Giving Back (Translated)

Am I conservative by outlook, or progressive by orientation

A non-issue this is, its redundancy to me is well known


My words like mirror, the reflections of myriad nature

What I witness is what I recite: sans color nor alter


I do not heed to the conscience of stars and the heaven

On my land of humanity, I have enough to shed tears on


All that I have to return to you, to give back in word

Is what I have gained from my experiences in this world..


– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet (Translated)



Sahir Ludhianvi (1922-1980) is the poet who was neither afraid of authority, nor afraid to be outspoken. Neither afraid of going to jail nor to voice against the prison system. Neither afraid of the momentary life, nor of the eternal death. His involvement in the Left politics in the pre-and post-independent India, in organizing the peoples’ theatres, in writing for the peasants, farmers and the factory workers should serve a reminder to the wordsmiths of the present day that there is indeed a tool to choose a side with. But that’s a side between the material and the mystical; between the working class and the owning class; to side with the profit-hungry or the wage-hungry. 

To Sahir, just like to Robeson, and to Neruda there was nothing to debate about which side an artist must choose. The question is redundant. The artist cannot afford to establish bonds with the heaven and the promises of spiritualism. The artist must cry with the beloved oppressed peoples all over the world. The choice is clear, as Robeson said: “Every artist, every scientist must decide, now, where he stands. He has no alternative. There are no impartial observers. Through the destruction, in certain countries, of man’s literary heritage, through the propagation of false ideas of national and racial superiority, the artist, the scientist, the writer is challenged. This struggle invades the former cloistered halls of our universities and all her seats of learning. The battlefront is everywhere. There is no sheltered rear. The artist elects to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice! I had no alternative!”

In the following attempt to translate a poem by Sahir, I have tried to remind ourselves of our desirable commitments, and a sheer lack of choice. We are not free to make a choice anymore in regards to who we need to lend our support to. As the world is increasingly growing individualistic in the euphoria around capitalistic utopia, we need to recollect our personal experiences in the shared human history of our age, that is stifled with pain, remorse and tears of the majority. 


The original poem by Sahir Ludhianvi –  


Rajaata pasanda hum, ke tarakqi pasanda hum maim

Isa bahasa ko fizula-o-abasa janata hum maim

Aina-e-havadisa-e-hasti haim mere saira

Jo dekhata raha hum voha kahata raha hum maim

Tarom ki anjumana se mujhe vasata nahim

Insaniyata pe aska bahata raha hum maim

Duniya ne tajurbata-o-havadisa ki sakala mem

Jo kucha mujhe diya hai voha lautata raha hum maim


A Revolutionary Struggles

A revolutionary knows

the national boundaries are made up to divide, not unite peoples

hence believes in none of that, not to raise the flags, nor to unite banners


A revolutionary feels

true service to earth is working for fellow beings, not worshipping false Gods

hence rejects the notion of imposed God, of different brands, various religions


A revolutionary affirms

the continuation of progress has nothing to do with statutory movements

hence works to make laws work for people, not let people suffer owing to laws


A revolutionary condemns

the racist, communalists, capitalistic superstructures that work out divisions

hence recalls historical assaults lest folks repeat; yet doth not manipulate tensions


A revolutionary forwards

the notion of collective workloads, to share, not to compete, to enjoy not to own

hence advocates workers’ rights to unite for strength, not be vehicles for reaction


A revolutionary minces

no words as a communist, for the mission is to work towards goals despite many an obstruction

hence realizes that struggle with fascists will continue even after the battle is half-won


A revolutionary upholds

sense of social equality even at the cost of individual liberties, for duties hold more than rights

hence propagates the messages of selfless sacrifices even to the face of content reactionary elites


A revolutionary learns

that teaching in schools are always thought control, but need to be so for the betterment

hence sides with of the oppressed in the world, not result in joys of personal advancement


A revolutionary visits

churches, mosques, temples, all religious shrines to register the torture on hapless workers

hence perceives those who built the edifices did as slaves to the Gods or Kings, not to benefit fellow sufferers


A revolutionary dedicates

life for fellow women, children, and peaceniks; for environment and peaceful co-existence

hence militarily opposes any oppression on so-called weaker sections of societies of essence


(I am) a revolutionary who experiences

time running out, for the onus lies on the revolutionary to cause revolution

there is no such time as the present which provides the most sufficient condition


– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet

Wake up!

Wake up! Wake up!

Hear the noises

Feel the outbursts

See the chaos

Are they yours?

Isolate self

Throw the Ray-Ban

Face the heat

Time’s up

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!

Before they progress

Know your group

Be the Union

Make the move


Don’t wait for support

or Count on numbers

You alone can

Break them stop!

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!



Nuclear State

Or just your fate!


Throw faith systems

Wishes for feeders

Hopes for believers

Your mind, you make up

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!

