Bruised, but not Broken (poems)

-Challapalli Swarooparani 

14. The Black Sun

Although he did not learn the alphabet
He was a farmer who grew affection
By churning life
Although he did not know ideology and debate
He was a true materialist who did not argue
But made me write the alphabet with my left hand…

A mad man who smiled silently
As he compared my university education with
The mother of learning who did not ever
Cross his threshold
A dreamer who dreamt of his unwritten poems taking shape
In my curved letters…

He measured time that sat on the fields
And with his hands calculated hours and minutes.
Avisionaryat whom
All the clocks leaning on walls
Stared, their number-eyes unblinking.

The paddy crop ready for harvest,
The pregnant buffalo
They were to him as my mother was, equal to her
Just as he raised my mother fondly
So did he, our fields and cattle
Nourishing them with his blood and flesh.

To our eyes
He was Kanva* who guarded
Little Shakuntala,** like the eyelids do the eyes.

When I am on a bus
That goes past fields
An image flashes in my mind’s eye ―
Of a man, working
Bent low at the mud-heap
Shirt-less, soiled waist cloth,
Turban wound around the head.

Then I wish to jump off the bus
Run along the banks of the stream and
Eat the fistful of red chilli chutney and rice
That grandfather ate in the afternoon…

Seeing chunks of mud drenched with his sweat
Now broken, split into pieces
Our black sun’s smile grows dim
He loses heart, buries his head in the trusting earth
Tears flow like streams.

If ever my poetry smells of the soil
Or greets my mother’s village that holds me close
As her lap once did
The idiom is our velivada’s
Which our Kunta*** made us drink
Even from our infant-feeding cup…!

When I am tired of pursuing mirages
I flee to the oasis of memory –

His memory carries me piggy-back
Takes me around the village and chatting,
Puts me to sleep on the cot in our veranda.

I fall into deep sleep covering myself completely
With my grandfather’s waist cloth
Breathing the raw smell of calves…

Saluting whole heartedly our bald-head
Who taught us to love life whole-heartedly
I am my own resurrection.


*a character in Mahabharatha **a character in Mahabharatha and foster-daughter of the sage, Kanva ***a character in Alex Haley’s novel, ‘The Roots’.

[To my grandfather, Sri Gujjarlamudi Rosaiah]

(Telugu: “Nalla Sooryudu” translated by K Sunitha Rani, Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad and published in Mankenapoovu, an anthology of poems by the author, 2005 and K Suneetha Rani (ed), Dalit Women’s Writing, 2012.)


(To be continued-)

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