Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Nation Wants To Know Why You Write Poetry When You Should Be Studying


This pesky nation of yours
seems to want to know a lot,
so I will say this:

I am young
and furious, and my voice
gathers rust,
prone as it is to noise
that demands I sew my lips
into silences

where only
canned dreams
and clockwork desires

I am young
and furious, and my voice
yearns to sing
to a different tune

and it will:
its frayed ends and jagged edges
will spill blood
on all that you declare holy –

on the 207-foot-tall tricolor
and the mandated 1-foot space
and the
sitting next to me

on the weighted boots
of history
that condemned to death
a boy’s yearning for stardust

on the six yards of sanskaar
and fifty-inch veils of modesty
which brand my love
an obscenity

on the madness
that lynches a man
with just a lingering whisper
of look in his fridge

on the lines
that become fences
that become walls
built upon grave after grave
of frozen uniforms
and butchered hearts.

hear me as I drip blood –
its red seeping
into an earth

where answers are weeds
and questions burst
into life
without fear

where poetry
hits every discordant note
on the way

as it soars above

auto-tuned voices
peddling doctored truths
and photoshopped patriotisms

So hear me
as I sing
as I kiss
as I tell

Written in solidarity with the JNU students protesting the state's crackdown on dissent in academic spaces (and the country as a whole), its excesses ranging from slapping outrageous charges of sedition on student leaders to giving a free rein for violence against journalists and students.

This poem was featured in the first issue of Mithila Review.

A Foray Into Translation: Love, In Four Fragments

I know, I know.

I know I haven't written in a long while, and if this blog were a physical space, this post is just dusting the cobwebs, trying to infuse life into its musty corners.

I really don't know how or why writing slipped from me (or did I let it slip?) For months now, it was as if thoughts shrivelled up at the tip of my fingers, in terror of shape-shifting into words. Maybe I just lost inspiration. Maybe I was too lazy to sit down and coax words out of their shells, when once upon a time they used to tumble out of me like a row of toppling dominos.

I was bereft. 

So when my schoolmate and friend Sulyab posted his Malayalam poem, Pranaythinte Naalu Varnangal, it was with a vengeance that I took it upon myself to translate it, possessed by a faint hope that I could rediscover my love, find purpose again. I'm not sure if I did, but I did have a lot of fun in the process.

With my limited exposure to Malayalam language/literature (something I'm not proud of) and this being my first attempt at translation, I'm well aware it could do with a lot of work. Nevertheless, I'm proud of my baby steps!

If you appreciate Malayalam, find this wonderful, ridiculously self-aware meditation on love here.

And then, find my translation here. (Nothing's stopping you from reading it as a standalone, non-Malayalis! *hint hint*)

Do let me know what you thought of it, especially bilingual Malayalis around here: how did I fare as a translator, and what could've been done better?