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Ramashankar Yadav ‘Vidrohi’- Mein Tumhara Kavi Hoon

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Transcribed by Pradeep Pillai

Poetry

I am a farmer…..

and……

I am seeding paddy

in the heavens……

 

Few people are saying….

Idiot!!

Can you seed paddy in the heavens?

I reply…..Idiots!!

If you can seed God on earth….

I can seed paddy in heavens……

 

Now, only one will happen…..

Either God will be removed from the earth….

Or….

Paddy will be seeded in the heavens!!!!



If you hear my sins,

you will be filled with regret.

If you know my intentions,

with courage.

 

Sir, I’ve just come to tell you.

That the day of reckoning,

is nearly here.

 

I really don’t know

if God knows,

But the people will know,

what the deal is.

 

There will be no trial,

nor debates.

This will be an old feud,

passed down from Eden.

 

My friends, come out of your houses

into the arena.

Only the staunchest in battle

will carry the day.

 

He will be both the sheltered

and the refuge,

Who has, all his life,

been weighed by oppressions.

 

There is no God,

nor child of God.

The story is Man’s,

Man will stand up

for himself.

 

I have no belief in

saving and saviours.

I have no need to believe,

anyone stands above me.



I won’t tell you.

Because it might give you a fright.

That a tiger sleeps in the front pocket of my shirt.

But have no fear, I have trained it so well.

That look!

A tiger sleeps in my front pocket and you never realized, it’s a tiger.

But a tiger or two, In your front pocket, Helps in reciting of poems.

But I’ll share a secret.

Since I’m reciting poetry amongst friends,

One tiger in the pocket is enough.

But when I’m among enemies,

Reciting poems all alone,

I make sure to keep two tigers in my pocket.

Then I wear, that red shirt you’ve praised before.

The one with two pockets in front.

So I keep reciting poems,

And the tigers don’t sleep,

They puff on beedi’s, Emanating rings of smoke.



It’s an excellent tree.

Friends, my grandmother was a tree of humanity,

Of which I am one leaf.

She isn’t dead,

She’s just gone for a swim,

In one of those ponds at Mohenjodaro.

Her sari is drying on the last step.
She has lost her key, there, somewhere.

She’s searching for it ceaselessly.

I see she’s sowing gram in the Himalayas.

Tethering my cow to Everest’s peak.

I want to clap in joy.

But what’s this?

There’s mustard growing on my palms.

I want to call out to her,

But yoghurt has set over my lips.

I can see my grandmother,

Flowing away in a river of yoghurt.

I want to catch her, but I can’t.

I want to call to her, but I can’t.

And my body starts to tremble like a leaf.

Which might fall any moment,

Which is just about to fall.



My people, My friends,

Get up and break,

The walls that won’t let fresh air in.

That keep fresh water out,

And fresh thought out.

Don’t let the walls scare you,

Nah, spirits don’t reside in walls.

And don’t be scared of trees,

because no, ghosts don’t live in them.

Oh and don’t be scared of temples,

gods don’t inhabit them.

And listen up.

The day you get it,

That a brick is just a brick,

And a stone, is just a stone,

Then you’ll be the king of your hill.



Some may apply to

Queen Victoria brand eyeliner

or Sadhvi Rithambara brand eye-wash.

But kohl made of pure ghee

was only Nur Miyan’s forte.

At least my grandmother swore by it.

Whenever Nur Miyan arrived,

my grandmother never failed to buy his kohl.

Just a slim line of his kohl in her eyes,

and they turned compact like clouds,

swirled within like the Ganga and Yamuna.

The old woman’s eyes grew limpid,

as the sea, into which, we children,

glancing saw it all, gleaming.

Oh how she heaped blessings on Nur Miyan,

‘it’s his kohl,’ said grandma.

“Makes me prance like a girl,

puts thread in my needle,”

and I’d feel like crying out,

“Granny! You’re the doe-eyed maiden.

Sukanya to Nur Miyan’s sage Chavan.

He is your Hippocrates,

whose herbs heal your eyes.

Your eyes aren’t eyes

but witnesses, and his kohl …

offerings for the gods.

And then this Nur Miyan

went away to Pakistan.

Whyever did he leave for Pakistan?

They say, because he had no one here.

But were we no one to Nur Miyan?

Wasn’t he ours?

Then why did he leave for Pakistan,

without telling us

and our grandmother?

Why did Nur Miyan go away to Pakistan?

My grandmother’s life ended.

She returned to the banks whence she came.

She had married across the river,

and was cremated on the other side.

When I cast her ashes into the river,

I felt as if the river wasn’t a river,

but my grandmother’s eyes,

and the ashes weren’t ashes

but Nur Miyan’s kohl

and for the last time,

I put his kohl in my grandmother’s eyes.



He asks for his share, oh you!

The poor labourer asks for a cake, this time.

