Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Narayan Gangaram Surve- Three Poems


Write to me

Are you all keeping well?
Write to me.

Which bastard has stuffed your ears
that I go gallivanting down the street?
If you have suspicions about me,
I won’t leave the house again.
Should I go out to fetch water?
Or not? Write to me.

You want me to account for a hundred rupees.
Do you think I scarfed it down, all by myself?
I paid twenty for the light-bill, thirty for water,
bought food worth twenty-five.
Should I pay the milkman fifty?
Or not? Write to me.

The brat had fever and cough
I had taken him to a private clinic
Should I take him to JJ?
Or not? Write to me.

I’ve enrolled our baby in school, she’s doing well.
Everyone here says girls should be educated too.
Should I also go to the night-school?
Or not? Write to me.

Ever since you have left town
lowlife thugs rule the roost,
instead of living in peace
cause riots in the name of religion.
Should I speak to the entire neighborhood?
Or not? Write to me.

Assemblies for women’s liberation take place.
We attend these meetings too.
Your sister’s husband beats her, all the time.
He threatens everyone, everywhere.
Shall I go and bring her to safety?
Or not? Write to me.

So, who is the bastard who has filled your ears
that I go gallivanting down the street?
I attend meetings; take part in rallies.
How can things change, otherwise?
Will you join us, shoulder to shoulder?
Or not? Write to me.




Karl Marx

Here is how I met Marx
during my very first strike.

In the middle of a protest march,
hand on my shoulder,
Janakiakka pointed:
“D’you know him?
This here, is our own Markusbaba-
born in Germany,
wrote sacksful of books
then met his end in England.
Nothing unusual for a sanyasi, eh?
Land, for them is the same everywhere.
Just like you, he had four kids.”
That was how I met Marx
during my very first strike.

Later, as I was speaking at an assembly
(So, what are the reasons for this downturn?
What are the root causes of poverty?)
Marx pushed his way forward
and said: I’ll tell you-
then shot his mouth off, going on and on.

The day before yesterday,
during a picket outside a mill-gate,
there he stood
hearing me holding forth.
I said:
“Now, we are the protagonists of history
and the subject of all accounts that will be written.”
He clapped the loudest of all,
then came forward,
placed a hand on my shoulder,
and with a hearty laugh said:
“Man, you do write poetry, d’you not?
Good, Good!
Y’know, I used to like Goethe.
Once.”

(Sanad 1982)




Money Order

…and, look here,
write this down too:
Say, that I am happy.

This body aches, but still,
say, things are better here than in the village.
The men come like looming rain-clouds,
and burst in torrents all over us;
but Babdi, who always holds a grudge
asks all of them:
how many others did you visit,
before coming to me?
My dear, they’re men, I tell her,
if they ask you to sit next to them, you sit.
And why should their wives let go of their rightful claim,
I ask you?

…now, write this down as well:
The money orders may be delayed,
but they are sent.
Say, that the new things that were bought
have been sent with Vishnu,
along with fifty rupees, less ten.
From this amount,
buy schoolbooks for Gangi
and chuddies for Namya.
Give the brat ten paise everyday
so that he will run happily to school.
And kiss them both for me.

Now,
things are getting costlier here, too.
Even water in the glass evaporates.
Every new customer demands a fresh bed-sheet.
It’s not enough to provide a soft shoulder,
you need a ceiling fan too.
No, no, don’t write that down,
I only mention this because
you have been listening patiently to me.

All this makes me laugh. I am in two minds,
whether to tell you this, but
just the other day a customer came to me
and asked if a woman could be with him
while he was there.
Now, am I not sitting here, right next to you, I said?
He stared back at me, looked surprised and shuddered
and at that moment I felt like laughing
at the entire male race.
This skin we wear is a terrible thing,
men claw at it like hungry beasts
and feel free to say whatever they want.
I feel like laughing at all men,
and weeping for them at the same time.
Men
are drawn to our skin like cattle,
they just can’t help themselves.

You must be tired,
listening to me go on and on, like this.
What to do?
Everything is tiring these days, I know,
But, even so
visit me, from time to time,
come visit me,
whenever you have the time,
come up and visit me.


by
Narayan Gangaram Surve
translated from the Marathi
by
Mustansir Dalvi


Translations © Mustansir Dalvi, 2014, All rights reserved.