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Curated and translated from the Marathi by Grishma Patil

Editorial note: This is not an essay, but a work of curation. It contains a brief introduction of the poets, translation of six poems from Marathi, and contextual notes on the poems.

Damodar More (1953-) is a Marathi language poet. Extensive social awareness and in-depth poetic sensitivity is seen effectively in Damodar More’s poems. He has given a series of lectures on different platforms and has been a critic for various magazines. He is the editor of the book Boudha Women’s Folklores from Vidarbha. He has also been editor for various poem collections including Vimukta and Angarleni. Damodar More also has poetry collection in Hindi to his credit. Currently he is teaching Marathi at Joshi-Bedekar College, Thane. [Source: Marathi Dalit Kavita, Sahitya Akademi]

The following poem succinctly puts the demand of the oppressed in a caste-society. ‘Vyavastha’ is an interesting term. It means both ‘arrangement’, as a contract or a mutually negotiated term-of-business, and ‘order’ as in samaj-vyavastha. The dual meaning is an insight into the social order of caste hierarchy, where many such ‘arrangements’ sustain the larger order.

Arrangement/ Damodar More

‘Aare, will you come

To dig my well?’

‘Yes I will…

But I will dig only upto the mudrock’

‘Why so…?’

‘Otherwise the water will lose its purity

by my touch--

That’s why I say so …’

‘Charge whatever but come and dig…’

‘We want nothing much

But a little humanity in return

And upon my death

Spare some space 

Next to your grave--

Just arrange for this… That’s all.’


Dr. Anant Kedare is an assistant professor in Hindi by profession and also a young poet and author. The three poems translated here are from his recently published poetry book ‘Vagdan’. This collection has received a literary award from the government of Maharashtra. He has also published his collection of Hindi poems by the name Kacchar. He writes mainly about the problems and sufferings of oppressed classes, tribals, scheduled castes and the ‘Nava-Boudha’.

The poems here give us a glimpse into his poetic vocabulary. ‘History’ spells out the bearer of injustices to be the custodian of the version of history we do not recognize, that we deliberately silence and suppress. The ‘ontological wound’ of a Dalit person alters the very manner in which one experiences social reality. In the poem ‘Mountain of Sufferings’, a vivid picture of sufferings is sketched, almost to let the reader experience in a flashing moment the wounds of those who suffer. In the last poem, the poet exclaims at the sheer absurdity of the kind of sociality we practice. ‘What kind of socialization is this?!’ is indeed the bold question that we ought to ask everywhere, every time that we identify caste working in its various forms.

History/ Anant Kedare

We have carved history

The history of open wounds

On our burnt hearts

We carry wounds

Of injustice, tyranny, insult, hatred

Of exploitation and a humiliating life

Searching for our being

Moving from one village to another

Dying before death

Living in the shadow of death

Suffering hellishly

Looking for some work

In search of food

In search of water

We’re wandering day and night

We’re wandering perpetually

Mountain of Sufferings/ Anant Kedare

The cuckoo bird is singing

In such a melancholic voice

In this bone-chilling weather

Every single living thing

Hiding in the mountains

Scared to death

The ocean is so petrified 

Not a single wave is seen on its shore

The king of forest

Lying in his den

In such a depression

Lying next to him

Is a rabbit

With no fear whatsoever

Since long

Mother deer is bewailing

Cuddling her fawn

Everyone trying to escape

The mountain of sufferings

To survive the cold wave

For food… for water… for existence

Rooted in the Shared Soil/ Anant Kedare

Born, raised and lived

In the same soil

We too are humans

With the same muscles and bones

We are as patriotic as anybody else

We even follow the same culture

Then why this outcasting?

Where a man is disgusted by another

What kind of socialization is this?

Why does a wounded person get tortured further?

Why’s there still darkness in the slums?


Uttam Kamble is an Indian journalist who has been the chief editor of Sakal media Group. He is a post-modern author, with around 63 published books. He is best known for his oratory, poetry and his writings for the oppressed and deprived class. He has also been the president of the 84th Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, the single largest literary meet surviving a great tradition in Marathi. He also inaugurated the 16th Kamgar Sahitya Sammelan. He experienced hardship during his childhood and was the first literate person from his family. In his youth, he worked various jobs including compounding, construction work, sales and as a paper-boy, while still continuing his education. He has received numerous awards for his work including Darpan Award (1993) and Agarkar Award for Analysis of Religion, Customs and Superstitions in Society (1995). [Source: Wikipedia]

In the poem here, ‘Humiliation’, the poet captures the ways in which people are forced to compromise with their dignity. The first line of the poem is a reference to the Hindu deities, which are carved in stone and how a human being has a lower status than the idols. The resistant voice of the poet asks: ‘How far should the ridicule last?/ How much should the victim cry?’ The normalization of oppression is a slumber from which all these poems want to wake us. Let us read these words, even if something is lost in translation (and precisely with this awareness), with greater sensitivity and open ourselves to the Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi voices of resistance around us.

Humiliation/ Uttam Kamble

A man is not married

But a stone has so many wives 

I shall tell you a story

A story of humiliation

We sacrifice our lives for you

And you will be praised forever

How long should a prostitute’s child wander

Searching for a father?

Why is the culture celebrated

With such pride everywhere?

I shall tell you a story

A story of humiliation

How far should the ridicule last?

How much should the victim cry?

We are to sell our souls 

In this market of humanity

Peasants sleep hungry 

While dogs feed on cake

I shall tell you a story

A story of humiliation


Pralhad Chendvankar (1937-2003) was a Dalit poet and an active member of the Dalit Panther movement. He completed his graduation from Mumbai University. He has abundant literary work to his credit which includes stories, poems and critiques. He was awarded S.H. Gokhale Award by Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad, Pune for his anthology Audit (1976). His another anthalogy named Order Order had received Keshavsut Award. In 1991, he had represented Maharashtra state in Multilingual Convention of Poets in New Delhi. [Source: Marathi Dalit Kavita, Sahitya Akademi]

The following brief verse brings out the poet’s disgust at and disappointment with our society, in which caste morality is always in conflict with the constitutional values. The paradoxical situation of the ‘modern’ Indian is a pressing political issue.

Dry Sermon/ Pralhad Chendvankar

How can I call this country mine?

That demands a pot full of blood

For just a gulp of water

Even if it preaches (emptily) peace

To the world!

Grishma Patil is a Science and Law graduate with volunteering experience in NGOs. She is also interested in photography and has worked on commission for various organisations. Currently, she is on a break and expanding her literary horizon with lots of non-fictional books. Individually she is trying to achieve a zero waste life to lessen negative environmental impact. This is the first time she has tried her hands at translation and has really enjoyed the process.

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