Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

28 Jul 2010, 6:00 a.m.

From My Father's Library

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

20th Century Kannada Poetry (Selections)
Edited & Translated by Sumatheendra Nadig

M. Gopalakrishna Adiga
"A Common Man"

How dare you call me Common Man; Your dad
is common, in the company of my father
your grandfather and your great grandfather
                   who are dead.
Hey you, tell me if you know my name. Does
                   your father own
this face, this stance and this lashless
God's-eye mind of mine? Faraway you sit in your
airconditioned room and conduct
my funeral rites with your generalisations.
If you have any guts, come out
and look at my palm; look at the
unique mounts, crosses and lines. I will show you
how in this broken lantern the sooty wick
lifts up its burning head.

You are the wooden handle of the axe
which has forgotten the flowering, fruit bearing tree.
For you everything is the same. A group
means a flock, a flock means sheep
and sheep means mutton. Where is the humanity
in you to call each one by name, feed
and fondle it with endearing words? you know
only to number us and fill up the trucks by the
meat factory. You know only to apply the
same brand name to all the cans. You dream
of tasting me only from the can.
For a piece of bread, you bastard, you
have allowed them to scrape off your nose and face.
You are the tailless fox for whom variety
is sour. You hold the foot rule and
Scrape off everything until it becomes common.
You, worshipper of the shapeless black money's
jingle, what is the name of the machine
in your chest? Come on, breathe out.

Everything that can breathe has its own history,
its special smile, its own evolution
and direction. It will escape your map
and lift up its flag of individuality
until it can build a tower of light.
I may be an eczema-stricken farmer in torn cloths,
                part of a chorus,
or a come-what-may-I-don't-care factory
                worker in sooty clothes,
or a limping thrusting-forward beggar on the street.


Did you call me a common man? You are mistaken.
Beware, I don't stretch my hands for the handcuffs.
I will bite and tear the noose round my neck
while I close my eyes and muse. Your pistol may
threaten me to march to its tune but I
will be dancing to a different tune in my mind.
I am a free-born soul.
You, worshipper of commonalities who has scraped
off your face to wear the mask of Hiranayaksha

Your only ambition is to stick to your chair,
Therefore either you chisel off the faces of others
or keep them in jails. But look, look! there
the great boar is sharpening his tusks,
waiting for the proper time.
I am the Narasimha caught up in a pillar.
I am also waiting
for a proper time.

It's uneven but I love "Everything that can breathe... / ... tower of light", "Beware, I don't stretch my hands for the handcuffs", and "I am the Narasimha caught up in a pillar."