Thursday, April 5, 2012

Paramakudi – Six Poems: Ravikumar

JANUARY 16, 2012
In September last year, the Tamil Nadu police killed six Dalits in a firing incident in Paramakudi town of Ramanathapuram district. This guest post by RAVIKUMAR is a set of six poems on the Paramakudi killings. The English translation by RAVISHANKER is followed by the Tamil original. For more on the incident, see articles in Kafila archives by V. Geetha and Bobby Kunhu and over at Atrocity News, a fact finding report (.pdf).
There are prescribed rites
To take around the corpses
When death strikes.
Some bodies are taken away in army vehicles.
Some bodies in decorated chariots.
Some bodies in sandalwood coffins.
Even if they are with no power or lead no easy life,
When their bodies traverse the streets,
The vehicles have to give way
The seated have to rise in respect.
The rules are for humans.
But, even animals have their rites.
We observed a corpse.
One man to hold each hand,
One man to hold each leg,
It was carried thus.
The head kept bobbing up and down.
From where the bullet entered the body,
Blood kept streaming
All the way.
Words kept streaming from the mouth.
Dreams kept streaming from the eyes.
If it was treated as a human,
It would garner respect.
If it was the body of an animal,
It would join a feast.
We observed that corpse.
From beyond the moving clouds,
God too must have observed.
The body of an untouchable.
We observed
And forgot.
Dense jungle where light enters not.
Breezeless, wordless.
They are imprisoned
Within invisible walls.
When the need arises,
They are summoned and ordered
To clean up the houses the streets
The offices the premises the toilets.
In fact, all spaces
Except hearts.
In tranquil moments
Butterflies flit around
All over the place
As if they are imparting
Lessons in freedom.
An army of children
Follow them everywhere.
What befits more
Than the colours on their wings
To teach about liberty?
When the storm blows from the direction of the fortress,
When the dead bodies are soaked in the rain of blood,
The butterflies are not to be seen at all.
Children do not realize this.
When the wind ceases  to blow,
The butterflies start flitting around again
And start preaching to the
Corpses lying in the bushes
the virtue of liberty.
As someone somewhere scrawls on a wall
As someone somewhere obstructs someone
As someone somewhere seethes in anger
As someone somewhere draws a gun
As someone somewhere convulses and falls.
Some said it was only one.
Some said it was ten.
Some enquired whether
They died from the lathi blows
Or fell in the firing.
On the roads, in the side streets,
In the open fields,
Like the wind under
the shady trees,
Everywhere, we confront
The bad news.
When the Government says A,
They retaliate with AA.
From now on it is time for
Statistics and
Enquiry Commissions.
Thus runs Time!
His voice resembled
Someone on the FM radio.
What registered in my mind was
Just the word Death.
It was soaked in blood.
I wiped my ears.
My fingers came smeared with it.
Wiping with my palm
the blood that overflowed from the wireless,
I ruminated on what I had heard.
Death Death Death.
That singular word
Kept repeating itself.
I turned it into a lamp.
Carried it home.
He said Paramakudi.
They said it is the name of an eatery.
He said Paramakudi.
They said it is the hometown of an actor.
He said Paramakudi.
They said it is the abode of the Goddess Parameswari Amman.
He said Paramakudi.
They said, “ Wait, the bus will come soon.”
He keeps crying out.
They keep conversing.

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