A poem by Jitendra Vasava translated from the Dehawali Bhili via Gujarati by Gopika Jadeja, excerpted from Witness, The Red River book of Poetry of Dissent
Adivasi Poetry When the sorrow of all the directions gathers as a whirlwind rising high as a pillar scattering as it reaches the roof of the earth making the heart shiver, there emerges Adivasi poetry. When there is anguish in jungle, mountain, grasslands in the bowels of the earth, in the waters of the rivers, when people leave their mud huts — like mice escaping a flooded nest — carrying their handlachaatva* in the crooks of their waists in search of land what rises with the tears in their eyes is Adivasi poetry. After a few drops of rain trucks from the sugar factory arrive and stare at the empty huts. We toil, naked, on the earth for months in the burning sun without davaduri*. Do we crush the sugarcane or does the sugarcane crush us? It lies like animals at the edge of the river on the outskirts of the village. Just like a dog, Adivasi poetry. As the day dawns, standing in queues, noses lowered, at the crossroads in cities like cattle in cattle markets to sell our labour. All day and night, lying curled up invisible, with the hungry ones, Adivasi poetry. Like the one who carries the weight of the house rising with the first cock crowing going to the jungle with axe on her shoulder walking to the city through five villages with the wood on her head, pregnant, but carrying back one kilo of flour rice oil worth Rs 2 salt chilli powder. Just like she cooks rotlo for two meals a day, her blood turning to sweat Adivasi poetry is made. *handlachaatva: Earthen cooking pot and wooden spoon *davaduri: Medicine
Jitendra Vasava was born in Mahupada on the banks of the river Tapi in the Narmada district of Gujarat. He writes in Dehwali Bhili, one of the few poets in Gujarat writing in a tribal language. Vasava established the Adivasi Sahitya Academy in 2014. As the president of the Academy, he has also edited Lakhara, a poetry magazine dedicated to tribal voices published by Bhasha, Vadodara. Vasava has been awarded a PhD for his research on the cultural and mythological aspects of oral folk tales of the Bhils from the Narmada district.
Gopika Jadeja is a bilingual poet and translator, writing in English and Gujarati. Gopika publishes and edits the print journal and a series of pamphlets for a performance-publishing project called Five Issues. Her work has been published in Asymptote, Modern Poetry in Translation, Wasafiri, The Four Quarters Magazine, The Wolf, Cordite Poetry Review, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Indian Literature, Vahi, Etad, etc. She is currently working on a project of English translations of poetry from Gujarat.
This poem has been excerpted from Witness, The Red River Book of Poetry of Dissent, edited by Nabina Das and brought out by Dibyajyoti Sarma of Red River Books.
Click here to buy.
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL