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Merit and Reservation

PN Gopikrishnan

Translated from Malayalam by Prasad Pannian

I ended up in that Colony.

Our sewage tank had filled up.

We wanted someone to scrape and scour.


Bangalore was a nice city.

Especially for food

A cosmopolitan city

with a cosmopolitan taste,

Sandeep used to comment

after his globetrotting.


“Dad, the pizza we get here

we won’t get them even in Italy.”

He was right.

Bangalore was numero uno

until its septic tanks brimmed over.


And once that happens

Thai Chicken makes you puke.

Adayar Ananda Bhavan stinks like

cow dung.

Café Coffee Day Cappuccino

tastes of the sewer.


This’s why I’ve come to the colony.

We need Thimmappa

to clean up Bangalore.

He who sees no difference

between his own shit and others’


I didn’t meet Thimmappa.

Instead I met you.

My waist-high.


I am not surprised.

In India the least lustrous statues are yours

We find them in every colony,

at least one…


I too am not an upper caste man

I too studied in a government school

I too believe in equality

I too celebrate science and reason



what I believe in most

is merit.

Aren’t you going on like this

Because you believed in reservation?

A rugged statue

on the uneven cement floor

donning a blue coat and round glasses,

as the neighbour

of the shit-scooper Thimmappa?


I searched my way out.

Suddenly, I chanced upon Thimmppa

by the veranda of a hovel


There is a play there

on the 14th of April

The rehearsal is going on.

Thimmappa stands there wearing a blue coat

raising his right hand.

Behind his rounded glasses,

his eyes gagged like

two dragons.


That hand

rises higher and higher.

defying gravity,

One finger stretches ahead,

from those force-folded fingers

piercing through everything around.

It swirls round and stops, pointing to me.


At once, it dawns upon me

Thimmappa’s merit

and my reservation.

PN Gopikrishnan is a well-known Malayalam poet. He has authored three collections of poetry and has won many awards including the Kerala Sahitya Academy award for poetry.

Prasad Pannian teaches English & Comparative Literature at the Central University of Kerala. He is the author of  Edward Said and the Question of Subjectivity ( New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 2016.

Riyas Komu was born in 1971 in Kerala, and moved to Mumbai in 1992 to study literature. Dropping out during his final year, Komu eventually obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Fine Art from the Sir J. J. School of Art in 1997 and 1999 respectively. The artist’s oeuvre, spanning several different media and genres, is particularly noticed for its strong political overtones. His paintings, to put it in his own words, carry a protest symbol one way or the other.