Selected poems of F.M. Shahajinde
(Translated by Ashok Gopal)
Born into a low-ranked Muslim jati, in Sastur, a village in Osmanabad district of Maharashtra,
F.M. Shahajinde is a poet well known in some Marathi literary circles and is considered a vanguard of ‘Dalit Marathi Muslim literature.’ His poems draw upon and are rooted in his experiences as a person who adores Kabir, Phule, Gandhi and Ambedkar, and cherishes democratic values, but is repeatedly labeled and treated as a ‘Muslim’ and, a person from a low-ranked jati.
Like much of Dalit Marathi poetry, Shahajinde’s poems are marked by socio-cultural specificity and a bluntness that is difficult to re-create within the frame of contemporary English usage in India; the poems are perhaps best appreciated when the reader tries to read “another language” behind the language of the printed text. The year in which the poems were first published is provided in brackets after headings. Italics are used to indicate that the source-text is in a language other than standard Marathi–such as Deccani Hindi filmi Hindi or rural Marathi. Some specific references are explained in brief notes at the end of poems.(Ashok Gopal)
My mother (1979)
just one such evening
seated at the threshold of the house
“Fakir, do whatever you like
but offer prayers to Mehboob Subhani1 on the eleventh of the month.”
Holding on to fermented superstition
even after tying sixty knots to the peg of life
just one such evening
seated at the threshold of the house
“Son, we don’t get engaged to those people
our clan is the clan of Kanhopatra2.”
(People who don’t know me may please make note of this).
On every one of those blank evenings
I responded with a bare “Yes”
first within the threshold, then outside it
Even after tearing twenty-six pages of an idle life, I
am chewing the question, “Who am I really?”
A man’s answer: a zero-shaped droplet of aspiration that is dribbling and
will keep dribbling
like a barren cloud!
Notes: 1.Legendary Sufi saint 2.Medieval Marathi woman poet-saint who was said to have been be a dancer from a low-ranked jati
Myself and poetry, during a drought (1996)
From multiple perspectives
Marathi poetry is facing a drought
Possessed by urbanism and aestheticism
Marathi poetry is
drunk on foreign liquor
This is not so
only with respect to poetry
Drought, drought, drought
Who faces drought?
Those who take to agriculture
to hide black money
do not face drought
and those in their shadow
do not face drought
As for leaders
they enjoy twenty-five per cent profit from their fields
And how can drought hit seths and moneylenders?
Those who earn salaries as well as something on the side
look forward to a drought
To fill the stomach
by flinging mud
there is an employment-guarantee scheme
Somehow or the other, with something or the other,
the stomach gets filled
Every victim of hunger
is never a victim of hunger
He dies on account of some illness
So we all accept
So then who, if anybody, faces drought?
Those who are blind though they have eyes
deaf though they have ears
mute thought they have mouths
certainly face drought
But today no one
treats them as equals
they don’t count at all
When nobody cares for the country
who on earth is going to care for them?
Everything is done in the name of public welfare
In reality, everyone
is filling up his own home
I, he, she, they, all
have become self-centredly hypocritical
Hence, here there is a drought of human feelings
there is a drought of public concern
Issues do not get resolved
Issues raise more issues
That’s why there is an abundance of law here
and drought of justice
Live for yourself
Others do the same
The heart has broken into a thousand fragments
If one piece falls here and another falls there
What does it matter? Why are you whining about drought?
How terribly and abruptly we become alone!
Now there is not much strength left
in truth and goodness either
Love is mind-centred
The mind has to accept it
and the heart has to live it
As false spiritualism of fake gurus multiplied here
high ideas turned into rubbish
Our own people seem so strange
Strangers seem so much like us!
You have money to eat pan
but not to buy clothes for your daughter?
How often have you been felicitated?
Not even once?
I have been felicitated five times
Now if someone felicitates you, do not accept it
What difference does it make anyway?
You write such rubbish!
The people who give you awards are definitely fools
You were lucky to come in contact with Guruji1
That’s why you struck gold…gold.
You have my blessings
If I withdraw the blessings
you won’t be able to write anything!
Had never imagined
that distances would be such
that someone would be seated in front of me
and I would have no one
What is the use of getting angry
or feeling bad for someone?
Drought has spread
over our lives!
the book that shook me
Due to writing people who were close became distant
those who were distant came near
Seeing always-open doors closed
what sort of penance should one do?
I could never earn
the sympathy of near ones
You could not get a plot in the slum?
But you have been living here for so long!
The woman who came to do manual labour said,
Guruji, sit in the shade
the sun will hit you
are always in the sun!
The architect of my house told me,
your novel got a prize?
Use the money now to buy a toilet bowl
I said: Okay,
please come for its inauguration
the bowl will be blessed
by your presence
People don’t even allow you to
enjoy some false pleasures
praise you and also defame you
But our friends are silent
or is it that those who are close to us are not close to us at all?
Swallowing so much without protest
is no big deal
“Be prepared to endure all that comes your way”
The crux of the matter is that
one cannot speak lies
to please others
This whole life is so disconnected, scattered
What is one going to get out of
gathering words from the garbage of one’s life?
There is currently a drought of compassion!
There was no breeze, yet you and me got separated
Don’t know where we have reached…you and me
“When I am not around
I will be under your eyelid
in a painful tear drop”
Let everyone say what he wants
A moment of joy
helps one endure lifelong chafing of pain
when there is a drought of love!
