Monday 13 April 2009

Poetry: From the bottom of my sole

The recent spate of shoe throwing at various leaders to register protest, reminded me of an old poem written by my father Chennaveera Kanavi, in Kannada, circa Emergency 1975.

“LISTEN TO ME, I AM TELLING YOU”

By CHENNAVEERA KANAVI

For God’s sake, why do you spread false news?
Honestly, nobody threw chappals at me in the recent meeting.
I am speaking absolute truth!
Even if they did, I never saw it.
This is the really real truth.
No. they didn’t hit me at all.
Please don’t believe what they say.
simply because it appears in the papers.
Read the stuff and then consign it to flames.
Are these paper-fellows, are they lily-white?
They announce the happening of what could have happened!
Never mind if it happened or not, it is news all the same.
Yes, it is true that I saw someone wave a black flag,
because black stands out amidst white caps!
But what’s wrong with it?
wasn’t there a huge audience that day?
After all, my speech is not dirt-cheap, is it?
In such a commotion,
don’t you think it is but natural
if someone were to transfer what is on feet to the hand,
and then transfer it from hand to the head?
If I am right, why all this hullabaloo
about the chappals being aimed at me ?

All right, granting that they threw chappals:
why not assume that they were playing a game
of throwing and catching chappals ? Tell me.
You may insist
I was the target.
may I then ask you a question?
Did they get the chappals specially made for them?
They were bought in some shop,
and worn out after so many days’ walking,
now apparently torn, and flung with force. All right.
please, what is the point of taking out anger here
whereas its cause lay elsewhere?
If they opened fire in Gujarat, why should they hiss angrily here?
The price-rise, the decline of self-respect and dignity
and double-talk
they belong everywhere and still occur.
Are they our exclusive property ?
Look at Bihar, how they, sealing their lips with cloth bands,
joining hands behind their back, took processions.
Well, even the papers reported all this.

Following them, we should shut our mouths and keep mum,
and there lies smartness.
Just one more word, please listen: the chappal-throwing is over
wouldn’t it be fair if they were presented with new chappals ?
What do you say?

(From Inviting LifeChennaveera Kanavi’s Poetry, Translated by Prof. K. Raghavendra Rao, Sahitya Akademi)