haiMdava padyaaniki atikina aidava paadaanni nEnu.
vRttaM velupalE uttavacanaMlaa
pariBramincina naaku -
maraNa meppuDoo punaraavRtamE.
nooneku nOcukOni gAnugeddunu nEnu.
vRttalEkhinilOni pensil mukkalaa
arigipOyina naaku -
aMkelaku viluvaniccina guMDusunnaani nEnu.
saMkhyaa maanaBangaaniki guraina naaku -
eDameppuDoo kaDupulO ragilE khaaLeetanamE
candra maMDalammeeda maanavuDu paadaM mOpinaTlu
vRttaMlOpala aDugulu naaTutunnaanu.
ceruvukunna guMDraTi gaaju mukhammeeda
nEnoka raayi vEsi
vRttaalanu miMgE vRttaalanu kalagaMTunnaanu.
kaakateesina Dappu meeda SabdataraMgaM vikasiMcinaTlu
cakraM meeda nippu puvvulni pooyistunnAnu.
- Satish Chander
(From his collection entitled pancama vEdaM (the fifth veda), published in 1995)
A rendition in English
The fifth foot, glued to the Hindu poem, I am.
Death is a constant recurrence
For me, circling around like mundane prose, only outside the circle.
The bull of the oil-press, denied of a drop of oil, I am.
The wiped out past is the constant present
For me, worn out like the piece of pencil in the compass.
The bald zero, imparting value to the numbers, I am.
The left is constantly blazing emptiness
For me, who got raped on the right side of the total.
Like man stepped on the moon
I plant my footsteps,
Newly inside the circle, now.
On the round glassy face of the pond
I throw a stone
To dream up circles which will swallow circles.
On the taut drum, as the sound wave flourishes,
On the grindstone for sharpening knives,
I create fire blooms.
Satish Chander is a Dalit poet whose collection "pancama vEdaM" had been critically acclaimed. In the above poem, he uses several stereotyped images of Hindu caste structure, the Hindu prosody, and the tasks traditionally assigned to the untouchable castes to brilliant effect.
vRttaM: (Sanskrit) Literally means circle. It also denotes the basic prosodic structure of poems used in most Hindu scriptures.
aidava pAdaM: literally fifth foot. prosodic structure of vRtta has four lines (feet) per stanza. This also refers to the "four feet" of Hindu Dharma and to the four-pronged caste system. By referring himself as the "fifth foot" he's simultaneously shooting at the caste structure which alienated the untouchables and the closed prosodic structures.
gAnugeddu: the bull yoked to the oil-press keeps going round in circles.
saMKyA mAna bhaMgam: Another clever play on words. saMKyA mAnaM refers to number system, mAna bhaMgaM means rape. Zero, on the right side of a number adds value, whereas on the left is useless.
kAka teesina Dappu: The drum of the village-crier which had been warmed on an open flame. Beating the drum and sharpening knives are tasks traditonally assigned to untouchable castes in villages.
Dr. Veluri who introduced this poem commented on how it ends on a note of newly gained supreme confidence and compared it to a poem by African American poet, Langston Hughes. For your pleasure, I am posting that also.
I, Too, Sing America
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed --
I, too, am America.
-- Langston Hughes