National

An Ode To Outlook's Adivasi Issue

A poem dedicated to Outlook's Adivasi Identity and Rights Issue

An Ode To Outlook's Adivasi Issue
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A stone dies and rises, a plant in the desert-
Lamenting its banishment from heaven.
I complain to the God
Tell him all of love’s bloodstained histories-
Mirroring secrets of utterly-ruined monuments.
Animals shiver in their hide when
They arrest my young nieces and nephews for wearing hijabs-
Helpless, you and I often bleed together
Behind iron -barred windows in prisons,
But fishes are happy in the poisoned sea.

***

This year has not been good for rains-
Women have washed their hair in the dry sun, and
Covered their faces with the harvest of dead fingernails.  
I am not aware
My face has suddenly become saffron pale, and
My body is smeared with burnt lotus leaves.
I ask my sculptor friend to shape me into an idol
Hang me from the Judas-tree
Blossoming in the ghazals of Rumi.

***

He knows- I am not an agitator, still
They call me a Rebel because
Every drop of blood I spill is a cry for justice.
There is no opposition to his rule –
Everyone is intoxicated with fantasies of free bread and bananas.

Unarmed, I return to my forgotten home,
Tie the camel’s legs to the tent
Rinse my arms for prayers, and
Shake the tombs of old grammarians and linguists.
You and I know for sure-
The last battle will be fought in the capital-city-
Let’s again pledge allegiance to the God and my Republic!

(This appeared in the print edition as "Ode 2022")

Ashwani Kumar is a poet and professor at TISS, Mumbai

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