Friday, July 11, 2014

Mother: Jyoti Lanjewar

I have never seen you
Wearing one of those gold-bordered saris
With a gold necklace
With gold bangles
With fancy sandals
Mother! I have seen you
Burning the soles of your feet in the harsh summer sun
Hanging your little ones in a cradle on an acacia tree
Carrying barrels of tar
Working on a road construction crew…………

I have seen you
With a basket of earth on your head
Rags bound on your feet
Giving a sweaty kiss to the naked child
Who came tottering over to you
Working for your daily wage, working, working………

I have seen you
Turning back the tide of tears
Trying to ignore your stomach's growl
Suffering parched throat and lips
Building a dam on a lake………

I have seen you
For a dream of four mud walls
Stepping carefully, pregnant
On the scaffolding of a sky scraper
Carrying a hod of wet cement on your head………..

I have seen you
In evening, untying the end of your sari
For the coins to buy salt and oil,
Putting a five paise coin
On a little hand
Saying 'go eat candy'
Taking the little bundle from the cradle to your breast
Saying "Study, become an Ambedkar"
And let the baskets fall from my hands…………

I have seen you
Sitting in front of the stove
Burning your very bones
To make coarse bread and a little something
To feed everybody, but half-fed yourself
So there'd would a bit in the morning………..

I have seen you
Washing clothes and cleaning pots
In different households
Rejecting the scraps of food offered to you
With pride
Covering yourself with a sari
That had been mended so many times
Saying "Don't you have a mother or a sister?"
To anyone who looked at you with lust in his eyes……….

I have seen you
On a crowded street with a market basket on your head
Trying always to keep your head covered with the end of your sari
Chasing anyone who nudged you deliberately
With your sandal in your hand…………

I have seen you working until sunset
Piercing the darkness to turn toward home,
Then forcing from the door
That man who staggered in from the hooch hut……..

I have seen you
At the front of the Long March
The end of your sari tucked tightly at the waist
Shouting "Change the name"
Taking the blow of the police stick on your upraised hands
Going to jail with head held high………

I have seen you
Saying when your only son
Fell martyr to police bullets
"You died for Bhim, your death means something"
saying boldly to the police
"If I had two or three sons, I would be fortunate.
They would fight on."

I have seen you on your deathbed
Giving that money you earned
Rag-picking to the diksha bhumi
Saying with your dying breadth
"Live in unity……. fight for Baba………. don't forget him……….
And with your very last breadth
"Jai Bhim."
I have seen you……..

I have never seen you
Even wanting a new broad-bordered sari

Mother, I have seen you………..

translated by Sylvie Martinez, Rujita Pathre, S. K. Thorat, Vimal Thorat, and Eleanor Zelliot.