That Brass Of Our Inheritance

On July 7, 2015 by admin

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 Translations: Tarun Bhartiya

 ____________________________________

 

Raghuvir Sahay

 

Laugh Laugh Laugh Instantly

 

Laugh – you are being watched,

 

Laugh  but not at yourself because its bitterness

Would be noticed and you would not survive it

Laugh in a way that your happiness does not show

As it would be suspected that you do not participate in the remorse

And you would not survive it

 

While laughing, don’t let anyone know who you are laughing at

Let them all believe that like them you laugh

A defeated laugh of intimacy

Just as they laugh instead of speaking

 

As long as that mighty round dome reverberates you can

Speak to yourself

When the echo is about to fade laugh again

Because if found quiet, you shall be indicted for resistance

If you laugh at the end then all will laugh and you can be safe

 

Laugh but be careful of the jokes

Jokes have words

And words may have meanings ascribed by some person a century ago

 

It is better to laugh while talking

So that the talk looses all significance

And laugh on those compulsory moments

Like the assault on the destitute by the privileged

When no one can do a thing

Except for that destitute

And even he often laughs

 

Laugh laugh laugh instantly

Laugh before they leave

While shaking their hands

With pleading eyes

Laugh and remind them

That you had laughed yesterday

 

 1

Coming Danger

 

In this shameful and defeated age

Go and find a mind

Which does not flatter out of habit

 

Go and find poverty

Which asks nothing for itself

And let it for once stare you in your eyes

 

Do it right now, for the people have started flourishing

Women would drink, men would eat – Ramesh

There would come an age like this- Ramesh

No one would have any point of view – Ramesh

There would be anger but no resistance

Except for petitions – Ramesh

There would be Danger and Danger’s warning bell

And the King would ring it – Ramesh

2

 

Your Laugh

 

The poor are being oppressed

you said and laughed

Democracy on its death bed

you said and laughed

Everyone is corrupt

you said and laughed

Everyone despondent

you said and laughed

So secure you must be

I thought

Suddenly finding me alone

you laughed

 

3

***

 

Dhoomil 

 

Lying Next To That Woman

 

For the first time I felt

That nudity

Militates

Against blindness

 

Lying next to that woman

I felt that where hatred and

Candles have proved useless

And the shadows of the melted

Words have turned into faces

Of menacing animals, my

Poems survive on a diet of

Mud and meat

 

To rub out and

Obliterate time

It is not enough to have bouncing bodies

While our faces face

Leaking pots in the kitchen

And night

Does not become a path

When water melons are being slaughtered inside us

But our heads have

Turned to stone on the pillows

Lying next to that woman

I have felt that home is

Built on curses of small comforts

And where it is forbidden to

Walk with shoes

This is grass i.e. green fear

Enforcing my thoughts

Is it not nice

That my neighbour has lost

All his teeth

Like frostbitten peas

Movements in his thighs

Have collapsed

And termites

Have eaten through his ocular health

 

Lying next to that woman

(when suddenly

the pumps fell silent

in front of dingy houses)

I felt  that to turn

Breathlessly into a forest next to a swamp

Is not a man’s habit but his petty helplessness

And there lives a coward mind inside me

Which not only protects

But is heir to my buttons

4

 

 ***

 

 Asad Zaidi

 

East of  West

 

The poor knows nothing beyond his village

The one who is less poor has seen the whole district

Only the tyrants have seen the province and the nation

They are the ones discovering novel ways of devotion

Turning people into radishes and carrots

And the poor into dried dark pickle

 

Even the English found India very Indian

As it seems these days to some

Hindi Journalists

7

 

Nineteen Hundred and Sixty Five

 

I am talking about Aapaa[2] who is

Talking about Ammi[3] who is talking of her

Shauher[4] who was talking of that Officer who was

Talking about the country who was talking

About the war in a screaming voice

Right now I am not going to talk of Pakistan

 

Hindi Journalism

 

I have a packet in my pocket

It would profit you if you buy it

View it and you would be surprised at your ability

Feed it to a bad Muslim

He would mutate into a good Hindu

If a good Sikh eats it

He would surely vanish in an instant

Come on Sir, taste it, you shall be blessed with a grandson soon

8

 

Poetry Reading

 

I went to a place

famous for its

goons

disillusioned prophets

and unemployed  half-poets

 

It was evening

and in my welcome a light was lit

 

Audience trickled in one by one

I kept getting their introductions – what they did what was their name

Things I  am sure to forget

Students, clerk, few teachers

even a postman and a Paanwaal

That wretched Panwaadi

He was smiling a very paternal smile

and offering examples of self-composed poetry

 

