Varnamala : Contemporary Oriya Poetry




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 ?  

Translation :
Hrushikesh Panda 

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