And what better way to start the new year than with a neat poem?
SHIVANAND KANAVI forwards a poem written by his father, the Kannada poet Chennaveera Kanavi, during the 1970s—“either during the Emergency or just after”—that has an eerie resonance in 2009, thanks to the speedy despatch of footwear by an Iraqi journalist to US president George W. Bush towards the end of the year gone by.
“LISTEN TO ME, I AM TELLING YOU”
By CHENNAVEERA KANAVI
For God’s sake, why do you spread false news?
Honestly, nobody threw chappals at me in the recent meeting.
I am speaking absolute truth!
Even if they did, I never saw it.
This is the really real truth.
No. they didn’t hit me at all.
Please don’t believe what they say.
simply because it appears in the papers.
Read the stuff and then consign it to flames.
Are these paper-fellows, are they lily-white?
They announce the happening of what could have happened!
Never mind if it happened or not, it is news all the same.
Yes, it is true that I saw someone wave a black flag,
because black stands out amidst white caps!
But what’s wrong with it?
wasn’t there a huge audience that day?
After all, my speech is not dirt-cheap, is it?
In such a commotion,
don’t you think it is but natural
if someone were to transfer what is on feet to the hand,
and then transfer it from hand to the head?
If I am right, why all this hullabaloo
about the chappals being aimed at me ?
All right, granting that they threw chappals:
why not assume that they were playing a game
of throwing and catching chappals ? Tell me.
You may insist
I was the target.
may I then ask you a question?
Did they get the chappals specially made for them?
They were bought in some shop,
and worn out after so many days’ walking,
now apparently tom, and flung with force. All right.
please, what is the point of taking out anger here
whereas its cause lay elsewhere?
If they opened fire in Gujarat, why should they hiss angrily here?
The price-rise, the decline of self-respect and dignity
they belong everywhere and still occur.
Are they our exclusive property ?
Look at Bihar, how they, sealing their lips with cloth bands,
joining hands behind their back, took processions.
Well, even the papers reported all this.
Following them, we should shut our mouths and keep mum,
and there lies smartness.
Just one more word, please listen: the chappal-throwing is over-
wouldn’t it be fair if they were presented with new chappals?
What do you say?
(From Inviting Life—Chennaveera Kanavi’s Poetry, Translated by Prof. K. Raghavendra Rao, Sahitya Akademi)
Photograph: courtesy geek-o-logie