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  • Four Poems by Tulsi Parab
  • Tulsi Parab
    Translated by Aniket Jaaware (bio)

Subhash Night Middle School, Third Period

Guileless, with smallpox scars on his face A hedge of grief around the eyes Freedom was sitting in class Nobody had promoted him last year

I was substituting Was going to teach Khandekar, “Two Clouds” With the hollow utterance of idealism and loyalty I saw the children’s faces craquelured like ice

Today I have constructed this interior so blue through words, in front of this laboring class They do not know class struggle They haven’t peeked into the mirror of Camus

They get another pair of shoes After they pack one shoebox To climb up the earlier hill backwards

Shall I tell them the story of Sisyphus Or shall I tell them that in the cave of existence The sun and moon are not as bright as us? Or shall I ask them obvious children’s questions: How old are you today? Is freedom the birthright of everyone? [End Page 503]

That honest simple pockmarked darkish child Scolds me with his stick-thin palm “T B is my birthright”; It says from the corner.

I teach them: “Say T B is my birthright” We are the inheritors of poverty We are oceans of tears In which drowned completely icebergs of grief We are the luxury of malaria And heritaged householders in mud

I teach: The law that I have a birthright is not new Insects and creatures are our brethren, along with hunger.

— From Hillol (1973)

The Plates Are Broken

the plates are broken and broken are the cups the earthen jars are broken and broken the bowls he, who occasionally had to starve shared his food, cracked too

died hungry, is gone he and hunger were close friends

— From Hrud (2016)

First Coated Them with Clay

First coated them with clay and then dried them in the sun and then mixed them with form my words

first sprinkled blood on them and fed them on oaths had borne all the blows your answer

then eternally demanded having persuaded each other before you me and I you became one

in all, then, we leapt upon all the scimitars

— from Hrud (2016)

More Circles Internal to the Circle

More circles internal to the circle These shone away into a miracle   one remained, reclining,   sliding on, your ring.

— From Hrud (2016) [End Page 504]
Aniket Jaaware

Aniket Jaaware currently teaches English at the Shiv Nadar University. His other translations include Jotirao Phule’s A Cultivator’s Whipcord. His new book, Touch: A Study of Caste, is forthcoming from Fordham University Press.


The translator thanks Urmila Bhirdikar for her inputs.