I spied a few old ladies

some girls-adolescents

Some Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh louts

Extending their humble respects – O God

how would poetry be saved in this province

 

At last, clattered in

wife of the city administrator

to kick off  the show

(Recently I saw in the papers

a small news item announcing her death

reasons unknown)

 

9

 

Ancestral Cannon

 

Come sometimes to our place

To view our glorious destitution

 

There is this medieval cannon

Difficult to use

 

That brass of our inheritance

Has turned green, iron turned to black

 

Takes an hour to stuff the gunpowder

Half of that to light the fuse

Just about the same time it takes to take position

 

Janaab1, to attack the enemy

We have no weapon

Worse and unreliable than this

 

The enemy start cheering

The moment they face it

 

It is not even useful for the guard of honour

How long can you make

The guest wait at the door

10

 

1857 : Search for Material

 

Wars of 1857, which were very distant wars

Are wars that are nearer these days

 

In this age of shamefulness and crime when

Every wrongdoing appears to be self-inflicted

The rumblings of the drums of rebellion and

A very native Hindustani racket and commotion

Panicky middlemen and informers’ murmurings

Anxious wanderings of small landholders waiting to jump sides

Can be heard

 

Perhaps this is the influence of novels written in the past

And commercial cinema

 

But this is not the racket of those 150 crore rupees which

The Government of India has sanctioned to celebrate

150 years of India’s ‘First War for Freedom’

By the pen of that Prime Minister who regrets

Every war for freedom and apologises to the whole world for them

He, who is ready to sacrifice everything for

The national goal of better servitude

 

This is the memory of that fifty seven which

Was wiped clean by a Pan Indian Elite

Bankims and Amichands and Harishchandras

And their descendents parked comfortably on their cushions

They who never wanted anything but better servitude

It is that fifty seven for which

Moolshankars, Shivprasads, Narendranaths, Eashwarchandras, Syed Ahmeds,

Pratap Narayans, Maithali Sharans and Ramchandras

Had nothing but silence and disdain

And which was finally remembered only seventy-eighty years later by Subhadra

In Hindi’s officially polite literary canon

 

This is the memory of that tradition which is

Kept alive 150 years later by suiciding farmers suicide

And weavers of this land whom

It is even difficult to call rebels and who are just crunched as numbers

In the statistics of National growth and poverty line(s)

Like a sad, dirty and anarchic procession

They exit Special Economic Zones towards mass graves and crematoriums

Who has made them so forlorn?

Perhaps in 1857 common people were fated

to be dusty and dirty – every one accepted it then

But has become a serious crime now

 

Usually wars remain unfinished, to be finished later

In some other age with some other weapon

Sometimes as it happens those dusty and dirty dead get up and attack again

Challenging the undead who seem more dead than the dead

Dead ask them the names of their battalions, brigades and commanders

Or maybe thinking of them as sympathisers start telling them

Now I shall move towards Najafgarh

Or in confusion start asking for the route to Bakhtawarpur

 

Dead of 1857 say Forget about our Feudal commanders

Or how they fought for the return of their influence

And how we died for them

 

Say something for yourself

 

Is there no injustice left in your world

Or it is you who cannot imagine its end

11

 

Old Hand

Not many would know that once
I had been a drama critic
and horoscope writer at the same time
in a paper run by an ageing Freedom Fighter
and edited by his ex-boyfriend – a man in his late 30s
perpetually carrying a hurt look in his eyes

‘You have been assigned a double duty…’
the editor paused and looked at me as if to catch
something in my expression and continued:
‘but be clear, you have to keep the two
strictly apart: astrologer in the afternoon
theatre critic in the evening.
No mix up… ha-ha
and no byeline for three months.’

Not sure what would be best
I just mumbled thanks

Fireworks started a week later.
I was an instant hero with the compositors
who loved the drama and spice in my forecasts
and sometime would cleverly add their bit after the
galley proofs were seen — these were my real comrades
in those days of letterpress and ageing lead fonts —
and I ran afoul of all the theatre groups in town
and the foremost actress who knew the home minister
the prima donna however decided to target the editor
than the upstart critic who called her mediocre.

I was out in three months, the editor
gave a warm hug: ‘O boy, how did you manage
to offend so many in such a short time?
They are baying for my blood…
that bitch says I am responsible
egged on by that dramatist that shallow man
he is a pimp, pimp, pimp…
do you want me to go instead of you? ‘

‘It’s alright’, I said
with a lump in my throat.

And he said:
‘The boss wants to see you. In his house.’

What harm could that do now I thought and
there I was face to face with the Freedom Fighter.

