Kavitayan
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Raghuvir Sahay


I ought to be doing much else

I ought to be doing much else
in this unwhole world
not just keep the promise
to a landlord
or shriek at
a world of horrors
I ought to be doing much else
not stand and eat
a plate in hand
in a hall teeming with men and women
maybe I ought to break
much more than an empty plate
this year I
should have made it
not just gaze in the looking-glass
shaving a stubble on my chin
I ought to sing and thunder with rage
or just laugh
I ought to be going places
making the salad
with my sleeves rolled
I ought to have roughed the bully up
outbrag the braggart
dare the dandy
I ought I ought to put
my child to sleep
with a nice lullaby
I ought to perform much more
than a mere salute
gasping in the morning
and not look at forty
dazed at the ways of the world
yet it's amazing
no one took the note
when the success
succeeded

I've watched it happen
a flimsy faith everyday
vanishing bit by bit
between the jaws of a glorious people
with survivor's guilt
of five famines
I ought to be doing much else
instead I sit in a reading room
looking for a familiar face
now and then for a hefty tome
I ought to know I know I know
when my own generation
took over the reins of the nation
yet this way the world acts
doting on rebels
shunning the revolt


Intellectual's Statement

A death-wish  is the wish of the able.
The hapless wants to live.
Let us keep him alive.
Visions of catastrophe
belong to the sovereign.
Let us destroy : all but him.

It's beautiful--- the catastrophe :
it makes our woes amusing,
and those of the hapless
fructify.


Survive!

Thousands upon thousands upon thousands
starved to death : so the report.
Enormous the number
and the blinkers no less.
Now who could ever notice
that I wasn't one of them.


Breaking Free from Suffocation

It is true that one can realize one's human side even while continuing to live in one's own little village. But it is not possible to cross from one village, one social group, one kind of suffocation, and one kind of freedom to another, while remaining within the boundaries set by one's birth. If one is to pass over into some other language, some other mode of being, some other country and some other history, some other enclosure, in short-though only to free oneself from that as well, even sooner than before--- one must break through the siege laid by a closed society, which is a partisan of its own language and which all the while keeps the creative person under observation. My strength does not come from knowing what I have joined myself to. The joy I feel in creating springs from the knowledge of what I have broken from, so as to establish a new dwelling place. And if I could also be certain that my new world was built on the debris of the old, I'd be perfectly satisfied.

Translated by Harish Trivedi and Daniel Weissbort


Reality

When night's nearly over
the dream announces itself-
One of the characters in the narrative
first shows where the house was situated,
then the lane,
the street-corner;
then as you trim the corner, there's tile front door.
After that you catch a whiff of the damp hall,
and then, leaning against the frame of this scene,
and half-shadow,
its face hidden,
of that character you first encountered.

Translated by Harish Trivedi and Daniel Weissbort


Cancer

The only way to protect yourself yet awhile from cancer is not to admit to yourself, or to others, that you have it- especially not to yourself. But those the doctor tells, he also tells not to inform the patient. Politically speaking, the set-up is as follows: the patient is unsure of his position in society, while for his friends a successful out- come is when the dying one has been disposed of. Thus, it is not in the interest of those who know about the patient's cancer to protect him, but rather to preserve the inhuman relationship inherent in the aggressiveness of a degenerate society. They have disclosed the fact that the patient is suffering from cancer, not so that he might save himself. Rather, they have informed those who, in all kinds of ways, are committed to the patient's destruction. And they pass on information about advances in the treatment of cancer to us whose cancer has not yet been diagnosed.

Translated by the poet, Ayyappa Paniker and Daniel Weissbort


Your Thoughts

These are my thoughts you are expressing
with such confidence, yet inexactly-
thank goodness for that!
I myself never trumpeted them with such conviction,
even if I hoped I might be right.
No, I never raised my voice,
assuming that whether I was right or wrong
only I was entitled to thunder so.

Your voice was never so authoritative
as it is at this moment-
there was no substance to your own thoughts.
Now you have stolen mine
and are flaunting them with such authority,
I can feel an odd little grin forming on my lips.
But I suppress it,
So as to salvage my thoughts
from your distortion of them.
I keep my thoughts to myself,
to spell out in my own way.
And I leave you
to stray into some blind alley and get lost.

