He himself starts flowering
While watering the plants and bushes of other
Patting the milch cows and buffaloes
Praying for everyone’s sons and cattle
Putting his hand on the plough
Prays for the well-being of all
Becomes soil working with the soil

He has brought with his own hands
The green, the white and the blue revolution
And still flows on his body
A dry rivulet.

His lean body burns in May and June
And on the other side there are
Shining and Silken bodies
Searching for happiness in other bodies
And his wounded by generations thoughts
Repeatedly tells him
All this is merely a game fate plays.

Sometimes he ponders
No matter there are crocodiles in the sea
But fishes keep on swimming merrily
Birds have the sky to fly
And nests to live
And what home I got ?
A country with a culture to be ‘proud’ of
To carry forward the tradition of slavery
My own children!

And then again sometimes he thinks
And looks around to find
The meaning of the saying – “There may be delay but not denial”
And starts searching in his hardened hand
The vanishing and dimming lines

A line drawn on water
Is still taken
To be a line on stone
By my old man.


Many a time
I get dwarfed
Like a tree cut at the top
Over whom passes the power lines
I get pruned out of season
When in the passing
Someone asks my religion

Many a time
Gets split water
This statue made of earth

And words –
Leave my lips
Like leaves of trees
During the fall
Water starts flowing over my head
The earth does not open to swallow me
When suddenly
Some one asks
My caste.

Many a time
Tthe skies of my mind
Get dark
With clouds of acute depression
When in the metropolitan air
The free flying bird
Who had come here in surch of food
Sits folding its wings
When all of a sudden
Someone asks its ancestral place.
First village and then the sector.

Why many a time ?
More than often
The free flying bird
Gets shot
With the arrow of
Religion some time, caste some time
Sector of the village some time
And sub caste some time.


He said –
I have followed you for a long time
Now you follow me
They said –
We have got the ‘mouth’
And you have got the feet
The dharma of the feet is to walk

He said –
I have ‘yes-sired’ you for a long time
Now you show agreement with me.
They said –
We have got the speech
And you have got the ears
The dharma of the ears is to listen

He said –
I am homeless because of you
Please return my dwelling to me
They said –
Jungle is the home of the tribals
We shall spread the jungle’s wind
It is a sin to go against the wind.

He said –
I am a ‘bullock with covered eyes
Remove the blinds, let me see
They said –
Your dharma is not to see
But to ignore what you see

He said –
I shall walk against the wind
Your words shall be entrapped like an echo
They said –
To stop the wind, to entomb the voice
Is now totally impossible, impossible.


Ma looks towards me
And also tells me,
Before you were born
He faced the hills beyond
And challenged their might
Straightened the paths
Filled the gaps between valleys
Showed the high mountains their place.

Ma ---
Brightens up like a sparklet
And tells me
when you were born
He, like Farhad
In the Shivalik hills
Used to dig canals
Night and day
So that there is
Green all around
So that the deserts
Prosper the wastelands.

Ma ---
Tells me -
And also laughs
When you started playing around
Falling and running
Those bridges across the rivers
Were built.
The sunken chest
He became rock-like
Swollen with pride
So that distances get
Narrowed down
So that caravans could pass.

Tells me ---
Some thought tortures her
But even so tells me
He called for someone loudly
"I smoothed the fields
Built the palaces
Lifted the sinking motherland"
And they
quietly issued their edict
"You deserve only rebukes
For ages you have
Existed only to
Serve us."

Ma ---
Tells me
As if saddling the house,
Tells me again and again
There are innumerable
People in the world
But rarely a brave soul
And an image
Comes before my eyes
That of my
old father,
And his lean face
Full of wrinkles
With red eyes
Burning like flames
And now again and again
I think what
Ma told me
Watching the horse

Ma Looks Towards me
And also tells me,
Before you were born
He faced the hills beyond
And challenged their might
Straightened the paths
Filled the gaps between valleys
Showed the high mountains their place.


Riding on his back for age
Are these inhuman
High castes
These religions
There satanic false rites.

