Let me share educationist and well-known translator Prof Augusto Pinto’s translations — from the e-pages of the Goa Book Club — of Sudirsukt, a collection of poems by the former legislator in the Goa Assembly and a well-known literary figure Mr. Vishnu Surya Wagh.
Wagh has been openly critical of the caste-oriented social order and right-wing politics. His literature has often reflected this contour of thought.
In his 1998 Marathi play ‘Tuka Abhang Abhang’, which was about the life of 17th-century poet Tukaram, Wagh depicted him being murdered by a group of Brahmin priests. There is also a clear “us” and “them” binary in his poems.
Sudirsukt’s opening poem is MY LANGUAGE which begins:
Had a language.
To what you and I speak
It was forward-looking and sophisticated
And both technologically savvy as well as occult in orientation
Such was our language.”
Spoke this very language
Not only with human beings
But with Nature
And the Gods of Nature.”
After establishing that his ancestors had a powerful language he then complains:
Didn’t do one thing.
For the language that swayed on their lips
They never stitched the underwear
Of a script to cover her up.
As a result their language
And as she roamed around naked in the forest
One day she got lost.”
That’s what our ancestors said.
But that was a lie.
Our ancestors’ language wasn’t lost in a forest…
Those who came along with Parashuram
From Kashmir or Bengal
While chopping off forest cleanings
Chopped off our language as well.0
“They only knew to mutter mantras
Our ancestors on the other hand
Would dialogue with Nature.”
Later the poet says:
“Would speak to their face
Seeing this they began to fear…
And they connived
To make our ancestors dumb.
They built temples,
They installed idols,
They set up the procedures for performing pujas…
They learned how to write language
They killed our language.”
“Today these same ones tell us:
This is your mother-tongue
Work for it!
Take her to victory!
Install her on the throne!”
Wagh goes on to say that although their language was the one that was heard in the trances and voices of the seers of his community, he laments that this powerful medium was lost because of writing which the upper castes introduced.
“But they began to write their speech
Their language was brought into books
And our language
THE FEARLESS WARRIOR
As Lok Sabha was fighting
My son watching
Doordarshan’s coverage said
To his mother-
Aai aai, look
When our Baba
Is in Delhi
He fights like a fearless warrior
But tell me why
When he’s back home he’s such a funk
Who gets beatings at your hands
And who sits in a corner
I’m a Sudhir
My grandfather was dumb
And my father was somewhat deaf
I’m an original settler of our land
Where outsiders have filled their stomachs
But I’m forever starving.
This land deserved to be
A fountainhead of wisdom
Instead it became the Kashi of the south
On account of that Parashuram…
The moment I hear his name
I get enraged
He’s the one who first brought to Goa
The worm of casteism!
It seems Parashuram fired an arrow
Into the sea and it receded
Repeating this tale year in and year out
They cheated the Bahujan Samaj
Through this lie they wanted to establish
That this land was created by them
You sinners: if you were the first here
Then who were the Mahars, Bhandaris, Kharvis, Pagis,
Gawdas, Velips, Dhangars, Kunbis:
Who were they?
To make this land fertile
They gave their sweat and blood
They are us Sudhirs.
You saved your lives by eating
The fish from the River Saraswati
To eat more fish did you need
To gobble up this land of Gomant?
You uprooted the original culture
Of the non-Aryans
And where once were immaterial Gods
There you installed stone idols
We could drive away stupors and fall into trances
Walk through fire
We’d speak face to face
With forms of nature itself that were alive
But you with your Vedic customs
Tore apart the umbilical cord with our environment
You wiped out the
The gods and goddesses of nature we worshipped
And opened temples
For idol worship
Whosoever came to power
You wormed your way into their favour
And by becoming Kulkarnis and Nadkarnis
You obliterated our names from the records
And in time you became the landlords
And we became your servants
Since then we’ve been wearing out
Our lives for your sakes
We are exactly those Shudras.
On your shoulders the sacred thread
We wore our threads around our waists.
We exhausted our energy
Gathering your sheaves of paddy
And silently we ate
Fallen, leftover grain.
Being servants we were powerless
Slaves of your daily wage
We swept your verandas
And from our foreheads dripped a lifetime of diamonds
We are those Sudhirs
We have no swamis
And we have no mathas
The sanctum of the temple is closed to us
God lies in your fist
With all your differences you are all one
Whether horizontal or vertical
The caste marks on your foreheads
That indicate your Mahajanship suit you well
You lean against the temple pillars
While the rath is carried on our shoulders
You can enter the sanctum sanctorum
While we hang around outside
All the Prasad is yours by right
In our leaf
For generation after generation
We are the Sudhirs.
Placing barriers around people
You ate the best fish
You travelled on regal roads
Our paths were full of potholes
To serve the gods
You said you built temples
But besides the temples
You built harems
Those serving the gods
You turned into devadasis
What does the stone idol know of all this
You indulged yourselves to the brim
The overwhelming power of religion
Made you so arrogant
You even created
A society even lower than that of the Sudhirs
O unfortunate caste!
The world has now changed.
And like phoenixes from the ashes
They are rising in the sky
But the memories of your misdeeds
Creates even now
A terrible wound in my heart
We are Sudhirs!
Like oxen you rounded us up
And yoked us
And after the harvest was brought in
You kicked us in the arse
In the fields we expended sweat
You counted the cash
Even your piss is sweet
Our blood is bitter!
You were really shrewd:
We kept wetting our loincloths
While you ate the thigur!
Yet you did have fear
Of our fists turning hostile
So you brutally slashed off
The veins in our wrists
We are Sudhirs
Perhaps you thought
Our ancestors were idiots
Who on dark footpaths
Nobody would show a torch
We rusted as you trampled us underfoot
You turned us into dregs like of cashew juice
And boiling the sap of our lives
You distilled liquor out of us
Everything was in your favour
A dumb grandfather, a deaf father
Their tradition was of hopelessness
Buried in a cemetary today
This gives us the courage to fight
Tearing up our old clothes
We’ve formed a new incarnation In our hearts
With lamps of our eyeballs
We’ll light candles of moonlight
We want an open dawn
We’re fed up of these dark nights!
For us the Shambhukalo mantra
The writing of Tukaram
The light has become a lamp
With the voice given by Bhim!
We’ve taken the shastras to straighten them out
On all sides has begun an outcry
For a great battle
We are Sudhirs
If you have the guts
Come before us
We’ll crack your skulls
In a flood of public humiliation!
For the first time in centuries
Our mobs are now incensed
They want reparation
And they’re banging on your door…
With tilaks of blood on their foreheads
A holy fire is burning away the darkness
Our bodies in a trance, our loins girded up
We’ve become mad pirs…
And we’ll show your Brahminism
Our strength in public…
And all who are with us
Will see that our fortunes are reversed
Not because we’re Sudhirs
But just to live like human beings…
Just to live like human beings…
We’re… the bravest of humankind
After showering flowers
At the Rajghat memorial
They all shot off
The Mahatma’s deployment of truth
Has been swept away in the flood of politics
Gandhi’s photo remains
On currency notes
In the chaos of a theatre queue
I realised how great Gandhi was
After watching Munnabhai!
Here nobody asks
About the other’s caste
But everybody knows
That’s a Gawda, that’s a Bhandari,
That’s a Kharvi, that’s a Chari,
That’s a Vani, that’s a Devli,
That’s a Kunbi, that’s a Gawli,
That’s a Madval, that’s a Kansar,
That’s a Mhalo, that’s a Kalaikar,
That’s a Maratha, that’s a Satarkar,
That’s a Chamar, that’s a Mahar,
That’s a Shet, that’s a Kumbhar,
Everyone knows each other
Castes don’t spring up just like that
On someone’s lips
But like mynas
Stay in Mugren
In everyone’s stomachs.
At least we are okay
Among them there are castes within castes
Some are the horizontal kind
Others are the vertical
There are walls between walls
This one’s a GSB, that’s a Kudaldeshkar,
That’s a Chitrapur, and the other’s a Bardezkar
Are the priests at least one?
Among them too some are Chitpavan
Some Dravid, some Padhe,
And some Kirvont
People have castes
Do castes have people?
Hunger has no caste
Does caste have hunger?
Every caste has some desire
But does desire and agony
Have any caste?
All praise to the son of a cunt
Who invented caste
And on humanity’s corpses
“Here’s another of Wagh’s rockets which reminds me of Lucio Rodrigues’s ‘To Kon’nallo’.”
I wasn’t aware
Of the techniques they used to identify caste.
One day I went to a friend’s home.
In the veranda sat an uncle.
We were introduced.
Wagh? So you’re one of us, son!
Uncle said chuckling.
I was confused.
Still, to clear any doubts
“You must be related to the Kamat Waghs of Ribandar”
“No”, I replied.
“Then you must be from Karwar.”
“No. We’re from Goa itself.”
“Really? From where?”
“So you must be the Mahajan of the Ram temple.”
“No. Our goddess is a Sati.”
Even after speaking so much
Uncle wasn’t sure – so he asked-
“Okay so who is the god of your clan, tell me ?”
I replied, “Siddhanath!”
“Which means… you aren’t a GSB!”
“No Uncle, we’re Bhandaris.”
Uncle laughed aloud. He began to say-
“Don’t be offended. I just happened to ask.
We don’t believe in caste and creed. Come, have your tea.
You know: the greatest loss to Goa
Has resulted from these caste divisions.
Who’s Brahmin? Who’s Sudhir?
What meaning do these differences of caste and creed have?
‘We should be secular
We must have a casteless society, you know?'”
Uncle in the hope
Of getting a reply, kept watching.
My head was bent
But as I drank my tea
My gaze got affixed on
The sacred thread on Uncle’s shoulder.
India is my country.
I have great admiration for my country.
For the ruling party
Running this country I have more admiration
And for the great leaders of that party
I have even greater admiration!
And for their families
My admiration knows no bounds!
I don’t use my father’s name
My grandfather’s name doesn’t come to mind easily
I’ve no idea who my great grandfather was
So don’t even talk about my great great grandfather.
But I know the names
Of the dead of the family of my leaders
I sing praises to this great family.
I am the devoted servant of all the customs
And traditions of this great family.
This family has given so many leaders to this country
That no other family has given
This is my confident belief!
Does not believe in family rule
This is also what I greatly admire!
My party’s family rule
Is set out on democratic lines
Of this I have even greater admiration!
Sits in their ‘mathas’
Sits in their temples
And on their people alone
Stamps his ‘mudra’.
Photographs of their Swami
Along with their people
In their newspapers.
In their Swami’s name
Prizes are instituted
And awarded to their own people.
(A ‘matha’ is a kind of Hindu monastery. A ‘mudra’ is apparently a kind of a seal that is heated by a swami and used to brand a devotee’s arm or stomach.)
They eat fish
We eat fish.
And we booze.
They fuck women
We fuck women too.
And we also bathe.
After they bathe
They become pure
From – Tony Martin Barreto’s Facebook post
Image credit – The Qunit