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Akhil Katyal

Four Poems: The Hindus Never Ate Beef*

akhil santanu 1Santanu Mitra, “The Bite”, 2010. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24” 

Dehradun, 1990

As a kid I used to confuse my d’s
with my g’s, and that bit of dyslexia

didn’t really become a problem till
I once spelt ‘God’ wrong. That day,

the teacher wrote a strictly worded
letter to my parents, and asked me

to behave myself. Also, as a kid,
I could not pronounce the letter ‘r,’

so till I was sent to some summer
vacation speech correction classes

at age 5, I used to say, “Aam ji ki
jai,” “Aam ji ki jai,” — then a teacher

taught me to hold my tongue against the
ceiling of my mouth and then throw it out

quivering, ‘R,’ ‘Rrrr,’ she wrenched it
out of me, over many sessions, “Ram,”

until then, I did not know God was so
much effort, till they made him tremble

on the tip of my tongue, God was only
a little joke about mangoes.


The Hindus never ate beef*

(thanks to B.R. Ambedkar and Ram Puniyani)

charmakars (cobblers) did,
bhattas (soldiers) did,
natas (actors) did,
and so did Dasas & Medas & Vratas & Bhillas,
all sunk their teeth afresh,
when served cow’s flesh,
they were joined by (drum-beat) Vedic Gods,
Indra was fond of bull’s meat,
& Agni loved both bull and cow,
& old books even suggest how
& what kind of cow should be
sacrificed for which God, see
that you get
a dwarf ox for Vishnu,
& a big horned bull for Indra,
& a black cow for Pushan, & etc. etc.,
so that whenever the Gods were in the mood,
“verily the cow [was] food,”
and secretly, even now,
the Bhakts who have a beef but still eat it,
they always heave a sigh of relief,
knowing their Vivekananda
(they don’t know how to treat it, it shakes their belief)
liked Biceps, Bhagwad & [yolo] Beef.



On the second date, he asked,
“What does your name mean?”
“It means the whole universe, all
of it, the whole damned thing,” I
said, quite tipsy, and elated, but
found myself very soon deflated,
“Akhil,” he said – being creepy –
“isn’t that the first word of ABVP?”


Maruti Swift

(thanks to Anumeha Yadav, Satish Dalal and Imaan Khan)

It takes a 1248cc diesel engine,
4 cylinders,
16 valves,
a max. torque of 190 newton meters
@ 2000 revolutions every fuckin’ minute,

it takes rack & pinion steering
& drum brakes & disc brakes
& steel tyres,

it takes one thousand five hundred kilos of metal
moving, always moving
in 48 second loops on the assembly-line,

painted & cut & bolted & fed
by workers.


on 9 hour shifts,
one 30min lunch break,
and two 7 minute tea-cum-toilet breaks
(those two-seconds-late-&-pay-cut-breaks)

it takes “if my leg itched, I do not even
have time to scratch it,”

it takes waiting
for one’s own fingers

it takes white-hot “discipline” cut by teeth,
welded by metal to townships
with smoke-grey evenings

it takes 13 days of occupation,
months of sit-ins, lock-outs, it takes 147 workers
arrested on manufactured evidence,

to make one of these.