Thought controls


No more will you be

Hobson voter


Not a party, but the politics

Not to change, but replace

Stop quoting, enuff said

Your own mind, on the top

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!

Wise words, fools repeat

And the idle, hero-worship

History wont repeat itself

You gotta help yourself


Cherish, don’t live in the past

No Gandhi or Lenin will be cast

Title is you, the Star in it too

Movement is yours, just pack up

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!

‘Change is constant’ enough changed

They made legal the flesh trade

Sold the dreams, made the bombs

Gadgets too, to make you numb


Colonialist’s railroads

Capitalist’s computers

Profit’s the Prophet, profit’s the goal

Ask the self: Can you cope?

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!

Times have changed

For the worse

Cause the changers

Are ‘they’, not ‘us’


Distinguish, then

Don’t change, but replace

Overthrow, not discuss

Enough lectures, now to usurp

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!



Call it a name

live in fantasy


Popular dissent

And debates

in its marketplace

Don’t just add, don’t speak up

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!

None’s gonna hear

A word you say

Guard your interest

Stay away


Identify first the self

Then know ones in distress

No illusions or rosy hopes

That’s the group, and your Cup

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!

Make it clear, make no bones

No stoppin to the ones

Who know the path and the march

Snatch the rights, win the match


They called us colors

And some damned race

Preachers all will pay by the face,

Before the dark night is up

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!

Religions to annihilate

Hindus and Muslims

Got the war raging

Watched the fun brewing


Anything but a human

Coz humanity unites

When you act human

Then they got Gods up!

Wake up! Wake up!


Wake up! Wake up!

Fancy divisions

Resting on bloodbaths

Pay them back now

Blood currency works


Enough of preachers

Enough Godmen

Enough ethics talked

Enough sanctities held

Enough institutions

Enough families

Enough blind loves

Enough traditions

Enough of democracy

Enough of consent

Enough discussions

Enough debates

Why my poem no more rhymes

Am I a ugly poet?

Enough of the poet

Damn the Wake Up! Note

Damn me, who does not act

Even after waking up

Lend me a hand, as I lend mine

Lets subscribe to the noise

Enough of music

Enough of me shouting alone

Time to act together


– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet


Love Unconditional

Your love is not for me to ask

It is for you to give

In return

My body is not for you to ask

It is for me to give


I have given away my heart

My feelings they called love

And all I could ever muster

Was courage to fall

Centred round my self

As its wont, I could never rise in love


All I remember is the passion

The commitments our bodies made

The moments of undeniable truths


And now it’s all so eerie

Does love have a logical ending?


The heart withers away, the mind is out of sight

What of my body?

The scars and the bites and the touches

Whose prerogative to forget?


I once made a compromise with my heart

Now the body refuses to withstand

The onslaughts and the insults

The amnesiac touches

The lips that are lying


If you must, acknowledge not the love

If you have to, stay away

But answer one last time

Why did you have to fiddle my body?

If you had to ignore it next


Pain slighted, dreams aroused, passion lighted

Honest gazes, trenchant brushes and strumming fingers

Now when you are gone; turned tables

Your denials of moments, your murder of trust

Just confess, you were with my body

My mind shall bother you no more


Because bodies do not lie

It’s like the last time our bodies met

Because touches do not lie


In the darkness when I shut myself to your world

All I have is my own body

Writhing in pain

Of twisted truths

Tender touches which it craved and requited

And now you are so far away


Mind, heart and soul and all irrational objects

May forgive you

My body




My body is my own

I shall give, I will rent, I got to own


– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet


Critical Love

I. The Visionary


Don’t you force me to fall in love with you

I tell you, I have more cardinal works to do

I am no Quixotic, nor am I other-worldly

Can’t sing serenade, to your billet-doux, I can’t reply


Several problems are there, and they are yet to be solved

Many a scabrous decisions are to be resolved

Any scruple over falling in love is no Guardian Knot

I’m at no dilemma as to fall in love or not


Let me make it trenchant to you

That love’s not for me

The cloud-cuckoo-land is not my home

I am no day-dreamer you see


Here I witness million souls

Pinched, homeless and starving

How can I be an imposter to

Act as if not listening?


I bear no grudge that you feel complacent

But its heinous to say that the world is content

I’m pragmatic, can’t run away from the world

For the sake of your love, for, I am no coward


I can leave you for the sake of the world

I shall live for the society, mark my word

They are self-centred, who do otherwise

Die for the world alone, that’s no vice


II. The Dreamer


Love is only giving away, sans expecting

Love is doubling the joys; about caring and sharing

Knowing each other completely, and still liking-

Through the thick and thin; its about forgiving


Your love has taught me, has inspired me

Now that I am in love with you, it has shown me

The ways to convert these dreams into realities

To attempt at making people reside in peace


III. The Lover


In this world, there cannot be another

Who can beat me in loving you better

Than the way can I shower love upon you,

For none can love you, the way, I love you!


– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet