Translated from Bangla by Jaydeep Sarangi
Poem number: 33
My grandfather was prohibited
From stepping into the tol premises.
My father became literate
Using palm leaf and ink of charcoal
After a long struggle.
My mother visited Durga bari
With cowdung on her left hand
To paste the place where she was standing.
Oh! God! Cowdung is holier
Than the touch of a dalit!
My genteel colleagues enjoy
Using abusive terms—
Chamar, Charal and dom—daily!
They have forgotten
That these terms are names
of different castes and communities.
With all these
I’ll have to remember
There is no dalit in Bengal!
Dalits are everywhere in the world
Caste discrimination exists everywhere
They throttle our throat,
Train us to say--
We are all equal, no caste stratification here.
They are taking away
Provision s for reservation after one generation.
They force us and say,
“If you claim reservations in the private sector
We shall erase your father’s name from your memory.
We need no more.
We’ve got everything.”
tol : Sanskrit primary school
Durga bari: A house where an idol of Goddess Durga is installed.
Chamar, Charal and dom : Three professions considered outcastes in different parts of India.
This poem is taken from Thakur’s collection, Chandalinir Kobita (2011).
Kalyani Thakur © 2014
Translation: Jaydeep Sarangi © 2014