Deshpande Uncle told me,
Antulay4 was earlier Karandikar, Karandikar5
In the past, those who were scared
seduced by money, power
and not on account of injustice or atrocities
You were also earlier a Hindu
The Kaaba you circumambulate
previously housed a Shiv ling
That is now proven.
Shahajinde, become a Hindu, a Hindu
I will be the first to garland you!
Wah, Uncle! Wah!
First you committed atrocity after atrocity
and drove us out of the fold of Hindus and turned us into Muslims
Now speaking the way you do
turn us into Hindus
so a circle will be complete
and it will be easier for you to boast about your high status
“Uncle, save me! Uncle save me!”6
After human minds have been wrung
how can beauty be beautiful?
Or does beauty need to be paired with ugliness?
You said: Pick up this shawl
and don’t ever come back here again
Listening passively, enduring
We use words and secure release
That’s one good thing
else what would have happened to
the drought-struck mind?
Lord of the world
on the one hand
you fulfill the desires
that have arisen in the deepest recesses of the mind
and on the other hand
you present a nuclear crisis
Not just that
you have spread an extravagance of drought
in Adam’s life
Lord of the world
why do you do so?
is it because your mind is also drought-struck
1.Narhar Kurundkar (1932-82), a progressive Maharashtrian intellectual, who wrote an introduction to Shahajinde's first anthology of poems was called 'Guruji' by many of his admirers. 2.Title of autobiography of Laxman Mane, a member of a nomadic group, published in 1980; considered a milestone in modern Marathi literature. 3.Title of a long poem by FM Shahajinde in the voice of a farmer; published as a book in 1986. 4.First Muslim chief minister of Maharashtra. 5.A Maharashtrian Brahmin surname.6 6.Well-known Marathi quote; believed to have been uttered in vain by a 19th century Peshwa regent as he was being murdered in the presence of his uncle.
To ensure that the faithfulness of your respectable, high-status wives
remains intact and unsullied
to ensure that your intellectual ideas about virginity
do not suffer even the slightest harm
following the blinding and seducing traditions and customs that you yourself established
we ourselves gave away our beautiful teenage girls in the name of gods
or in the name of those claiming prestige
and beat drums to praise your greatness and gentility
and we ourselves permanently put our dignity on sale
That’s why your lusty, shining horses driven by demonic customs and norms
raised their hooves and scattered in all four directions
What has happened has happened, and all waters meet the Ganga, that is true
but now democracy’s capitalist open economy
has turned select, beautiful girls boasting about their purity
into leading cinema mistresses
In the name of art you people have become bastards
and today hereditary concubines are facing hunger
Embracing their self-respect crushed entirely along with their virginity
they are leading lives of hunger and penury
What kind of a circle is this that has turned fully and still keeps turning!
F.M Shahajinde with Ashok Gopal on left.
Reading between the lines of news reports
I become shell-shocked
Now what will happen to us, how?
I get disturbed by this question, become restless, writhe in agony
get tired, very tired by despair
Then for many days I don’t talk to myself
keep staring like a widow without vermilion on her forehead
till I can forget the news reports I came to know
But though this happens often
a wound rankles always on one’s identity like a boil
I have no medical options to treat it
Is goodwill something to be obtained through effort?
Instead, you may openly resurrect slavery in an ultra-modern form
through a constitutional amendment!
In any case, in privatized—post-liberal—globalization
where does man enjoy the status of man?
That’s why I have started
practising to walk on my hands!
am practicing to walk with my feet and hands!
They say the world has become a village
and if one has to live in the village
I have to do such practice
Because I am the true descendant
of rural Indian slavery
fed up with discrimination I became a Muslim
That’s why I am practicing to walk on my hands!
Nowadays my hands are smeared with blood every day
though the blood may be of mosquitoes it is ultimately human blood!
It’s not the case that mosquitoes were not biting before Partition
Fearing the possibility of several diseases caused by mosquitoes
fear of mosquitoes became firmer after Partition
And as this fear was continuously fed
mere fear turned into intense belief
Then, when a mosquito took flight, a hawk is flying, it was said
When a hawk took flight, a buffalo is flying, it was whispered
The infection of that whisper spread like a communicable disease
Relations between men and men became relations between men and mosquitoes
From bygone epochs in time’s muddled march
somehow, without choice but with contentment, these ordinary people
have been living according to internalized sanatan habits
under the domination of trapper vaidiks1 enjoying status according to gunas2
Whenever the march of time compelled shifting of load from one shoulder to the other
thevaidiks changed their nets, changed their pegs
pulled back the loose flying kite back into their control
In the present too if the occasion arises and the gods on earth3 feel the urgency
they can easily
doshikaar of rabbit hearts, of ordinary people
by showing green pastures
of faith, jati, religious merit, auspiciousness, planetary constellations, clan, class, varna
as well as wealth, power, fame and complexion
Because they have already laid traps
for those who slip out of any of their traps
Notes: 1.People who claim knowledge of the Vedas and derive authority from it 2.Innate qualities, claimed to be basis of varnamodel of society 3.The source-text word 'bhoodev' refers to a title traditionally claimed by Brahmins
Notes: Ashok Gopal is an independent researcher and writer based in Pune, Maharashtra. He has known Shahajinde for over two decades. The translations have been done with the help of Anagha Bhat-Behere and Suman Belvalkar, both academics well versed in Marathi language and literature.