• India 2019: In Modern India

    Translated from Tamil by N Kalyan Raman


    October 5, 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.

    Image Courtesy: Habe Ikasbil | Guernica: Pablo Picasso

    In Modern India

    Intellectuals resident
    in India today
    are anointed
    with strange new titles

    The paltry amount left
    in the common man’s wallet
    and the coins put away
    by thrifty women have turned
    invalid tender overnight

    A pseudonym of love
    these days is jihad

    Steam-propelled trains are fuelled
    by the blood of teenager Junaid

    Cash-filled trunks of tycoons
    are seen off with ceremonies
    held in our airports
    Contracts exchanged
    in stealth are denounced
    by the president of a foreign country

    Hunting for surplus
    beef from exports,
    they make the blood
    of the minorities run cold.

    While Akhlaq’s widow
    is house-bound,
    cows hung with ID cards
    amble with dignity
    on our streets.

    The locks  that could not
    close up writers’ mouths
    were turned into bullets,
    then pumped
    into their hearts
    These murders were approved
    by the silence
    of our prime minister

    The prime minister of India
    introduced mob lynching
    and vigilance over
    one’s neigbours’ food
    as job opportunities
    for our youth

    New phrases such as:
    Urban Naxal and
    Terrorist, along with

    empty slogans like
    Bharat Mata ki Jai,
    Acche Din,
    Swacch Bharat,
    Beti Bachao and
    Mann ki Baat

    are now ours
    to intone and chant

    They have made history
    by gangraping  a child
    inside the sanctum sanctorum
    of a temple

    Murderers are
    routinely glorified
    with garlands,
    and high office too

    Those born on this soil
    are dubbed refugees
    and lectured on why
    they must
    leave this country.

    After Ghar Wapsi
    wealth is pouring  down
    on everyone’s life

    They’ve hired
    mediapersons and
    judicial officers
    to speak on their behalf

    They’ve appointed
    painters to draw
    their portraits

    The hues of our universities
    have been changed entirely

    Najeeb has not
    returned home yet
    Tears have not ceased
    flowing from the eyes
    of Rohit Vemula’s mother

    It’s a long time since
    I betrayed my privacy
    to the government
    through an Aadhar card

    Like my basic human rights,
    the Indian currency, too,
    is in steep decline

    They’ve toiled without relent
    to eliminate
    an immanent justice

    They’ve arranged for judges to die

    The times when we lay
    curled up in imaginary fear
    are now long past

    The traces of genuine panic
    lie trapped
    In our throats

    A day when we wake
    to the sound of
    bloated images crumbling
    and falling could arrive
    very soon

    Asifa —
    May their souls
    rest in peace
    May the karma
    of their own deeds
    haunt our rulers

    May the darkness
    that’s engulfed this land lift
    May the earth shine bright

    May the light scatter its magic all over

    Why should air and light
    defer to anyone?

    Salma is a well-known name to readers of contemporary Tamil literature. She has written two volumes of poetry, Oru Maalaiyum Innoru Maalaiyum and Pacchai Devadai and a novel, Irandaam Jaamangalin Kadhaiv – all of which have been translated in several languages. 

    N Kalyan Raman is a Chennai-based translator of contemporary Tamil fiction and poetry into English. He has published eleven volumes of Tamil fiction in translation, the latest being Poonachi: The Story of a Black Goat by Perumal Murugan published earlier this year. He has also translated over 200 poems by leading contemporary Tamil poets, published in journals and anthologies in India and abroad.

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