Thursday, 24 February 2011

My Hands Can Still Plough The Fields

The non-existent loud voice of Haro Jamunda of Kalinganagar, Odisha.

He was a teacher, my younger boy
He taught me to write my name
Suddenly for days he lay on the bed
Malaria in the brain, they said

We waited for a miracle
To take him to the hospital
No bicycle, no bullock cart
The primary health clinic was 10 kms afar

It was getting eerily dark.

Soups of lentil and basil and yeast
And prayer by our native priest
But you know, he died: my little prince.
Was this a punishment for my sins?

My taller boy missed his little brother
But soon Aati matured into a robust farmer
Soon the rice field was his bed of dreams
Soon he dreamt of a season of rice in heaps

He laboured, we stocked
And thus ticked the sand clock.

Boom! Bam! Boom! The steel factories howled
"Steel factories over our land!" our Ho Munda kin bawled

"What about our crops?" 
"All gone!"

"What about our livelihood?"
"All gone!"

"What about our ancestors' spirits?"
"All gone!"

Boom! We heard it again, but
Aati ran to see, for its sound was different

Gamcha on his shoulder, the gait of a deer
It was the boom of the guns that we could hear
Minutes, hours slipped through the barrel of the gun
Women, children, men wailed for those long gone

"Where is Aati, my young man?"
"They put his body into a van!"

First, there were no hospitals, no development
Then they said steel meant development
But I lost both my sons.

I am old, I am angry.
I cry. No answer to my unending 'why'.

My hands can still plough the fields.

[This poem was first published in Montreal Serai (Vol. 23 Issue 4) and was also recited at the XIII International Conference of the Indian Association for Women's Studies (IAWS) held in Wardha, Maharashtra, from January 21-24, 2011]

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Some Activists Said

On October 1, 2009, some men in fatigues walked into the village of Gompad in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, and fired at the people. Nine people died. Among the dead was Kanni Kartam, roughly about 20-year-old, of the Dorla tribe, whose body was allegedly found to be in pieces, with her clothes lying around her. Her year-and-half old son Suresh was found wailing over his mother's dead body, with three of his fingers chopped. Kanni's younger sister and parents were also killed. Her husband had gone to the jungle when the attack took place, and that's how he was saved. While a fact-finding team visited this village -- the only way one can get to Gompad is by walking or taking a bicycle from the nearest town which is 40 kms away -- the chronology of events and the facts of the incident were misleading. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court of India with 13 petitioners, but contrary to the Court's order to have the petitioners (including Kanni's husband/Suresh's father) protected, there is no information of their whereabouts. This poetry is an ode to Kanni Kartam, the victim of the Indian government's Operation Green Hunt. 

Some activists said
my breasts were sliced
like ham
      slapped on a slice of bread.

Some activists said
my breasts were chopped
like potatoes
      to be tossed on a hot pan.

Some activists said
my clothes were strewn apart
      around my body, except for on my body
like strands of noodles lying scattered
      around the pan, except on the pan.

Some activists said
my chastity was infringed upon;
       that I was raped.
That the axe cut me leaving my muscles in shreds
after multiple male ego projections pierced through me.

Some activists said
I was the face of Operation Green Hunt
except that my body was decomposed.
But nobody remembers how I look.

Some activists said
Suresh wailed to see me wailing in pain.
That he was dropped on my dead chest.

Some activists said
His baby fingers were grounded
when he held my breast
     which nourished him.

Some activists said
They were at peace that I was dead
     what with my body dissected
        what with my womanhood dissected.

But all I ask is:
Will just one activist
trek to my abode amid Ram's Dandakaranya?

Will just one activist
stop asking questions and
find out what was done to me, my village, my family
on that October morning?

Will just one activist
stop asking
     stop negating
         stop dissenting
but instead start walking
     towards finding my bloodied grave?

[This poem was recited at the XIII International Conference of the Indian Association for Women's Studies (IAWS) held in Wardha, Maharashtra, from January 21-24, 2011]