On the naked body
When falls the whip
He doesn't walk
He runs blindly
Forgets the cotton
Choking his ears
The blinds on his eyes
The trap on his mouth
Summer and winter.

Tied with Smrities
And rules
And those very people
Explain the rules to him
Outside whose doors
He stands

In a mood for fun
Those very people make
Fun of him.
He sleeps clandestinely
Never saw him sitting
Only saw him made to
Lie by them
When shoes are
Hammered into his hooves

Eating grass and weeds
Waste from the fields
So active is he
That even time can't
Match his agility
So powerful is he
That even electricity
Faints before him.

And these days
He has started
Stopping again and again
And resisting
And it seems to me
As if this brave house
As my own old man
As if it is a fresh
Music from the
Tired and bored
Public Mind.

For centuries
Riding on his back
Are these inhuman
High castes
The religions of this place
And the Satanic
False rites.


I don’t want
My poems
To be like monsoon streams
Ruining and merging with a river
And losing their identity

I don’t want
My poems
To be part of the mainstream
Whose holy books
Divide a vast field into small plots
And segregate into part the velvety greens
To safeguard their caps and hair locks
And forbid the opening of the third eye
For the dark skinned people like me.

I on the other hand want
My poems
To be like those birds
Who flying across lanes and drains
Of the village descend in any courtyard and
To pick up the grains
Without caring for the high of low dweller

All I want is that
My poems
Should join that mainstream
Which contains
Eklavya, war songs on Banda Bahadur.
Struggles of Peer Budhu Shah
And the pain of Pablo Neruda


Much has been left behind
Like childhood
For example ---
My village, my people
Fields, dearer than sons
Trees witness to my love
Like Mirza's acacia.

This earthen statue
Has passed much
Like water which
Has flowed away
For example ---
Caravan of breaths
Years more than two and a half of
Geeta's chapters
Walls of my love
And hieghts of the hills
Much has been forgotten
Like a dream
For example ---
Birds how to fly
Own heritage
Own language
And the land of Sials' daughters.
Much is still there
Like wife and kids
For example ---
Enmities behind loves
Vanished have relations
Divisions of the waters
And horrible scenes arising
Out of them
And the bird with
Trimmed wings only remembers
Like the blood circulalting
In the body
The thought of picking
Up the scattered feed.
Much has been left behind
Like childhood
For example ---
My village, my people
Fields, dearer than sons
Trees, witness to my love
Like Mirza's acacia.

I want to live with you
As a plant lives with soil
Greenery with leaves
Scenery with eyes.

Life !

I want to have such an
Emotional relation with you
As a fish with the sea
Warmth with the Sun
Flower with Scent.

Life !
I want to pass through
The ups and downs
As a boat passes
Through waves
Some mountain shepherd
Through the lows and highs of the hills.

Life !

I wish daily
To became a
Cloud over hot deserts
On spread my wings
Over the little ones
Of the birds
Shivering with cold.

Life !

I want to become so vast
As a form of seven seas
A sun of the rainbow
A tree flush will green leaves.

Life !

I want to live with you
As a plant lives with soil
Greenry with leaves
Scenery with eyes.


I think -
What might not have happened
To the standing old trees
When they saw falling
Trees nearby
In a sudden hurricane
And remember
The level of tolerance of those trees
And then automatically
Comes agility in my feet
The bird with the sad end heart
Again gets busy with its flights.

Translated by Gyan Singh
A/3, 12 Maitri Apartments,
PaschimVihar, New Delhi-63

Four poems by Balbir Madhopuri
Translated by T C Ghai


My caste is always with me
like my complexion
like my shadow.
We are so rolled into one
I’m nothing
except my caste,
wherever I am
in the city or in the village
here or across the seas.

I try very hard to hide,
wear a hundred masks
but it shows itself
again and again
like the white hair
after the dye has worn off
or like the body showing
through tattered clothes

I wish to be rid of it
like someone wanting a divorce
but they tell me,
this bond stays on
birth after birth...
nothing to think about.

the bow is strung
with arrows of contention,
which pierce both past and present.
Blood boils within, like an earthquake
and then
divisions come in the open
up-down, right-left.

My caste is always with me
like my complexion
like my shadow.
We are so rolled into one
I’m nothing
except my caste,
wherever I am
in the city or in the village
here or across the seas.
Tsunami Waves

The tsunami waves
washed away many things;
rocky shores,
living creatures
fishes and tortoises
trees and humans
beautiful natural landscape

The waves
wrecked the houses
where God was segregated,
where people
would step in or pass by
shivering, in fear

And in no time
the land became water
and death ruled all over.
One recalled:
‘Death is a great leveler.’
Yet the survivors sang a different tune.
The living labelled the dead
as high or low
touchable or untouchable .

In this way
on the sea shore
the ‘not humans’ were left
hungry, thirsty,
and without hope
by the demonic laughter
of the ‘humans’.

The tsunami waves
that altogether demolished
the rocky shores
could not knock down
the high walls of hatred
that stood in the human hearts.

In the aftermath
let someone,
on the now calm sea’s wide shore,
reflect, and say:
Let us push our boat
into the sea of humaneness
embrace each other like the waves
merge into each other
destroy the poisonous fish.
Come let us play this game.

Come, my friend,
let’s meet again
just as two pathways meet,
merge into each other
like a river in the sea.

Come, my friend,
let’s sing, in the marketplace,
the death song
for the Sanatani culture
that has divided mankind again and again,
that has no reason to be.

Come, my friend,
let’s bury deep
the ’living words’
that stink,
that don’t let you forget
‘the dead mother’
and lacerate so many hearts.

Come, my friend,
let’s give up the kissa tradition
give up the culture of ‘culture’
let’s load with stones and sink the boat
in which life is a living death

Come, my friend,
let’s fight another Mahabharat
write another sixteenth chapter
dam the river of fire
drive the black spotted pigeon
across the dividing lines

Come, my friend,
let’s bring under the shade
the life that is a desert,
plant flowers in barren lives
and fulfill the duty of words

Come, my friend,
let’s find words
that bring sunshine, air and the sea
that are charged with the energy of a warrior
that make the whole sky fragrant

Come, my friend,
let’s meet again
just as two pathways meet,
merge into each other
like a river in the sea.
My Culture

even the deserts
have become green.
The barren lands too
are blooming
The natural landscape too
has changed
Yet my culture
drenched in caste
still remains unchanged.

even the unbounded space
has shrunk
The seven continents too
have become one
like the colors of the rainbow
in the sunlight
The Berlin wall
has come down like a house of glass
and is a heap of sand now
Yet no key can unlock
the stony doors of my culture
that refuses to open up

even the glaciers
are melting
The waters in the oceans
are warming up
And hot winds too
are blowing at places
Yet my culture
like the consumer culture
still sticks different labels
on human beings
Sunshine and Shade Walk Together

Water flowed away under the old bridge
The river-swell receded
The duck’s body remains dry
even while it moves in water
The frame is old
yet the mirror reflects new light
The wind chases away the cloud
lest it should touch the sky
The wind rubbed past the tree
leaving it stock-still
Why do you blink your eyes:
Sunshine and shade move together
The branch bends low with the weight of the fruit
The tree sways with the wind
When the East wind blows
the tree blooms faster.
Before I Go to Sleep

My wife lying beside me
never knows
when I,
riding in the lap of the wind,
start chasing a small cloud;
push a boat
into the flooded river
to reach the light shining across;
start ransacking my books
to find the butterfly wings
I had tucked in a book
in my childhood.

She does not even know
when, trotting on the road,
I break through the red signal
and collide against a dolphin;
when I sweat from every pore,
reminded of travelling in a bus in Punjab
as if Iraq were reminded of America;
and then of the garbled couplets
of a perfect ghazal.

