Thirteen Poems

original IN HINDI BY: JACINTA KERKETTA TRANSLATION BY: RICHA NAGAR

These poems were translated for public events organized during Jacinta Kerketta’s visit to Minneapolis-Saint Paul in February 2020.

1. मातृभाषा की मौत/ Matrabhasha ki Maut/ Death of the Mother Tongue

In the very mouth of Mother

Mother tongue was imprisoned

and children grew up

demanding her release.

Mother tongue had not died naturally

She had been assassinated.

But Mother never came to know this.

Before the possibilities that showed

Dreams of rotis

For her children

Mother had clenched her teeth

And beneath the dreams of those morsels

Mother tongue was crushed.

Mother believes even today

That the death of the Mother tongue

Was a mere accident.

 

2. क्यों महुए तोड़े नहीं जाते पेड़ से?/ Kyon Mahue Tode Nahi Jate Ped Se?/ Why the Mahua is not Plucked from the Tree?

Mother, why do you wait all night

for the mahua to drop?

Why don’t you not

just pluck all the mahua from the tree?

 

Mother says –

They live in the womb all night long.

When the time for their birth comes

They fall by themselves to the earth.

At dawn, when they’re soaked in the dew

We pick them up and bring them home.

 

When the tree is going through

Labor pains all night long

Tell me, how I can

shake the branch hard?

Say, how I can  forcibly 

pluck the mahua from a tree?

 

We just wait

Because we love them.

 

3. प्रार्थना का समय/ Prarthna Ka Samaya/ Time for Prayer 

For a long time we’ve been told

That the cause of hunger, disease, and poverty

Is a lack of faith in God.

 

We asked,

‘Why in this vast crowd

The best part of the better crop

Remains trapped

In the stomachs of a handful of people?’

They responded —

‘They are the Chosen Ones on this Earth.’

 

The food due to many

Is stuck in the bellies of a few

For several days.

This is the miracle of God!

But what about those who remain?

Sickness and hunger is the price they must pay

For not proving true to the faith.

 

When it was time

For us to stand together

Against the injustices

That were being committed against us

We came out in thousands

With our children.

Leaving behind our forests

We turned towards the prayer hall.

All day long we sat there

Staring blankly at the preachers.

Generations turned but not our conditions.

And then, we were told –

 ‘Transformation demands sacrifice’

So we emptied our pockets

And sacrificed everything

Our soil and our language.

 

The congregation kept screaming – 

Miracles happen from above.

So we lifted up our closed eyes

While the roots of the illnesses lay below.

 

With folded hands we prayed for transformation

And thus we learned

How to join our hands unquestioningly. 

We were torn apart –

When half the people took to the streets

We kept praying

And looking to the future

For, we were told

Heaven is somewhere out there.

 

Then defeated one day

We gathered to discuss

How enough is enough –

That we must rise

Together

Against our predicament –

Right now, at this time

For the future is here

Right here, in this moment.

 

Exactly then

From many different directions

In many different voices

The bells gonged

To declare –  

‘The Gathering is over,

It’s time for prayer.’

 

4. समय की सबसे सुन्दर तस्वीर/ Samaya ki Sabse Sundar Tasveer/ The Most Exquisite Portrait Of Time 

That society in which

the womanhood in a man

is murdered bit by bit

since childhood

the woman inside that man

is also only able to save herself

by running and finding refuge

in a university.

 

It’s only in a university

where the youth

while studying history, geography, math

learn to change the world

and step out of their homes

not only for their own

but also for the rights of others.

Slowly they learn to become

from man to human

They begin to know and understand 

fighting women

  as more than just bodies.

 

The youth of the university

raise their voices for the rights of man

Save a man from becoming

a machine for the system

Explain life’s reason to the man

who like a corpse

goes from home to office 

and from office to home.

 

In a soulless society 

which teaches men to violate women in gangs

And stays silent after each woman’s murder

Where the ritual continuing for centuries

requires that women studying and fighting together

in a university

surround the man to save him

from the cruel sticks of the police.

 

Only the university

can offer the example

of making a better world.

Only from the university can emerge the image

that beautifies this earth –  

The most exquisite portrait of time.

 

5. जब वह प्यार करता है/ Jab Wah Pyar Karta Hai/ When He Loves 

When an ordinary man

Is in love with someone

He loves everything about her

Her speech, her silence

Her laugh, sadness, joy

He starts loving everything

That she loves even a little bit.

 

But what’s going on these days

When anyone claims

He loves someone

That same man is scared.

He fears

That whenever anyone makes a claim about loving

Someone is always killed.

 

He observes:

Whoever declared they loved a woman—

She was killed.

Said that girls should be safe—

They quickly became victims of rape.

Said rivers will be cleaned—

They were polluted even more.

Said trees would be protected—

Jungles were handed over to the lumberjacks.

Declared love for nature—

She was disfigured even more.

And what did he do himself?

He joined the killers and laughed.

 

Now when some are

Tirelessly screaming—

They love this country

Then that man is scared again, worrying—

Behind this shield of love

What all will they do with this country?

To whom will they sell it?

Against whom they will spread hatred?

Who will get murdered?

 

When an ordinary man

Loves someone

He is unable to reveal his love

Even after many efforts.

Today that same man is scared of each man

Who comes out on the streets

Screaming his love

For this country.

 

6.सहयात्री/ Sahyatri/ Co-travelers 

Look my marriage has been hanging there

   for several years

Like a medal on the wall

And you emerge occasionally from behind that medal

Like a guest.

 

Once I used to think

In love I have become you and you I

But one morning your I woke up and went its own way

And my I was left somewhere here stranded

Writhing in pain that

We couldn’t become ‘we.’

 

What did I want?

I had desired, that you walk alone

That I, too, could walk alone

And even then we could walk together.

I wanted to see the world from the eyes of man

And I wished you could come to see me 

From the eyes of woman

Sometimes you could know me like me

Sometimes I could know you like you

And sometimes both of our eyes

Could look at something at once

And jump together with joy!

 

But walking you remained

A traveler

And I too became a traveler.

 

I wonder why

With our journeys

We could not become

Co-travelers?

 

7. मैं पुरुष पैदा नहीं होता/ Main Purush Paida Nahi Hota/ I Don’t Get Birthed A Man

I don’t get birthed a man

This world makes me man

The womanhood inside me

Is killed slowly since childhood

This is how gets chiseled 

A man.

 

8. क्यों काटे जाते हैं पेड़/ Kyon Kate Jate Hain Ped?/ Why Are Trees Cut Down?

They want to drag the trees

into the mainstream

But do trees uprooted from their land

ever become mainstreamed?

This is why trees are cut down.

 

9. पृथ्वी हो जाता हूँ/ Prithvi Ho Jata Hoon/ I Become Earth

Revolving all around you

In love

I become earth

And bits of me

Become woman.

 

10. इंतज़ार/ Intezaar/ Waiting

They are waiting for us to become civilized

And we are waiting for them to become human.

 

11. पहाड़ों के लिए/ Pahadon Ke liye/ For the Mountains

Those who sell their honesty

For bits of money

Can hardly understand

Why some people give their lives

For the mountains.

 

12. स्त्रियां जब लड़ती हैं/ Striyaan Jab Ladti Hain/ When Women Fight

When men fight

They leave behind everything and

Just walk away

Go the border

Come out in the street.

 

But what do women do

When they fight?

 

Fighting they safeguard everything

the men have left behind

Fighting they raise their children

They love the men

So when they do not return

The women descend into the streets

And transform themselves

Into an indefinite strike. 

 

13. धूल में खेलती लड़की/ Dhool Mein Khelti Ladki/ Girl Playing in Dust

One day she was dragged away from the children

who played in dust and mud.

She asked why she couldn’t play with them anymore

She was told that those with whom she was playing

games of house, lentils and rice

are all boys, and she a girl.

 

The parrot-faced piggy bank

from where she’d taken out all the money

And walked afoot for half an hour to the fair

To buy the pot, wok, bowl, and plate

made out of clay

Were all thrown away in a corner

And she started cleaning 

real plate, glass, pot.

People kept saying –

Look, what a sweet girl

The kind of girl everyone wants

Who can wash the polluted vessels of the entire household

Day and night

Sweep the floor and cook rice for all.

 

From the screen of the window she looked

The boys with whom she once played

All of them were growing up

Coming of age

Moving ahead

With a plump little baby girl playing in her lap

Only she was left behind somewhere

Dreaming of playing again in dust

Making homes in sand, cooking rice in the mud.

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