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On Being A Dalit In India: Translated Urdu Poems by Gulzar

In these unpublished poems yet to be seen, Gulzar writes about the oppression of the Dalit community in India.

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Hindi Female

(Note: Poet and Master lyricist Gulzar's Urdu poetry needs no introduction. Below is a collection of these that sheds light on the Dalit situation in the country and have been translated by Rakhshanda Jalil from the original Urdu verse.)

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Tirhka Cup

Tirhka cup ke jaisa thha vo

Uska haendal thha hii nahi

Koi muh na lagata thha, lab jal jaate thhe

Haath mein lo to, garm thha, ungliyan jal jaati thiin

Boss ne eik din baahar pheink diya uss ko

‘Chal saala Dalit!’

Sab ke chehre tirhak gaye hain daftar mein

The Cracked Cup

He was like the cracked cup

The one without a handle

No one would put their mouth to it

For it would scald the lips

If you cupped it in your hands

It was so hot

It burnt your fingers

One day, the Boss threw him out, saying:

‘Scram! You damned Dalit!’

The face of everyone in the office

Cracked!

Aadmi Hal Ko Kheenchte Hain To…

Bailon ki jagah jab aadmi hal ko kheenchte hain to

Seeng nikal aate hain unke

Bojh se jab gardan jhoolne lagti hai uski

Pair ki panchon unglyon se

Khushk zameen ko pakad pakad ke paanv uthaane padhte hain

Eidiyan phat jaati hain uski

Bailon ke khur jaise beech se phat te hain

Naal lagaana baqui hai varna ye aadmi

Zamindar ke chabuk khaa ke chalne wale chaupaye se kum hai kya?

When Men Pull The Plough...

When men pull the plough instead of oxen

They grow horns

Their neck begins to droop when they

Have to lift their feet off the dry ground

Using all five fingers of their toes

Their heels crack

Making their feet look like

The cloven feet of oxen

Only a metal shoe remains to be nailed

Otherwise these men are no less

Than the four-legged beasts

Who move when the zamindar cracks his whip!

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Makauda

Diwar pe latke chaku ki jis dhaar pe eik makuada

Itni der se ooper neeche tahal raha hai

Uss chaku se mausambi kaati thhi kisi ne

Baar baar kuchh chaat ta hai uss dhaar pe aur phir

Saamne wale pair uthha kar sungta hai

Kitni baar gira aur sambhala

Ras to sookh chuka hai kab ka

Dhaar pe jeebh kataane mein ab ras aata hai

Yaar mere ko

Uska ant mujhe maaloom hai, vo bhi jaanta hoga mera

Hum dono ko tez dhaar pe kat ke utarna hoga

Hum dono dalit hain!

A makauda has been crawling for so long

On the sharp edge of the knife

Someone had used that knife

To slice a mosambi

It licks the edge again and again

And, then, lifting its fore legs

It smells something

How many times it has slid and slipped

How many times it has regained its balance

The citrusy juice has long since dried

Now, the only pleasure comes from

Getting its tongue slashed

For my pal!

I know his end

As does he, mine

To get off the knife

We must get slashed in two

We are both Dalit!

Laut te Paaniyon Se…

Saara din main Kerala ke laut te paaniyon mein jab kashti kheta hoon

Chhaan chaan kar nariyal ke patton ke kirnein mere badan ko seinkti hain

Seeli hawa namkeen samandar se utthh kar

Teil sane baalon mein ungliyan pherti hai

Raat gaye ghar laut ta hoon jab

Choolhe mein gobar ke uple jalte hain to unka dhuan

Mere badan ke poron mein bhar jaata hai

Saans kheench ke mere badan ki khushbu

Sungho, dekho, Dalit ke nange badan se kaise

Zindagi ki khushbu aati hai!

From the Backwaters...

All day long, when I row my boat

In the backwaters of Kerala’s lagoons

The rays of the sun sieve through the palm fronds

And warm my body

The damp wind rises

From the salty sea

And combs its fingers

Though my oiled hair

When I return home late at night

And the dung cakes burn in the fire

Their smoke seeps into every pore of my body

Draw a deep breath

And smell the scent of my body

See, how the fragrance of life

Rises from the naked body of the Dalit!

High Heels

Oonche joote pehna karo, ai dost hamesha

Qad mein mujh se chhote ho tum

Aur ooper dekh ke eik Dalit se baatein karte

Tumko hamesha jheinp aati hai

Maathe par chunnat daalne se tum aur sukad jaate ho

Oonche joote pehna karo tum, oonchi jaat se ho!

Always wear high-heeled shoes, my friend

You are shorter than me

Talking to a Dalit

With your head tilted up

Causes you much embarrassment

Furrowing your brow

Makes you shrink even more

Wear high heeled shoes, my friend

After all, you are from a high caste!

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Blood Test

Sheeshi bhar ke khoon ki vo le gaye hain

Qatra qatra khol kar dekheinge kya beemaariyan hain

Eik Dalit ki muflisi virse mein aayi hai mere khoon

Mein milegi

Taabedaari hukumraanon ki jo mere aaba-o-ajdaad mein thhi

Aur gulaami bhi to kuchh pushton talak

Khoon mein reh jaati hai

Thorhi si garmi hai khoon mein

Par koi visfot ka khatra nahin

Chhote chhote se jaraseem

Ab baghawat ke bhi shamil ho gaye hain

Vo nazar aate nahin hain aankh se

Khurdbiin ke neeche rakh kar dekhne padte hain vo

Haan, ana ki kirkiri shayad miley!

They have taken a vial of my blood

They will examine it drop by drop

To investigate the disease that ails me

 The poverty of a Dalit was bequeathed to me

As my legacy

You will find it in my blood

The same submission to my lord and master

That my ancestors had before me

For slavishness stays in the blood

For several generations

 There is a little heat in my blood

But no real danger of an explosion

Tiny, tiny germs

Of rebellion will be found, too

They cannot be seen by the naked eye

But you can see them under the microscope

And, yes, you might find the grit of Ego!

Inn Jangli Paudon Ke Dhanthal Par…

Inn jangli paudon ke danthal par

Kuchh lafz nikal aatein hain kabhi

Par lafz nahin phalte koi

 Inn paudon ko khuraak nahiin milti ki jadein

Mitti ko pakad ke baith sakein

Inn paudon ko gamle bhi nahi milte ki jadein mehfooz rahein

Sadkon pe pheink diye jaate hain

Dhool, bhook, aur bheek mein palte rehte hain

Aur unmein kahin koi koi

Thokar khaa kar jaa girta hai bahti naali ki keecharh mein to

Vo mitti paani paakar ugne lagta hai

Eik aur Dalit pauda!


On the Stalks of These Wild Plants...

On the stalks of these wild plants

Sometimes some words sprout

But a poem never blossoms!

These plants never find enough nourishment

For their roots to go down in the soil

These plants don’t even find pots

Where their roots can stay safe

They are tossed on the roads

They grow amongst dust, hunger and need

Sometimes, some among them

Get knocked into a dirty drain

Finding water and soil, they begin to grow

Another Dalit plant!

(Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, translator and literary historian. She writes on literature, culture and society. She runs Hindustani Awaaz, an organisation devoted to the popularisation of Urdu literature. She tweets at @RakhshandaJalil.)

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Topics:  Gulzar 

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