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K. Satchidanandan


This poem is dedicated to the Tamil writer Perumal Murugan who was forced into silence by anti-social communal outfits.

Pardon me
for what I have written,
for what I could not write,
for what I am likely to write
and for what I may never write.

Pardon me for the trees’ flowering,
for the flowers’ fruiting,
for having hoarded so much of
gold and water and spring
inside the earth.

Pardon me for the waning moon,
for the setting sun,
for the movement of the living,
for the stillness of the non-living.

Pardon me for filling the earth
with so much colour,
the blood with so much red,
the leaf with forest,
the rain with sky,
the sand with star
and my ink with dreams.

Pardon me for filling words
with so much meaning,
dates with so much history;
for having hidden today inside yesterday
and tomorrow inside today;
for creating the Creator
who fills gestures with dance
and nature with symbols.

Pardon me for the earthquake
and the tempest,
the wild fire and the raging sea.

The Earth is a damaged machine.
I am not someone who can repair it.
I am a king without a country,1
A god without a weapon,2
a life without a tongue.

Invent a god
Who doesn’t ask for your head.
Invent the fearless man.

the alphabet.



You are writing about love#
and the vast emptiness that
precedes it .
They seize your paper
and tear your poem into pieces
before it is born, and say:
“This is treason; you have
lost your right to live.”

You are meditating over colours
surprised by the strange forms
they assume on your canvas.
They burn your
incomplete painting and
pronounce their judgment:
“This is heresy; you must
leave this country.”

You are narrating
the tales of Buddha’s kindness
to the children around you.
They crush your tender voice,
scare the kids with open knives
and shout at them:
“This guy is mad;
stone him to death.”

You are humming
a song of love and hope in tune with
the breeze, the brook and the bird.
They point their tridents
at your singing tongue, and scream:
“You are conspiring with nature
against man; yours is the destiny
of the traitor.”

You are praying for peace
silently to your formless god, alone,
or with your friends,
raising your fists for justice .
They come with swastikas
and flags of different hues, and ask:
“Which is your god? Your
religion, your country, your language?”

No, no kisses.
No prayers to other gods.
No truth-telling. Not a word
on non-violence. No talk about
the great light beyond
races and religions.
They put embers in your mouth,
gouge your eyes out.

They won’t be strangers:
your friends or neighbours,
your own brother or beloved,
or , who knows,
maybe you will find yourself among them.

Read the originals in Malayalam here.


1. In the original ‘Perumal without a country’. ‘Perumal’ means ‘the Big Man’, the King.
2. In the original ‘Murugan without a vel’. Murugan is Lord Subrahmanya who travels on a peacock and has a ‘vel’- a kind of spear- for his weapon. The two words together make the name of the writer.
© Poems and translations, K. Satchidanandan