Sitakant Mahapatra

This Is Why We Are Human

(translated from Oriya by Bikram K. Das)

Not because we can converse
with fellow human beings
on this ancient earth
from light-years away in space;
but, even after sitting-hours together,
next to someone dear
not even a word rises to the lips.

No need to take all the trouble
Of journeying to the moon, the stars, or the sun.

For, standing here on this mother earth,
we can cancel out the sun
with just the bare palm of our hands;
we can make him jump
out of the bucket of water
and dance on the mud-washed wall;
we can plant the moon
on the beloved's chest
and the stars in her eyes.

We are human
not because we can compel words
to say whatever we intend to say
but we discover that the errant words
can never be cajoled or persuaded
to do our bidding.

We are human
because we can't face up to the truth
blazing as sun;
and instead, in love with illusory words,
those half-truths in half-light and half-shadow
we hide behind them
all our life.

This is why we are human
not because all information, all knowledge
are garnered and arranged
in puthis and computers
within our reach;
but because we spend the long morning
looking madly for the
misplaced pair of eyeglasses.

Arun Kolatkar

Yeshwant Rao

Are you looking for a god?
I know a good one.
His name is Yeshwant Rao
and he's one of the best.
look him up
when you are in Jejuri next.
Of course he's only a second class god
and his place is just outside the main temple.
Outside even of the outer wall.
As if he belonged
among the tradesmen and the lepers.
I've known gods
prettier faced
or straighter laced.
Gods who soak you for your gold.
Gods who soak you for your soul.
Gods who make you walk
on a bed of burning coal.
Gods who put a child inside your wife.
Or a knife inside your enemy.
Gods who tell you how to live your life,
double your money
or triple your land holdings.
Gods who can barely suppress a smile
as you crawl a mile for them.
Gods who will see you drown
if you won't buy them a new crown.
And although I'm sure they're all to be praised,
they're either too symmetrical
or too theatrical for my taste.
Yeshwant Rao,
mass of basalt,
bright as any post box,
the shape of protoplasm
or king size lava pie
thrown against the wall,
without an arm, a leg
or even a single head.
Yeshwant Rao.
He's the god you've got to meet.
If you're short of a limb,
Yeshwant Rao will lend you a hand
and get you back on your feet.
Yeshwant Rao
Does nothing spectacular.
He doesn't promise you the earth
Or book your seat on the next rocket to heaven.
But if any bones are broken,
you know he'll mend them.
He'll make you whole in your body
and hope your spirit will look after itself.
He is merely a kind of a bone-setter.
The only thing is,
as he himself has no heads, hands and feet,
he happens to understand you a little better.