‘I wanted to meet you’, he said,
‘and ask you to remember me as a friend. OK?
You have been reading my stars rather well
and at this stage don’t have to worry about your own…
You are a very talented young man
but you need a bit of grooming…
this house will always be open for you.’
And he stretched his old, immensely sad hand.

He really appeared to me a sad man.

(Translation of Old Hand from Hindi: Asad Zaidi)

aaa

***

 

Tarun Bhartiya

 

Extracts from Shillong-Sohra Road

 

The Car in front

has eight passengers instead of five

The child catches the anxious wind

 

In the boot an old suitcase

holding onto its belonging

Like a cranky old man

 

Rain trapped in Shilot

And some abandoned clouds

Roam the hills with tourist like rush

 

On the car flutters a red flag

Tying its messenger-the rooster

With a white sun

 

Rooster does not inform the gods

But tells us

That just around here

 

West of this British imagined road

Towards Dympep

Is a name which only appears in revenue maps

 

Mawbeh

And a dance that does not even try

To seduce photographs

 

Without any plans we follow the car

The child leans out of the window

Tastes the mist and beckons us

 

2

 

This is my daughter’s first Sohra journey

Me and her mother seem more excited than her

See that is bamboo- Did you see the pig

Yes the same pig who in the book cleverly

ate the runaway pancake

She doses off

She who does not even have her clan name

Or whose breeding has been declared suspect

By the highest court of this land

 

In her dreams she echoes her mother’s sorrow

 

Like at this moment the jungle sits

In that sorrow, the jungle she did not see

Before Mawkduk

On the right was the forest

Whose dkhar adjective is sacred

Says Angela

When she was traveling in these areas for dkhars

Meaning those who create maps – who hate

Unanthologised earth like they seem to know the

Meaning of every message if they meet Ba Hep on the third hill

The story of Ba Hep’s wife who eloped will seem to them

Like an epic

Meaning she hated being the native interpreter

Meaning she found me

Me who does not even know

The names of the forests whose

Ghosts scamper through my

Daughter’s dreams

 

3

When the British reached here

Preserving their pen

Clouds rubbed the tiredness

On their words

 

Now on these hills

Lovers run away

From the gates of the caves imprinted on these skies

In the shadows of their grave stones

They kiss and yawn

With the edge of their damp dresses they cover

The music of morality

Produced by the oldest church of these hills

 

Should we undress these graves

From behind the spectacles of knowledge should we read these stones

With her layers and layers of skirt

How long did she survive the Missionary’s wife

Did these hills leak through her nights

Did she first dry her petticoats

Or Mr. Jones’s translation of the Bible

12

 

Frontier

 

(Someone crushed the snake who had lost its way)

 

Be careful

Kong Aitee’s stories end only after you have climbed

Down five hundred and four steps

 

Here just here Ganak was digging amongst these pock marked stones of the water fall for his daughter, the one who ran away to the foreign lands.

 

Yellow Black butterflies                     touch me nots

 

Grandson does not even know where is Shilot

It is just here (just above the roaming fingers)

Umlulu, the river which Ganak stole and took away to Shilot

In seventy one Pakistan not Bangla

We saw in the clouds a horseman brandishing his sword

 

Five hundred Four Five hundred four

 

Come in the season of Oranges we don’t sell Oranges

Eat as much as you like

Take as much as you can hold in your hands

But you cannot take a single for your lover who sits in Shillong

 

Romance of the Folk  Innocence of the Folk

I am not a collector of folktales that

 

I will not get tired climbing Five hundred and four steps

13

****

Tarun Bhartiya is a Hindi poet, filmmaker and a political activist based in Shillong. His poems and their translations have appeared in various Hindi magazines and anthologies including Dancing Earth: Contemporary poetry from North East India(Penguin), Das Baras – Hindi Kavita Ayodhya ke Baad (SAHMAT). His films include Shramjeevi Express(2015), The Last Train in Nepal (BBC4 2014), When the Hens Crow (2013), Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (Royal Television Society Award, Best documentary series 2010), Tourist Information for Shillong (2007) as well as music videos for several Shillong bands. As an editor he has worked on notable films with film-makers like Vasudha Joshi (Girl Song, 2003; Songlines, 2010, and Cancer Katha, Special Jury Award, National Awards 2012) Red Ant Dream & Jashn-e-Azadi (Sanjay Kak 2007) and In Camera (Ranjan Palit 2010, National Award for Best Editing). He was a founder member of alt-space, an independent cultural and political space in Shillong, and is a member of Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR), a progressive people’s group in Meghalaya.

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