• India 2019: A Song From the Ruins

    K Satchidanandan

    August 31, 2018

    Is this the India we want?

    A country in which citizens are murdered or attacked for being rational; for being critical, for raising a voice of dissent; for just being themselves, Muslim or Dalit or women. Intimidation, threats. Hatred. Lynching. Sickening violence. Students and teachers given the choice between being leashed in thought and word, or being hounded as seditious. Institutions built over the years weakened. The economy and development turned into exercises that mock the needs and aspirations of most people. The secularism, the scientific temper and the rights promised in our Constitution subverted every day. Our democracy, our India, frayed.

    But this is our country. It belongs to us, and we belong to it. We have each other for support. We have our poems and songs and films and essays and fiction and art. Our diverse voices.

    What is the India we want?

    Listen to our fellow citizens speak of the country they don’t want and the India they want on the series India 2019 on the Indian Cultural Forum and Guftugu.

    Sayed Haider Raza: Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 148 x 173 cm, 1985

    A Song From the Ruins

    I stand on these ruins with my weary steps
    Like in Harappa or in Hampi

    Once this was a nation
    A continent built in salt and sweat
    A flower raised by blood
    A conch risen from the sea
    A map of many colours drawn in tears
    Extending from the Himalayas
    To the Arabian Sea.

    Now I see the festival of the people
    Turn into a funeral procession in black
    And triumphal chants into laments

    One tale for each murder 
    One battle for each memory
    One more Partition in every heart

    There was a time when we treated
    Even our conquerors like guests
    They turned our land into a rainbow,
    Left in our treasury life-styles,
    Languages, arts, cultures.
    But those who chose to play the coloniser, 
    We fought as one person.
    We won freedom despite your betrayal,
    We created a nation where no faith
    Was alien; no tongue, foreign
    Even in the darkness of the dispossessed
    Flickered the fragrant moonlight of hope.

    The moment you raised your
    Banner of hate and greed, people’s flag
    Became a rag, and their anthem an elegy.
    You came with another history,
    With another geography and arithmetic.
    You robbed us of our woods and lands
    For your masters, scared the down-trodden
    Shaking your weapons. You feared
    Those who tell the truth, extended
    Poison vials to those on the brink of
    Suicide, let loose the demons of
    The netherworld on earth.

    We were a nation, but now we are dust.
    Even in this dust are the cries of the
    Imprisoned stones, the songs of the
    Survivors, bleeding memories rising
    From the dead on the gravestones’ grass,
    Letters blossoming on the violins ascending
    The clouds, pale angels flying to the sky from the
    Waste-heaps, the white horses of untamed desire,
    Pigeons, pigeons.

    We will come back,
    From the empty barns dreaming of the sun
    Even in winter, from the odours
    Of piss and pollen in the alleys,
    From the joy that fills breasts, oranges and poems,
    From the turbid pools of remembrance,
    From the days that enter the fishermen’s cottages
    Like rain-drenched dogs, from the
    Flying brooms, from the clothes of miners
    Stained with oil and coal, from the pictures of
    Wild goddesses drawn in the tribal hamlet
    With the quills of quails, from the
    Brave memories casketed in language,
    From the unpolished words carried by
    The pariah’s wounds, from the trampled
    Plant of the night with its golden leaves,
    From roots, from roots.

    We will raise a new nation, of compassion and
    Sisterhood that laughs without hate, a nation,
    Without walls and borders, without
    the rich and the poor, its head held high,
    And its arms open to all,  here,
    On this soil of dried-up rivers and heirless forests
    Where evening stars fall like magnolias, we lay
    Seven stones.

    (Translated from Malayalam by the poet)  




    K Satchidanandan is a widely translated Malayalam poet and a bilingual writer, translator and editor. His most recent works available in English are While I Write and Misplaced Objects and Other Poems. For more on the author and his work see satchidanandan.com.

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