He asks for a smoke and some snuff.

A coffee or tea. That’s enough.

 

Oh and a cup and a plate and a snack to go with it.

Maybe an omelette.

Oh and Mr. Overseer,

I ask for a fair rate.

 

I am a poet.

I’ll get to it.

What’s the rush?

One day, I’ll catch the policeman

and the priest.

 

And present them

in a court of women,

and debar all the courts besides that.



Yes I know all about it,

your lineage, and your status.

But when the moment arrives,

you’ll be missing in action.

 

As for me, dear one,

I will search for no cover.

Because there’s no head on my shoulders.

But that there’s a bomb.

 

A kick from our blistered feet,

can dislodge the ground beneath yours,

and the veins in your calloused fists,

can turn your gentle skies to blood,

and when one day,

from earth to sky,

standing end to end,

we rend from it

will emerge neither Kashyap nor Narsimha.

 

Here! Come recognize me …

I am the friend you lost,

you love … you hate … you envy …

but the only friend you have … it’s me!



These are days of spring,

let us lose our heads.

 

Let us fight for our rights.

God, to hell with your world.

 

Let us plant a new world of our own.

Where people can

live … speak … hear

and endure like

human beings.



I say to them – You babblers!

If god can take root on earth.

Then crops can grow in the skies.



I demand neither reward,

nor acknowledgement

I demand neither alms nor donations.

I stand at the crossroads

and demand loudly.


I am Simon, standing in the dock.

Nature and humanity will be my witnesses.

I am speaking from the last step

of a pond in Mohenjadaro.

 

The one where a woman’s burnt corpse lies.

The pond full of floating bones.

Well, you can find such a burnt corpse in Babylon.

And these bones scattered also in Mesopotamia.

 

I wonder about it often, what is it …

about I wonder.

That a woman’s charred corpse

and scattered bones

are found in the cradles of ancient civilizations.

 

A story that continues from the rocks of Scythia

to the commons of Bengal.

From the rainforests to the valleys.

A woman who may be a mother,

a sister, a wife, a daughter.

 

And I say, get away from my sight!

My blood surges,

my soul smoulders, my body burns.

Because my mother,

my sister, my wife, my daughter,

has been murdered.

 

I would die, bashing my head upon this corpse,

if I didn’t have a daughter.

And I do have a daughter, who says –

Oh papa, you are needlessly upset

for us girls.

Come on, we’re just girls.

We feed the kitchen fires with our lives.

 

As for these scattered human bones,

well they could be of Roman slaves,

or Bengali weavers,

maybe even Vietnamese, Palestinian, Iraqi kids.

 

What do you expect from empires?

Whether Roman or British or

the spanking new American empire?

The task is one and the same.

For over, mountains, plateaus, fields,

by the river or by the sea shore …

to scatter the bones of human beings.

And summarise history in three sentences –

Look how I’ve set the world ablaze.

Look how I’ve scorched the earth.

Look how I have scattered human bones …

as far as the eye can see.

 

But I am the descendant of Spartacus,

and I live by his promises –

Go tell Caesar,

we will gather the slaves of the world,

and then one day …

we will enter Rome.

But we will go nowhere.

 

Because even as I tell you this poem,

Latin American workers are digging a grave for grand democracy.

And Indian workers feeding the Democracy’s pet mice,

the fire of hate that rages,

from Asia to Africa,

cannot be put out my friend,

because that fire,

is fed by a woman’s burnt corpse

and the scattered bones of human beings.

 

The first man to kill his mother

did so at the behest of his father.

Jamdagni instructed Parashuram

to kill his mother.

And so he did.

And so he became his father’s son.

And so came patriarchy.

Then father’s killed their sons.

 

The river Janhavi asked her husband,

to drown her sons in her flow.

And so the king Shantanu gave his sons to the Ganga.

But still Shantanu did not become Janhavi’s

because a king belongs to no one.

Just like the goddess of wealth

is no-ones and

the way of duty is nobody’s.

 

But everything belongs to the king.

The cow,

the holy river,

the holy book and

the first prayer.

 

As for God,

he looks after the king’s horses.

He’s a nice fellow, God.

Oh, he looks up to the king.

A pity, he’s not with us now.

He died ages ago.

And when he died

the king, gave him neither Shroud,

nor two yard of ground for a grave.

So no one knows where God was buried.

 

But anyway he died in the end.

And his death was historic.

Historians can also tell you that

the king died, the queen, even the prince!

The king in battle,

the queen in the kitchen.

The son from too much school.

 

And oh … on the threshold of each civilization,

a charred corpse, scattered bones.

This corpse is not charred,

it has been burnt.

These bones are not scattered.

They have been thrown far and wide.

This fire is not burning,

it has been set.

The fight did not erupt,

it has been started …

But this poem too did not just appear,

it has been written!

