Yesterday evening, after a long time I had a reunion with my old friend and comrade, Dr Pasupati Prasad Mahato. Pasupati-da is a distinguished anthropologist and social and cultural activist.
We met again today afternoon. He gave me a copy of his recently published book of poems (in Bengali) Manbhum Ma Hamar (Manbhum, My Mother: A Collection of Adivasi Bengali Poetry). The book has been published by Shobar Ganyer Khobor (Calcutta, 2007).
Pasupati-da selected and read out to me two of his poems from this volume, written in his native Purulia dialect. I present them below, together with my translation.
ramchandra uakey sidhailo tumi ke hey?
uttar ailo, hami shombhuk, jatitey shudro.
ramchandra sidhailo, tumi ki koirchho?
uttar ailo, hami baed path korchhi.
proja botshol ram, gota desher raja
ragey gur-gurayn, tolwar tainey
ghochang korey dilo shombhuker gola kaitey
shurdrer baed path cholbek nain.
manusanghitar ain, ramchandra rokhok,
ain omainnyo korlaey rashtrodrohi
shasti to patei hobek.
mrityudondo mrityudondo mrityudondo.
shombhuker gola kathchhey ainer rokhokra,
rashter biruddhey judhyo ghoshona,
eeta shoibhek nain,
hamra gonotontrer raja, shoibo nain.
shombuk-ke khujte ramayan ghantley pabi
ekhon jey ramayan choilchhey
otha domey samajsebider dolkhani,
shombhukra ekhon jailey, Bina bicharey.
e’der gharey kota matha!!
shombhukra moirlo 14 march 2007 ey
nandigramey, nandigram tomakey selam.
Shambuk today too
Lord Rama asked him: Who are you?
He replied: I am Shambuk, Shudra by caste.
Lord Rama asked: What are you doing?
He replied: I am reciting the Vedas.
Rama, the ruler of the masses, is the king of the nation
Trembling with rage, drawing his sword,
Decapitated Shambuk with a single stroke.
A Shudra must never recite the Vedas.
The Law of Manusamhita, Lord Rama is its protector
Violation of the law is anti-national.
He must be punished!
Capital Punishment! Capital Punishment! Capital Punishment!
The protectors of the law are decapitating Shambuks
Declaration of war against the state?
This cannot be tolerated,
We are the kings of democracy, we won’t tolerate it.
To find Shambuk search through the Ramayana,
But the Ramayana of today -
Is brimming with the arrogance of social liberators,
Shambuks are in gaol, without trial.
Who, pray, are these fellows?
Shambuks were killed on 14 March 2007
In Nandigram, Nandigram we salute you!
(Translator's note: Shambuk is a Shudra character in the Ramayana. In the epic, after Rama has assumed the throne of Ayodhya following his return from exile, a Brahmin accuses him of causing the death of his son by his toleration of the Shudra, Shambuk, who has violated the caste hierarchy by engaging in extreme penances. In order to redress the situation, Rama searches for, finds and kills Shambuk. And the Brahmin boy comes back to life.)
gota puruliay toutor toutor
domey liyai ke bodo toutor, babur?
court kachariye toutor,
jomi registri-ye toutor
thanay toutor, party office-ey toutor,
uara anchla paitey ghurchhey,
somajsebi-ke bishisto samajsebi boley
shwor ta chaikhey dhekrichhey
bolchhey hami puruliar toutor
chho nachey programme patey,
bidesh jaitey toutor dhor
suratey lebar legbi taw
mota taka niye toutor dhor.
hashpataley bhorti kortey
toutor dhor -
oxygen cylinder patey
na holey anjona mahato’r
chaila bhorti korbi schooley, toutor dhor,
B.Ed-ey bhorti hobi toutor dhor -
gota puruliyai toutorer desh.
toutor dhorei to legechhilo
koilkata patal railey
ghurli jokhon, tokhon TB,
ley ibar toutor dhor.
The whole of Purulia is full of touts!
A great competition over who’s the greatest tout of the babus!
Touts in the courts
Touts in the land registration offices
Touts in the police stations, touts in the party offices
Touts in the village government.
They go around with their collection cloth held out
The social liberators are termed as “distinguished social liberators”
Burping after swallowing the cream,
They declare, “We are the touts of Purulia!”
Want to get a chance to go abroad for the Chho dance programme?
Catch the touts.
Want to be a labour supplier to Surat?
Catch touts, with a big pile of money.
Want to get hospital admission?
Need an oxygen cylinder?
Or else, you will die, like Anjana Mahato.
Want to admit your child to school? Catch the touts.
Want to be admitted to the Bachelor of Education course? Catch the touts.
The whole of Purulia is tout country .
‘Twas through touts that I got to work
In Calcutta’s metro rail.
When I returned, I had tuberculosis.
There, now to go and catch the touts!
[Translator's note: In colloquial parlance, "tout" refers to fixers or middlemen, an entity with which Bengal society, and especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), is brimming. Anjana Mahato is the poet's mother.]