TSC interviews | Mercy Margaret | C. Satyanathan

Chandramohan:  Congratulations on winning the Young Writer award. You  write  poetry in Telugu but you converse with your colleagues mostly in English? What does your language mean to you?

Mercy: Thank you so much for your greetings. Yes, I write poems in Telugu. Telugu is my mother tongue. I feel human sentiments are often best expressed in the mother tongue. English is a link language to connect with people from different parts of the country and world.  For me, language is not at all a tool of communication; it is more than that.In one of my poems, I have written that  language to me is a medicine which heals people.  Language is a thread which brings humans together. And I love my mother tongue. As in, these days everyone is running after English. Yes, of course it is good to know English and communicate in it so that we can exchange our grief, ideas and cultural heritage. But we should never forget our mother tongue too. Because those who are good at their mother tongue can learn  other languages  better. 

 Chandramohan: You speak about using social media effectively. Could you elaborate? Why do you think social media has been so pivotal in Dalit Bahujan activism?

Mercy : Yes. I am very active on Social Media. Facebook has become a medium for me to express my views in the form of poetry and stories. This is the generation of Information Technology.  In a click,  everybody is connecting to each other.  Social media has become a very powerful tool to express every body’s feelings. 

I started writing in Facebook.  My poems got shared and I started receiving Likes. I connected with many poets in Facebook and learned from them, asked them which book should I read and which books I have to refer.

 I Am a Christian. A Dalit Christian. I was brought up in an orthodox way.  I do not hail from a literary family and my parents know nothing about literature. Being religious, I thought I should not write poetry since by doing that I may rob the glory of God; I thought I should use all my talents only for God. Many misconceptions were around at that time in my mind. But social media helped me to see the world in different way. It has become a platform for my thoughts . There were people in the initial stage who didn't accept me as  my name reveals my identity and community. Slowly,  they started accepting me by reading my poems. 

When it comes to Dalit Bahujan activism, social media is playing a vital role. Many mainstream papers have no space for Dalit Bahujan issues. They will not provide a place to express our views. But through Facebook, blogs  etc.  our literature is reaching many. 

Chandramohan: Could you briefly present a snapshot of your literary evolution? You have overcome twin disadvantages of being a woman and a Dalit. Do you wish to place yourself in the tradition of Swaroopa Rani or Gogu Shyamala?

Mercy: As I earlier stated, I am from a Dalit Christian community. I should confess here that the Dalits discriminate against those who have converted to Christianity. We are not treated equally.

In the initial days, I wrote poetry  of a romantic nature. But slowly, I started to study the society.  Many of my personal experiences have taught me about Dalit issues and Dalit activism. Being born and brought up in a city like Hyderabad and educated in a Christian school, I never faced any kind of discrimination and I never knew about Dalit activism. But many incidents helped me to understand the situation. 

I can't say that I will be continuing  the tradition of Swaroopa Rani or Gogu Shyamala. I write poetry when ever I feel my voice is required to help the suppressed whoever it is. And I write poetry to vent about the  pressure of  my surroundings, society, inequalities etc. 

Chandramohan: Do you consider yourself a Dalit writer? What are the specifics of the subjectivity of  a "Dalit Writer" in your perspective?  In addition to your Christian background?
Mercy: I am not a Dalit Writer. I am a writer who is Dalit. ( This thought or stand may change according to time or may not, it all depends on time and situations )  I speak where ever my voice is required to address issues where justice has failed. I do not want to limit myself by saying this. I am not under-valuing the issue of Dalits. I belong to Dalit community and I will be the voice of my community in the crucial times. 

In my view, those who are called "Dalit writers" are sacrificing a lot.They are sacrificing  their pleasures and due praises for the community’s sake. Yes, it is true if they remove that tag of Dalit writers they would  also become great laureates. As everyone  knows, their voices were suppressed due to literary politics.