My wife lying beside me
does not know
when, piercing the darkness
and through closed windows and doors,
I drop down with heavy wings
as if I were drowned in debt
But in truth I wait
in a ramshackle house
for the sun to rise
to see a smile
on my little girl’s face.

When the Hot Wind Blows

Now when
the hot wind blows
and charan’s gardens are devastated,
when many faces disappear
and silence reigns during the day
as if it were night
then I
rush back home reminding myself
of my soft-as-cotton daughter and
my sunshine-like wife ‘s pale faces.

Now when
someone writes on the wind
draws a line on water
clips the wings of birds in flight
imagines a world in his heart
swans drown themselves
in the clear waters of lakes.
And I
like cowards
encircle like a creeper
my soft-as-kitten daughter,
who is just beginning to prattle
and my mulberry-shoot like wife,
and like someone sick
I enclose my small world in my eyes.

Now when
an earthquake shakes the high mountains
above the piece of earth that’s my share,
desire descends like rain,
the sea of sensuality rises unstopably high
the toy-like daughter of mine
erects a mud wall
between me and my part of the world
And I
think of raising the height
of walls that enclose my home,
for who knows when the reckless wind
would come crashing through the threshold.


My dear wife
don’t fear the water’s rising wave.
It will turn by itself
into an eddy;
waters after all must flow
under the bridges.

Don’t wake my daughter,
lying asleep in her cradle,
who, watching the stars coming out of a sparkler,
turns into a sparkler herself;
and let her dream of filling her lap
by picking the stars swimming in the sky;
and don’t ever tell her
that her father’s dreams
of swinging on the rainbow,
of bringing down the moon
and placing it on his wife’s forehead
have come to nought.

Don’t tell
my butterfly-like
lighter-than-flowers daughter
that the procession of sins is endless;
otherwise her dolls would drop down her hands;
rather you should tell her
that her father holds
pigeons in his left hand
and eagles in his right one.

You should let my fragrance-like daughter
draw pigeons and doves
in her notebook as before,
and set them to fly.
My good wife
don’t be afraid of the whirlwinds
for they are godless.
Don’t fear the tidal waves,
my dear wife,
waters after all
must flow under the bridges
Waiting for a Cool Breeze

The sunshine dies at high noon
and there is no shade
The trees are bereft of their branches
Only a few remain
Anthills have risen under every tree
There is no shade to sit under
The five rivers
shed tears, where they are

Pistols and guns grow
where flowers and ears of corn grew
One is at a loss
for these demand blood for watering
Why no one stops the destructive hailstorms
is a deep mystery
The masters reap what they sow
and yet they complain.

The skies swing in hopelessness
The stars fall
Courtyards are drowned in mourning
The walls shiver
How can one stop this wind
that is spreading all around
Bodies hard as stone are worn down
in the stream of bitterness.

Bodies like cypress should not fall
A crane should not stray from the flock
Doves should coo in courtyards
A cool breeze should blow from somewhere
People should not come to mourn in droves
Nor a mare be without its rider
Winds should become fragrant
Minds glow with good sense
The Sunshine’s Journey

The break of day
is like a siren for her
As soon as she wakes
she begins to water the plants
and the flowers big and small
bloom and spread their fragrance

And I
while slurping my tea
turn over the pages of the newspaper
in search of state-of-the-nation news ⎼
how one faction
has battered the other
and I am reminded
of some slokas of Tulsi and Manu

That’s how
her morning turns into noon
and she spreads the shade of her being
on the blooming flowers
and the difference
between the tall mulberry tree
and her
seems to disappear

That’s how her noon
That’s how her noon
has mellowed

Whenever I return home
riding my mare
through dark and narrow lanes
she standing at the door
catches the mare’s rein
and the tidal wave
surging through her heart
A light shines in her eyes
and the earth
seems peaceful to her

That’s how
her morning begins
That’s how
her noon descends
That’s how
her noon mellows
That’s how
her high noon has mellowed
My Life (to My Wife)

Ever since she has stood beside me
we are not two but eleven
My feet sail above the ground
I have left far behind
the jungle of deep sorrows
I have surrendered before her love
weapons shaped by resentments and anger,
plans of animosities and revenge

She has sowed
in my heart
the seeds of a new revolt
just as she is nurturing
in her body
our heir to come.

