Bruised, but not Broken (poems)

-Challapalli Swarooparani 

7. Mankena Flower

Caught in bramble and thorn
I am a struggling palapitta**
Whichever way I move
The thorns prick me
These are not thorns of today
But shackles of slavery
That have bound me for generations.
Caught between the devil and the deep sea
Danger hisses about me

When have I really lived my life as myself?
If male arrogance at home
Delivers a resounding slap on one cheek
Caste dominance outside
Gets my other cheek.

When I go to labour in the fields
And the landlord waits
To rob me and my sweat
I want to bury myself
Under the earth, like a seed.

When, denied education for ages
I went to the school hostel
There, unable to tolerate
The gaze of the lust-hungry warden
I wanted to gather my body into my fist and
Fling it far away.

When everyone abused me
Either at school when I was a child
Because I didn’t sport a vermillion dot
Or after I grew up
Because I was caste-less
I desired to shut my nostrils
Unable to bear the stench of this town.

When found fit for sex but not for marriage
I wanted to throw myself into a canal.

Swimming against these insults
When having learnt a few words
I found a job and went to work in an office
Unable to put up with whispers that hissed
‘Reservation category’
I very much wanted
To pour lead into my ears.

When patience is at an end
Even a leaf of grass pierces
Like a bodkin.

I have no patience to run any more.

I will purge my life in these flames of trouble and
Emerge, a blossom
A ‘mankena’flower
I will cross the forests of hardship and
Surge like a stream.

*wild flower  **a white bird

(Telugu: “Mankenapoovu”, translated by Alladi Uma and M Sridhar, Deptof English, University of Hyderabad and published in Mankenapoovu, an anthology of poems by the author, 2005 and Journal of the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, 2005 and Ammu Joseph, Vasanth Kannabiran, Ritu Menon& Volga (eds), Interior Decoration, 2010.)


(To be continued-)

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