It’s true that Dalit Christians are treated with less priority compared to the normal Dalits. They are not given  equal rights as Dalits get. Many Dalit Christians are undergoing persecution. But these deaths and harassment are not getting recorded. I found there is very little literature  produced on us. Our lives should get recorded. Alone, I  can’t do this. Many more should come forward.

---5. You are the second "Yuva Puraskar " winner I am interviewing in the last two years who hails from a Dalit background. Does this reflect a larger shift in mainstreaming the voices of the margin in Telugu literature?
  Mercy: Yes, of course. I feel  this Award has given strength to our voice; people who didn't listen to us will try to listen now. Many young Dalits are getting inspired.


Prose | Address following Sahitya Academy Award by Mercy Margaret

It began like a small drop of water, with one small step. Today, the journey has brought me to stand before such an august gathering of people in this city. It´s like a movie reel running before my eyes. 

To stand in front of you today, with heart filled with immense pleasure, is the result of several sleepless nights of effort and sacrifice.

First of all, let me extend my most humble greetings to all those who are present here. I also extend my heartfelt gratitude to the jury of the Kendra Sahitya Academy for honouring me with this award and for encouraging several poets like me.

Although it has been about six months since this award was announced I still keep receiving congratulations and words of appreciation. People often ask how I feel about the award. When they inquire about these things, I notice an enormous love in their eyes. I even notice that they search for happiness in my eyes. Almost for a week after the announcement was made, there was a flood of phone calls and messages on Facebook and Whatsapp leaving me almost breathless with happiness.

The fact that I had earned so many well-wishers made me feel happier than the award itself. In fact, it´s the poetry that has endeared me to all. This award brought me even closer to them more than ever.
That´s indeed showering with love, the love which made most of them feel as if they had won this award themselves. What can I give them back in exchange except love? I am indebted to God for having brought me onto this earth with a purpose. I am indebted to my parents who made me kneel down and pray for my books and education when I was small. There have been several people who have instilled in me a sense of determination and values to uphold in life. I don´t really know how to express my gratitude to them. My gratitude to my teachers who put up with my naughtiness affectionately and filled my hands with well-lit burning words.  To Mark Zuckerberg for offering a wonderful platform like Facebook.  My heartfelt gratitude to my companion, friend and husband who is there in every step I take as my first critic and guide always encouraging me to produce quality writing. It´s my duty to thank everybody that has been a source of encouragement and inspiration in my life.

Having been born in a Christian family with no background of any literary discourse at home this comes as a surprise even to me. It´s not to say that I have made a great achievement, nor does this award will change anything in my attitude towards life. I consider it as an acknowledgement for planting another sapling in my literary garden.  It has only a humbling effect on me. Undoubtedly, it´s an important literary break for me. It has become an obligation now to learn more and more. To have more caring people around.

Nowadays, it´s difficult to find love and affection among people. Nobody seems to have time to listen to the other. There used to be a sort of companionship once. All human relations have become commercial today. Instead of coming closer to one another we are drifting apart. Distances between people have become longer and words have become scarce.

A Marxist will wage a long-time revolution. A middleclass girl after concluding two major journeys of her life –one before marriage and the other after marriage, will embark upon an eternal journey of companionship and turbulence. A sailor will embark upon his prolonged journey towards an unseen edge of the water. A scientist convinced that life is an endless evolution will drown himself in an interminable search. One defines life as a struggle, another as survival and yet another as a journey or an eternal quest, but everyone will keep moving. But they come back as if they have been reminded of something.

The pleasure of reaching the goal together, in one single leap, laying hands on one another´s shoulder or running over the puddles amidst peels and laughter, a childhood we left behind, a life, a language, a feeling –they all transform into a nostalgia.

In childhood, the puddles formed by the first showers of rain on the muddy streets used to greet us warmly as if they were meeting us after a long gap. We used to look at ourselves in the same puddles wondering how we looked when we laughed. It was great fun.