She has covered
the net of my vices and imperfections
just as the skin hides
the network of blood vessels and entrails
But she lays bare
the journey of my feet
that have negotiated many ditches and bumps
left and right, back and front;
how I swam across wide rivers;
my forthright utterances
in public places.

She is very secretive
like thoughts dissolved in blood
in fact many times
she calls
me Krishna
and herself Radha
me Shiva
and herself Parvati
She builds a bridge
between the Aryan and the non-Aryan
and for my sake
she has absorbed much
just as the earth has absorbed
poisonous chemicals
When we go out
to rent a house
or face insults
while visiting a religious place
she questions the conscience of humans.
Then she shines all the more
like the sun
and filled with joy she says,
our heir, born of our union,
will bring heaven on earth
and spread his eyelids
for people to walk on.

I stare at her
goggle-eyed and
see the present and future
through the past.
Waves in the Mind

Walking through the crisscross of roads
passing through life’s blind alleys
I see in front of me
milky corncobs as if spinning cotton
blooming wheat and paddy
stalks more fragile than glass;
and beside them some crops already withering.
I am witness to this silent lamentation.

One remembers
fissures in the drought-stricken fields,
like the cracks in the elders’ heels;
oxen biting into withered stubble
like sisters, born one after the other,
chewing at their mother’s dry teats;
and father’s quiet prayers,
both said and unsaid,
for flowers to bloom for everyone
for the drying crops to green again,
I quietly translate to myself.

The water channel dug on the southern side
seems becoming unbridgeable day by day,
which neither I nor my upper caste friend
could ever swim and go across
rebelling against the banks we stood on.
The river of friendship wants to flow
riding over the furrows like old men’s wrinkles,
in spite of the silt or marble
because water seeks its own level.
An Oasis (to my friend Purshotam Sharma)

At times
he is distant like the sun
and close like the sunshine
At times
reminded of my adolescence days
I am filled with warmth
At others
his speech scorches
Whenever I unroll
the folds of the past
I see him
sometimes as my crutches
sometimes as my wings

Whenever I descend
into dark endless caves
or a boggy hell
he is like the steadfast polestar

Sometimes he is the sunshine
Sometimes an umbrella
Sometimes a protective sword
Sometimes the LakshmanRekha

During a drought
he is a dew drop
In the desert
he is an oasis
The Contracting Circle

Many things have been left behind
like my childhood:
My village, my people
Fields dearer than sons
Trees like Mirza’aJand
witness to a love tale

This clayey figure
has crossed many landmarks
like waters that have flowed past:
Lived through years
breath after breath
two and a half times
the number of chapters in the Gita;
Scaled the walls of love and infatuation
and many mountains

I have forgotten many things
like dreams:
The flight of birds
My ancestry
My language
The land of Siyals’ daughters.

There’s much I remember
like my wife and children:
A few names and places
Fights over love
Relationships that are dead
Horrifying scenes of slaughter
over water sharing
And the wingless bird thinks only,
like blood coursing through the body,
of picking the feed that lies scattered.

The Sky is Witness

Many eyes
were riveted on deserted pathways
to lovingly welcome someone;
but the pathways had devoured
the footprints of the home-comers.

Many fields
waited for the soft touch of the feet
that never weighed heavy on them
like those of strangers.

Many oxen
bellowed for the hands
whose one pat would relieve
their daylong fatigue.

Dogs like Moti⎼
members of family ⎼
sat disheartened
wondering for whom
should they wag their tails.

A heart would suddenly
start beating fast
on seeing a clayey figure
become a tiger, with a weapon in hand.

The sky has absorbed
the tragedy of the five rivers
the winds of conspiracy
the tearfulness of the exploding clouds
the memory of falling stars
the sound of tender shoots cracking.

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Balbir Madhopuri

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