son! yesoba!

what can i say sir!

my son yesobu

died in the war

my son who could conquer neerukonda*

lies sacrificed on a slab of ice

he left with a smile

and has returned as a corpse

smiling, he calls 'nAnna'*

he went on foot and has returned a bridegroom

a flowering plant has returned as a fallen banyan

he has returned

what can i say? and how?

people turn up here as at a fair

in throngs and throngs

addressing them, speaking of

my son's 'sacrifices, patriotism'

you, sarpanch babu! sir!

when he stopped

people washing their animals

in the tank*

didn't you, with a whip

lash my son's chest

mark him with stains

in the cinema outside our village

for buying a big ticket*

and sitting alongside you

didn't you scheme

to cut his hands legs

was it your daughter who looked at him

or he who looked at her

i do not know but-

to kill lionlike yesobu

you wove the noose

how can we forget this history!

we know all this

does the rain wash away the wounds, sir!

on the untouchable's eyelids

these truths stand erect

like crowbars driven into our hearts

mothers! sirs!

my son's death

this isn't the first

many times in our village

he died and lived

to live he joined the army

as a corpse, he has returned alive


my mind's not in my mind

my mind's not in my mind

sir! in my eyes

the pyre dances

son! yesoba! yesoba!

yesoba! my father*!

for you

i'll weep like karamchedu*

for you

i'll weep like chunduru*

for you

i'll weep like vempenta*

i'll weep like yesterday's gosayipalem*!

father! as a tear big as the sky

i'll pour like a storm for you!

elders! lords!


i wish to curse you

a basketful of curses

i wish to drive a basketful of wild ants

to bite you all over

to see my son's corpse, arriving

like armies of ants

and disappearing like swarms of locusts,

you patriots!

wait a second

if you're made of pus* and blood, shame and honour

if your liver hasn't melted yet

answer this untouchable's questions

not my son

you've come to visit his corpse

do you agree!

my son dead is a veera jawan

alive he's a mala* jawan

what do you say?

answer me!

swear on your manu

as a pigeon and a snake

can't be linked

your upper caste pride

can't go with patriotism

elders! lords!

listen! listen to the untouchable word

between the village and the wada

there's a kargil

from grandfathers' forefathers' age

burning between us

this kargil war

hasn't stopped, it goes on

son! yesoba!

on the third day

if you can't return

find the time

to return some day

and wipe my tears! father!

-my translation of sivasagar's kodukA! yEsobA!, written in 1999.
note: will explain the asterisks and my inadequacies as a translator later.


Ludwig said...

Stunning. The pain is palpable. Would love a transliteration as well :)

kuffir said...


thank you. those kind words mean a lot.. i was translating from a compilation of his poetry. it's a long poem and it took me quite a few hours despite the fact that i wasn't editing/checking much.. the transliteration would've been more exhausting then. probably in the near future i'd sit down to do that..and possibly also do some editing. but that'd go on because i'm never very sure about these things.

Space Bar said...

my mind's not in my mind

agree with ludwig. this is stunning. please do more.

kuffir said...

space bar,

yes, there are more such poems in the compilation. many were composed in his a kind of 'revolutionary vein' (like the poems in the earlier post) and the more recent ones, like this particular poem, speak of being a dalit, in a way (after he was 'excommunicated' from the movement.

i also remember what you had said on an earlier post. sivasagar was an active part of the underground naxal movement, so he wasn't virasam. but he is considered one of the best voices of the progressive/dalit poetry.

Ludwig said...

kuffir: ah, that's ok. the request for transliteration was just a hopeful shot in the dark :) thanks much for the translation. as i read it, i was translating some of it as best as i could back into Telugu, which made it all the more gut-wrenching.

i wonder if this has ever been 'performed' anywhere before...

Akshaya Shivkumar said...

This is beautiful- pierces the soul right through..
Waiting for more..! :)

How do we know said...

this one has me speechless. i loved the scathing attack. Patriotism and high caste pride do not go together. So true!

Refractor said...


it really brings out the pain.

kuffir said...

akshaya/ how do we know: thank you. and welcome to this blog. :)

refractor: yes, every time i read the original poem, at some point or the other, it manages to take hold of my emotions.

Priya said...

wow.. that was powerful! would love to read the telugu version.. reminds me of these Gadar songs..

P.S: First time here :-)

kuffir said...


thank you. and welcome. so, you've listened to gaddar?

kuffir said...


'i wonder if this has ever been 'performed' anywhere before...'

i sense a dig there..:)

Ludwig said...

No, no! Absolutely not. It just seems so appropriate for a reading aloud/performance, powerful as it is even on the page.

No dig :)

FĂ«anor said...

beautiful stuff. reminds me of that lament of david:

O my son, Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33).

of course, absalom fought his father, unlike the folk in this poem.

kuffir said...


that's an insightful analogy. but the poet here weaves in several deaths into one and one into several- he converts several events/ places that were covered in the news (karamchedu/chunduru etc.,) into tools/weapons for everyday resistance. there's lament, yes, but helplessness? when a dalit says:' i'll weep like karamchedu' it means that he isn't going to give up. a loss shaped into a war cry.

Anil said...

This is so raw and powerful. It carries so much pain and anguish. And a great translation as well, the poem doesn't seem to have lost its power in translation.

I'd love to read it in Telugu. Please excuse my ignorance but where can I find poetry of this kind in Hyderabad?

kuffir said...


yes it is raw. and thanks. i have got this from a book store in chikkadpally (lane beside the raymond shop).. or check any prajasakti/visalaandhra book stores. or the book stores in badi chowdi.

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