Haven´t we laid roads with coal-tar topping to run our cars? Where can you find those puddles now? 

Where are the puddles that remind us today how we looked like when we laughed at our own reflections in them? Where are the puddles that remind us with a heap of words that we are human beings?

What we left behind while walking is our own life, our own language. It´s the word that tells us that a human being is still alive. So long as the words flow like a stream, we remain alive. But we are abandoning the words. We are losing people. 

The society has grown. Humanity has entered into our melancholy. From the larval stage, our ideas and thoughts have undergone a metamorphosis. We wanted to fly. Without even knowing where we were taking off, we traversed almost an infinity. But did we ever stop to observe there was not one puddle to be seen on this journey? We have left the very human element of observation in our lives. When machine becomes a man and man becomes a machine, language slips in to oblivion. When language becomes oblivious, feelings become obsolete. We have no time to lay hands on one another´s shoulders and leap together. Today, there are no puddles where words ooze eternally, words of warmth that existed among friends. 

If we combine several brief journeys it becomes one long journey. An odyssey. Every small trip is a turning. Every turning is a lesson in life.

Modern life has conspired to wipe us out physically, psychologically and politically. If we are not alert, we can disappear from the crowd, from the context or even from our very own self. That´s why when we see the burning lives of people, ever vanishing human element, when we see the resources for building this world draining out rapidly, when we see human strife and tragedy the pressure on our heart mounts. Pen and paper become our companions to help us combat this pressure, to relieve us from its clutches. In times of crisis, of desperation and of lifelessness, poetry pats you on your back to bring you back to life.

Nowadays, people live for themselves. “Me and my family”. The society is a conglomeration of many such families. We know everything. We know how to maneuver on the thin line between good and bad. When I stumble on that line, the poet in me wakes up. It´s not to scribble something to change the society. I walk with many such “Me and Mine-s” in the society with shades of victory and with the shrieks of a wounded heart imprinted on the palm of my hand. That´s what is reflected in my poetry. You will see many such instances taking poetic form in my forthcoming collection too.

Initially, there used to be an enclosure around me. I saw people being apprehensive of touching my writings and thoughts. I was then a plant called ´Touch Her Not´. There were people who were skeptical about reading my words, my writings. My name reveals my identity. It reveals my community. Therefore, they were far from being receptive. It took a lot of time for a lot of people to accept me as a poet.

Although I started to write when I was in Intermediate second year, I wasn´t really sure, whether it was poetry or not. With the restrictions of having been born in a Christian family and with no literary background, I had no idea what to read. Then, when I was in degree second year –that was in 2002, I won a prize in an essay-writing contest organized by Vishalandhra Publications, a prestigious Telugu language publishing house. I was given books worth three thousand rupees. By then, Sri Sri, Dr.C.Narayana Reddy and Tilak were already part of my syllabus. I ordered their books and read them. A little later, Facebook  became a platform for me. I opened my Facebook account in 2009. I began to post whatever I thought was good to post there. Surprisingly, I received a great deal of response there. I met several poets on Facebook. I sought their recommendations about books related to poetry and read. That urge to read poetry finally brought me here. Slowly, my poems have been translated into English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Odiya and Kannada languages and published. I have been accorded the opportunity of reading my poetry at various state, national and international poetry conclaves. I recited my poetry at Festival of Letters –New Harvest of Young Writers´ Meet organized by the Kendra Sahitya Academy. At the South India Writers´ Meet, I not only recited my poetry but presented a paper too. I started ´Poetry Hall´ on Facebook. I organize poetry workshops at Ravindra Bharathi in Hyderabad and train enthusiastic students in writing poetry. It has been one journey so far. A kind of transit. Now it´s time to discover new horizons. To begin a new journey.
This award is certainly a source of encouragement to continue my literary career. I hope this will turn out to be a Guru who will pat on my back and remind me constantly to write with responsibility.
My heartfelt gratitude to all of you.


