A Tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar

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Baba

1

baba,
you left this world
before I came

you hang as a memory now
on our rusty mud wall

a beaming portrait
inside a humble glass

my mother cleans it gently
with the end of her wrinkled sari
when our roof leaks on a rainy night

she wipes those tears,
becoming your fingers

I write on a tiny sheet,
“why is he weeping,ma?”,

Placing it on her lips,
I kneel to caress her hair.

She just kisses my cheeks
and leaves in a haste

Her breath feels
Like a drop of tear
She doesn’t want me to hear

My father, whispers,
On sulky nights,
“look, at those sober eyes,
That’s where we painted our past”

He, then, gazes at the farthest point
In that folded sky

“ Baba fought against gods,

Gods whose letters
Became molten lead
When it reached our ears

their water
turned into a flaming bird
bursting into temples
we cannot enter
when it touched our lips

their clothes
burnt themselves
when it covered our bodies

their streets
were laden with thorns
that pierced only our soles

we were naked beings,
bleeding from all our pores

those wounds
that wore off our dignity

we were epilogues
torn off from their stories

we were bodies
that belonged only in their borders

baba burnt those books
and wrote a new tale,
still unfinished,
all his life,
where untouched pages
were filled with languages
that spanned a nation

an untouchable nation
spawned from a million borders

he looked
into the eyes of their shivering temple-tops,
and screamed,
that a god who cannot touch us
doesn’t deserve us

we all walked behind him
like colours that follow a rainbow
as he closed their window
that seeks our worship ”

he would then go to sleep
nursed by the verses
hanging softly in his heart

woman-sleeps-among-ambedkar-picture

No other figure in Modern Indian history attracts such veneration like that of B.R.Ambedkar. He braved great odds  and fought for the emancipation of millions of people enslaved by caste system. Image Courtesy : Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

2

baba,
the lowest on our ladder
still spend their lives,suffocated,
inside the shameless sewers

even our own
have flushed their fates
to the corners of our conscience

baba,
our slippers still can’t sink
in their streets
our lips still can’t sip
from their cups

baba,
they walk on the carpets
of our corpses
to burn your statue
in the cauldron of caste

baba,
severed heads of lovers
rest on the lips of railway tracks
women hang from branches
in the shadows of a sombre night

baba
the Hindu rule you feared
during your time
has now dawned in our realm

those scheming saints
now weave an umbrella
into whose shade they pull us
shrieking into our ears
through their holy shells
that we all are ‘Hindus’

us, baba, the very people they spit at, even in their dreams

they usher us into a ghar
that nourished on our grief
where silhouettes of our sorrow
still wail in their garba-grihas

this ghar
where we were the steps
of spiritual stairs
they never stopped climbing
: crushed beneath their feet
we pleaded for our breaths

all this,
while they shower
trishuls of tragedy
onto the skulls of the ‘other’

the other who sells fruits
beside our cobbler stands

the other who drives the flies
away from the meat we skin

the other whose God
tended to our millennial scars,
with a tint, and a moment, of dignity

baba,
with grief,
I whisper to you,
this dewy night,
that some of us
have tainted our foreheads
with the tilaks they threw at us

baba,
scribble with your worn-out pen
on this moth-eaten cloud
hiding the moon in half
those words you want to scream
at these souls who betrayed you

they shall read it soon,
one night,
when those saffron tongues
shall vomit them
into the abyss
near the horizon of hatred

 

rss-21 ambedkar

HEIGHT OF APPROPRIATION : Portraits of RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar and Dr.B.R.Ambedkar being carried out during an RSS rally. Ambedkar was a trenchant critic of Hindutva throughout his life. Image Courtesy : Indian Express Archives

3

baba,
the priests
who flayed our skins
and severed our tongues
now, light the lanterns near your feet,

come back, baba,
like the fiery breeze
that swallows their flames

they bow
in their ironed suits
before your statues
they paint with their saffron stink

come back, baba,
like a tender downpour
washing off the stains
disguised as garlands on your coat
and heal the wounds
that sprout with their prayers

they trap you in the temples
you sought to wreck

they praise you in the words
you strove to burn

come back, baba, come back

if only to nurse my mother’s fingers’
that wilt every time you weep.

 

All the poems were penned by Abul Kalam Azad.

Abul Kalam Azad is a student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Chennai. He can be contacted at saka16492@gmail.com

Featured Image Courtesy : Economic Times.

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