And when poetry is written,

it starts a fire!

 

Oh my people save me from this fire.

My people from the east.

Your lovely fields ploughed by the sword’s tip.

Your harvests crushed by the chariot’s wheels.

Save me from this fire,

Oh my people from the west,

your wives sold in the marketplace.

Your children thrown into chimneys.

Save me from this fire.

Oh my people of the north

whose shoulders were used to break mountains.

Oh my people of the far south,

your colonies thrown into flames.

Your boats sunk in bottomless seas.

Save me from this fire.

 

You my people.

You from whose blood,

the pyramids, the pillars and the walls were built.

 

To save me is to save the woman.

Whose corpse lies on the last step of,

the pond of Mohenjodaro.

To save me, is to save those human beings.

Whose bones lie scattered in the lake.

To save me, is to save your ancestors.

To save me, is to save your children.

Save me, I am your poet.



“I like my own poems because they are protest poems. Poems of resistance, of opposition of conscience. They are a barricade. A question mark over the system over the values we live by.”



 

Quotes from the documentary: ‘Mein Tumhara Kavi Hoon’ 

” When it’s a poem you want to record then we must begin with poetry. What is poetry? It’s the farmer’s field. It’s the poet’s child. It’s your father’s assets. Your mother’s cooking. I have a hard time giving my poems a name so most of my poems are nameless. Who takes my poems for their own, may name them as they like.” “Tagore has this great line about modernism. “true modernism is freedom of thought and independence of mind…” So I got it. But you know, after all I’m an Artist. So I interpret it my way … that True modernity is fearlessness of consciousness.” “Now if you show me in a jungle, Vidrohi would look like a prisoner of romanticism wandering all his life in the jungle. As if wandering in the jungle is revolution! Labour alone is not radicalism. To divert labour is also revolutionary.”



“Oh it’s a troublesome life, a struggle but a wonderful one. Because it’s not like I have limited myself to this I am everywhere … anywhere. I’m there too, in the world. Neither less savage than anyone, nor less urbane.”



“Well if a great man does a grand thing, where’s the miracle, eh? If a limited man, does a grand thing, now, that’s something to talk about. So you must reveal not just Vidrodhi’s grandeur but also his insignificance.”



“Most stuff, no matter how fine will not last after June. It rots in the rain, which is the point. Next year, someone will give new stuff. There will be other blankets, other shirts. Everything rots, dissolves, disappears and yet people keep giving. It might seem as if Vidrohi’s life is utterly anarchic. But in fact no life is more disciplined than mine. I follow a strict discipline with diligence, with beauty. An international discipline. I’m a man of international thought my man. It’s not like this way and that way, a little of this … a little of that. No. Say one thing to you and another to the queen, that’s meaningless. Whether you see me here or there or at large in the world. You will find the same words, the same colour, the same shades, and the same style.”



“The search for creativity, poetry with pain, that’s the beauty of romanticism. “Pain exceeds itself thus becoming the tonic,” that’s what I am demonstrating. Midful of the poet Ghalib’s injunctions! If you whip a man for twenty years and stop in the twenty oneth year, he will crave the whip, for it has become his companion.”



“I’m trying to demarcate some understanding. And also shooting in the dark, hoping I’ll find my mark. No matter if this saga of pain continues, but let not the pain become the solution.”



“When I write poems, I have an audience that I am addressing. This is my aesthetic – I believe these poems are more of speaking out, than reading. So I imagine a mass, a public. And I strive to speak in the language that rings true for them . Not one that alienates them.”



“But into each life some rain must fall. I’m thankful that JNU lets me live here. I don’t need a room, or anything, No strutting, no postures. Else you can die in the battle of the steps. There are steps everywhere. Stairways to cars, to clothes, to degrees, to notes. And there’s no place to sit on those stairs for the likes of me.”



“I say nothing to no one, nor react to anyone, My reason? I know the nature of Indian society: it’s a bastard society. Which neither rewards nor punishes the poet. I mean what’s Taslima Nasreen written, That I haven’t? I don’t get it. Like, say … “first I will die, then “O mighty India” will die” … I mean I’ve insulted the national anthem! I’ve made these buggers eat dust, but they’re such bastards, they ignore you and so, you are neutralised. It disappoints you on the outside but it strengthens you on the inside. To think – boss, I’ve become so terrible, so terrifying, that for these people, I’m Untouchable and so it goes, so far.”



“When a poet weeps, there’s poetry. And when a poet sings, there’s poetry. Poetry is my action, the karma I fulfil, and still people ask me, “Vidrodhi, what is it you do?”  If tomorrow Vidrohi should win an award, Oh then his work will start to count as work! And then all sorts, will work on my work, and make my work their work. And say, I work on Vidrohi … and people are always asking, Vidrohi, what do you do otherwise. You know?!”-



 

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