Poem | Karan Mujoo

A fireworks shop in Old Delhi, closed following SC order, before Diwali this year

इस शहर में वैसे तो यह शहर
दिन भर ज़हर उगलता है,
पर कभी कभी
इसकी शाम अच्छी होती है.
बादल ऐसे की लगता है
किसी ने आसमान में
स्याही की बोतल उड़ेल दी हो.

वैसे तो इस शहर में
लोहे के दैत्य शोर मचाते रहते हैं,
पर आज यहाँ बूंदों का
मद्धम मद्धम संगीत है.

इस शहर में लोग सपने बेच के
1 BHK, 2 BHK और कभी कभी
3 BHK भी ले लेते हैं.
इस शहर में साइबर सिटी भी है
और यहाँ कन्हाई गाँव भी है.
इस शहर में CEO  भी है और चपरासी भी.
कभी कभी सोहना रोड के ट्रैफिक जाम में
इन दोनों का आमना सामना भी होता है.
एटलस साइकिल और मर्सेडीज़ एक बराबर हो जाती है.
इस शहर में छोटे छोटे शहरों
से आके बहुत सारे सपने रहते हैं.
जब वो टूटते हैं तो
चूड़ियों सी आवाज़ करते हैं.
इस शहर में बूढ़े लोग घरों में रोते हैं
और जवान लोग दफ्तरों में.

अगर आप बोर हो रहे हैं
तो इस शहर में एक जैसे दिखने वाले mall भी हैं.
जहा जाके आप capitalism की मूर्ति पे
पैसे की माला चढ़ा सकते हैं.
इस शहर में ताऊ DLF को ज़मीन बेच के
करोड़पति बन गया है, पर अभी भी वो भैंस
के सामने बैठ कर हुक्का पीता है.
इस शहर के ड्राइवर रोज़
मौत के साथ दौड़ लगते हैं.
इस शहर में प्यार सहारा mall
के बाहर उदास बैठा रहता है,
आप चाहे तो उसे खरीद सकते हैं.

इस शहर में  Kunskapsskolan
भी है और चाइल्ड लेबर भी है.
इस शहर में सपने भी है और दुखड़े भी हैं.

खैर जैसा भी है, मेरा शहर है
और आज यहाँ की शाम अच्छी है.


Poem | George Wallace

Source: https://thenewinquiry.com

I am sorry Diane di Prima*

i am sorry diane diprima there was no
revolution, we cleaned things up just
about enough to carry on, we forgot
your necessary guns and buddha,
the revolution of the body and heart
was no match for clean sheets and
prosperity, we filled the lakes back up
with rainbow trout we unpolluted the sky,
we closed the factories and gentrified
the lower east side, hell i think it was a
rockefeller who rebuilt the bronx (have you
seen the bronx river parkway sparkling in
the autumn sun), we filled our gas tanks and
bank accounts and ran off to cancun, into the
mouths of our children we poured laughter
fireworks poetry and college degrees, we forgot
about filling our bathtubs up with your grandpa's
marxism and coal, the life-preserving waters of
sacco & vanzetti went down the drain, escaped
us -- we put aside your revolutionary letters and
let our cup runneth over with patriotism and
football and craft beer, yeah we let the old
sins back in -- success for the many, fuck-all
for the few -- until the few became the many
again and now it's fuck-all for everyone except
the fatcats and their plastic wives in golfcarts,
country clubs and private towers -- reach for the
sky, the privileged few are on high and the rest
of us are hanging around in the streets below to
fool and to fuel, and now it's ten pm and 3 drunks
crossing church street are pulling on a young girl's
hijab and shouting trump trump trump --and the
blood in the eyes of the people, and the anger
in their mouths, is for each other, not for the
oppressors -- just the way they like it -- and
where is the precious seed of your revolution
now, diane diprima, when we really need it.

*First published in Foundlings Magazine, and included in the 2017 Blue Lights Press collection, Smashing Rock and Straight as Razors.