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Jagannath Prasad Das


Put away the road maps now.
To go there,
you do not need
helicopters any more;
wherever there is hunger,
there Kalahandi is.

The god of rain
turned away his face.
There was not one green leaf
left on the trees for supper.
The whole village a graveyard.
Cracked ground,
drab river sand.
All the plans failed;
the poverty line
receded further.

Wherever you stare,
there Kalahandi is :
in the sunken eyes
of living skeletons,
in rags which do not
cover the frail bodies,
in the utensils
pawned off for food,
in the crumbling huts
with unthatched roofs,
in the exclusive prosperity
of having owned
two earthen pots.

Kalahandi is there everywhere :
in the gathering of famished crowds
before charity kitchens,
in market places
where children are auctioned off,
in the sighs of young girls
sold to brothels,
in the silent procession
of helpless people
leaving their hearth and home.

Come, look at Kalahandi closer:
in the crocodile tears
of false press statements,
in the exaggerated statistics
of computer print-outs,
in the cheap sympathies
doled out at conferences,
and in the false assurances
presented by planners.

Kalahandi is very close to us :
in the occasional contribution
of our souls,
in the unexpected nagging of conscience,
in the rare repentance
in empathy,
in the nightmares
appearing through sound sleep,
in disease, in hunger,
in helplessness,
in the abject fear
of an impending bloodshed.

How could we then walk
into the celebrated portals
of the twentyfirst century,
leaving Kalahandi behind ?

Translated by Hrushikesh Panda

This Day

It's simply because
you appeared for a while
in my morning dream,
that I dedicated this entire day to you.
That's precisely why,
I'm sure,
the newspaper would carry no news,
except your face
that would peep through
the column-compacted pages
of the daily.

All the calls that I receive
on my phone
would be from you only.
All the letters
that the postman delivers
would have come but from you.
And from all the taxis
that would halt near my house,
you alone would get down;
and all the knocks on my doors
would be yours alone.

If today,
this world gets lost and destroyed,
and all of a sudden,
the race of homo sapiens
goes extinct,
and if only a fraction
of man's dreams remains,
I'm sure,
you'll come to me even then
assuming the wholeness of the relics
of that dream.

Translated by Niranjan Mohanty


Before I close my eyes,
come to the core
of my consciousness
as a forbidden dream.

Before I conjure up
your sacred image
in my memory,
appear before me
in your earthly body.

Let doors of welcome
open of their own accord
before my hesitant feet
cross your threshold.

Before we come face to face,
let fervent waves of passion
course through your body;
let the hear of the senses melt you
before my breath touches you.

Let the fear
of my unruly hands
harden the pointed urges
of your breasts;
let your lips part
before my tongue begins
its urgent search.

Come to me
in the wetness of desire,
overflowing in anticipation;
make me beholden to you
by the generosity
of your abject surrender
even before I approach you.

Come as Shakti embodied
in the auspicious moments
of imminent happiness,
restless in the body’s demands,
tormented by promises
of complete fulfillment,
and frightened of pleasures
I am yet to imagine.

Translated by the poet with Paul St-Pierre

My World

My small world
lies suspended between
the four walls of your house.
There is no entry sign,
yet my life, leashed to it,
keeps moving endless
round and round.

From wherever I start
I reach your house,
sure as death,
as though all roads lead
to this single destination.

It’s easy to find it –
on the front lawn
winter sleeps at noon
as the spotless day
dries in the sun
like your cast-off sari.
Your pet clouds lounge
high up on the roof.

In the night,
the house is snow-clad
in mysteries.
Moonlight peeps out
through the open window,
and I know
when the other window opens,
there will be sunshine.

From my look-out
I fix my eyes on the house
and invoke you
in the ultimate measure
of my meditation.
My prayers stop at the edges
of your unmade bed,
wet memories overflow my senses;
a taste of the sea assails me;
my conscious becomes a dream
and loses all its reason.

I see blazing heaps of sand,
and your body seething
in the sultry summer heat,
I see a storm gather
and pass over the desert,
and then I see
your dishevelled sari
lying forlorn
along your undulated shores.

I see you through my many
states and aberrations –
you are the sum total
of my entire life,
its beginning, middle and end;
the three measures of time
and the four directions;
and five elements, the six seasons,
and the seven heavens;
the ten misfortunes
and the fourteen worlds.

Your house is all I have,
moveable or immoveable,
and I know I am destined,
like an accursed soul,
to circle it round and round
now and for ever.

Translated by the poet with Paul St-Pierre

Curfew In The City

With nostalgia in my heart
and longing in my eyes,
I dream of my city.
I cross the river of my innocence
and take the road to my childhood;
I stop at the crossroads of growing up
and make my way
to the city of my happy memories.

Addresses written in familiar hands
show me the way;
fragments of memories
lead me on.
And, there, suddenly before me,
Is the city of my dreams.

But everything seems strange
in this city I knew so well.
Everything is in ruins:
the roads deserted,
the houses desolate and forlorn.
There is no warmth
in the jostling posters;
no invitation in the peeling walls.
I come face to face
with the harsh ironies
lying in wait for me.

Unwanted sights crowd me:
friendly knocks rebuffed
on the neighbour’s door;
thirst returning from the dry tap;
childhood crying on its way
to an orphaned future;
modesty hiding her tears in shame;
innocence caught
between flying bullets;
amity falling into pieces
from broken domes.

The day retreats in disgrace,
night comes weeping
in the completeness of its shame.
Bewildered, I look at faith
Stuck on the knife’s edge,
dharma blasted in explosions,
conscience drowned in blood,
and justice consumed by arson.
I have a dream before my eyes;
there is a city in my dreams,
and there is
a curfew in the city.

Translated by the poet with Paul St-Pierre

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