Translated by Ajit Khullar and Daniel Weissbon


A Sitar Concert

An LP of sitar music, the tempo
a fast one, but something wrong,
the record player too quick.
My heart ached with the pain
of music being hustled along,
a new type of helplessness-
notes screeching, tabla beaten into submission,
worn out, but not through ecstasy.
Finally the music closed-
like a concubine salaaming to the assembled gentry.

Translated by Daniel Weissbort


The Handicapped on Camera

We shall appear on television,
we the fit and able.
We shall usher this poor wreck
into a sealed room.
We'll ask him:
So, you're a handicapped individual, are you?
But why is this?
Your handicap, I guess it hurts!
Does it
(Close-up)
Yes. So now, tell us quickly about the suffering.
What's it like!

He can't

Come on.
Tell us.
What does it feel like to be handicapped!
Well!
I mean, how does it feel?
(At this point we prompt him a little:
is this how it is!)
Come on.
Tell us.
Try a bit harder
(We can feel the opportunity slipping away!)
To spice up the programme,
we have to keep on at him,
till we've reduced him to tears.
And you,
aren't you waiting for him to break down too?
(No need to ask!)

Then we'll close in
on those puffy eyes.
And a really large close-up
of twitching lips.
(Let's hope this is suggestive of the suffering of the handicapped).

One more try.
Viewers,
please bear with us.
Look,
We've got to get the two of you weeping simultaneously--
you and him,
both.

(Cut.
Well, it didn't work.
Never mind.
Screentime's money.)
We can relax now, smile.

You've been watching a socially significant programme
(Which damned near came off.)
Thanks.

Translated by Harish Trivedi and Daniel Weissbort


Cycle-rickshaw

It may sound like socialism to say
we should treat horses like human beings,
especially when one of them happens to be a human being.
When we jump guiltily off a rickshaw,
and then feel sorry we've deprived the poor man of his
livelihood
and finally tip him out of pity-
in all three cases we're a trial to him, and he has to endure
us.
It is only when we haggle over the fare
that we approach equality.
Come, you engineers of the twenty-first century,
let's invent a cycle-rickshaw in which
the passenger and horse can sit side by side
and just go for a spin.
And what good will this do, you may ask?
Well, if there's a disagreement between you and the horse,
at least he won't have to turn round and get a crick in his
neck.

Translated by Harish Trivedi and Daniel Weissbort


History of a Bridge

I journeyed to a distant land,
changed planes three times,
took advantage of the fine weather
to travel those winding mountain roads,
arrived at the bridge just as the sun was setting.

Across this bridge, four centuries ago, passed
the lovers, idlers, rebels, conquerors of history.

By the twentieth century, they'd turned into characters in a
novel,
modern armies on the march,
with drums and aims constantly changing.

In the fading daylight I took a snapshot.

Returning home by the same circuitous route,
suddenly I realized the camera hadn't been loaded.

Now I've a mental image of that bridge
with myself dodging cars that hoot at me,
as I stand there with camera in hand.

Translated by Harish Trivedi and Daniel Weissbort


Tocsin

In this shameful, slavish age
find me a man
not given to flattery
Find me poverty
that doesn't hold you up to ransom.
Women will drink and men eat.
They'll all flourish, and all too soon
the day will come, Ramesh,
when no one will have an opinion of his own.
There will be anger but no protest.
There will be danger and a tocsin
which the ruler himself will sound, Ramesh

Translated by Girdhar Rathi and Daniel Weissbort


Survival

Thousands upon thousands
starved to death, so it was reported
The greater the numbers,
the larger the blinkers
Now who'd ever know
I wasn't one of them

Translated by Girdhar Rathi and Daniel Weissbort


My Home

My poetry celebrates
my mother,
my wife and children,
sparrows in springtime,
the sun and rain.
What I celebrated remained
and I passed away.
Only the memories
echo on at home.
Are you taking a trip
for a couple of days?
You'll see my mother,
or flowers beaming
in her memory.
You must visit my home
and stay there awhile.

Translated by Ajit Khullar and Daniel Weissbort

 







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