty of a man burnt alive among hundreds of witnesses can be unmaterialized in a jiffy. By registering or ignoring you, by remaining silent at your turn or by singing a song even, they can unmaterialize you. All your skills and dexterity, your language, your achievements, your country can be magically unmaterialized. They can change goalposts and benchmarks at any point. They use inclinations and tragedies and twist to any side they wish to; they can project things in the reverse.  That is why it is your job to faithfully record the real. They can dismiss you. And create a bigger world of masquerade and deception than you can ever imagine. That is the reason you have to always keep proving your worth. It is like the man who has to visit the police station every passing morning and evening.




Self-existent Benchmarks


The arrogant ones go along together, many miles— and so they consider themselves to be the ultimate benchmarks.Epitomes. Heterogeneity in thought strikes them as impudence. And if by any chance you ever happen to even hint at that inclination in your manners, it would be considered a barbaric crime. Your dissidence will be marked as a sign of conspiracy.  If despite their attempts to coax, cajole and warn, you do not surrender your judgment, dissidence and divergence of thought, you will be seen as a stain that must be purged. By making you fully and completely a supplicate and bent- bow, it will be shown to the world that you are worthy of the thought and assessment of the majority. But at any given moment your being worthy can be rescinded. Unmaterialized.  So, supplicating will also not be the way. You must forge your alliances. You must place your claims.














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