Poetry speaks a language unique to an individual yet aflame with a universal soul.
From Songs of Kabir
धीरैं धीरैं खाइबौ अनत न जाइबौ ।
रांम रांम रांम रमि रहिबौ ।।टेक।।
पहली खाई आई माई । पीछै खै (खाई?) हूं सगौ जंवाई ।
खाया देवर खाया जेठ । सब खाया सुसार का पेट ।।
खाया सब पटण का लोग । कहै कबीर तब पाया जोग ।
god my darling
do me a favour and kill my mother-in-law
— Janabai (13thcentury)
— trans. Arun Kolatkar
Only after I’d eaten
(His big family included)
In that order,
And had for dessert
The town’s inhabitants,
Did I find, says Kabir,
The beloved that I’ve become
Translated by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
Poetry speaks in many tongues. And we are rich – in India – with our diverse languages of poetry.
Poetry has always moved people to action. Whether it sings of pain and suffering, or calls for solidarity, or incites brave resistance, poetry is committed to change. Poetry is political.
This is why Guftugu ends 2019 with a special issue of poetry.
Firing at the Heart of Truth
You cowards —
firing at us who wield pens.
You murderers —
celebrating the cold-hearted killing of innocents.
Let the sparrows
at your gunpoints.
Your guns may have wounded us.
But we are not just bodies,
We are children of the earth,
our mother gives us life with every letter,
strength with every word.
Look, this is not blood we shed
but ink, fresh and indelible,
writing the history of truth.
Every drop of blood now reborn
into a thousand truths.
Listen — I know, you Great Devotees!
I know the sword that chopped Shambuka’s head.
I know who demanded Eklavya’s thumb.
I know the truth: I know that sword.
I know you who became a gun
to kill me.
Listen — lies are not termites
eating away at truth.
Guns cannot destroy it either.
But these pens, these countless pens,
How they grow, tall, strong,
like a gigantic tree of many truths.
Translated by Ali Ahsan and Aniruddha Nagaraj