tr. from Sukirtharani's A faint smell of meat tr. from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmstrom
उनके हिसाब से
मैं, जिससे मांस की हल्की महक आती है, मेरा घर जहाँ छिली हुई हड्डियां टंगी हैं, और मेरी गली जहाँ लड़के मस्ती से फिरते हैं जोरों से गाते हुए, खाल से पिरोये नारियल बजाते हुए सब इस कसबे के किसी बाहरी छोर पर रहते हैं। पर मैं, मैं उन्हें आश्वस्त कराती रहती हूँ कि हम तो सबसे आगे तैनात हैं।
ही में दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय के छात्रों और शिक्षकों को जब ABVP ने पीटा, तो उनमें से एक कार्यकर्ता ने सबको देख कहा "अरे यार इनमें से आधे तो छक्के हैं।" यू.पी. के इक्कीसवे मुख्य मंत्री योगी आदित्यनाथ ने कुछ साल पहले गोरखपुर में अपने समर्थकों से ये कहा कि मुसलमानों के खिलाफ लड़ाई में केवल ताकतवर ही हिस्सा ले सकते हैं, कोई शिखंडी या हिजड़े नहीं। कहानी की सीख - इस दौर के शिखंडी बनो। उनकी मर्दानगी को ठुकराओ। छक्के बनो। ताकत की इस गलत व्याख्या को अस्वीकार करो। जिनसे लड़ने को कहें उनसे प्यार करो। हिजड़े बनो। नफरत पर धिक्कार करो।
You would also remember our college days?
It's been more than forty years. Lalbagh College,
Lucknow. We used to walk to it, and all through
the way, we'd chat and laugh like monkeys.
Do you remember Zoology's Ma'am Verma,
and Botany's Reva Bhatia?
You'd surely not have forgotten
that handsome practical examiner
who had come for our biology exam?
And how all our teachers went crazy over him,
the next day Ma'am Bhatia got a bobcut,
and Ma'am Verma came all done-up.
All of us students took his autographs
as if he was some celebrity, right?
And, do you remember, how we used to call
that Art Faculty teacher 'Murgi' behind her back?
Damn, those were the days.
Later, we still took the same rickshaw to Mahila College,
even when our homes were far from each others'.
Do you remember waiting for each other on the road-side?
Where sometimes, the loafers around would say
"good-morning," and we'd pretend we did not hear them.
Do you remember that PhD holder Ma'am Ishwari,
whatever topic she'd start teaching, she'd end up with another.
And that Inorganic Chemistry sir who'd
tell us stories within stories,
what was his name, I can't seem to recall.
And that Organic Chemistry teacher
who used to sing us lullabies?
Do you recall how we used to make faces
when they made us stay after college for N.C.C.?
And how, in later years, because of our different streams,
we had parted, but still, kept on meeting each other.
I still remember chatting with your Bhabhis,
and playing with your nephews and nieces on my lap.
In your verandah, how we lazed with chai,
sipping its ginger, black-pepper and gud slowly.
How we told each other all our secrets,
did we keep anything from each other?
Even after we married, we still tried
to meet each other; Rita, it's been
more than forty years of our friendship.
Now we're far
but Facebook and Whatsapp
do the trick. The only difference is,
then we were single, me and you,
now each of us has at least one bahu.
is when death settles in,
when it stalks each room and hides, like naphthalene balls, in their clothes. When memories get welded to places which become this is where he used to sit, or this is where he studied. War took them but the winter of peace-time really leaves them behind. Peace-time, the abacus of casualties, peace-time, the stock taking of shadows, peace-time, when the season asks you to move on; on your brows, still, the dew of his passing, in the sky, still, the half crescent of death, and in your eyes, the flower growing from his last words, his dying breath.
Spit, on the thread, as they worked, not so long ago, in a Bombay textile- -mill's dept of weaving, would still force the upper caste workers to wholly ban SC workers, 'coz contact with their spit would be sinning, so SCs were kept only in the low-paid dept of spinning, just so they would never be their immediate factory-floor neighbour. 'Caste is a division of labourers,' Bhim said, 'not just of labour.'