part 2 of interview in 'prairie schooner'

Q. What are the sources that the poets are drawing from currently? Is there a conscious rejection of mainstream rendering of texts, especially the traditional epics, etc.? If so, how? 

A. I am reminded of something Dr Ambedkar had said in his book, “Untouchables or The Children of India's Ghetto.” Let me quote:
"It is usual to hear all those who feel moved by the deplorable condition of the Untouchables unburden themselves by uttering the cry "We must do something for the Untouchables." One seldom hears any of the persons interested in the problem saying “Let us do something to change the Touchable Hindu .” It is invariably assumed that the object to be reclaimed is the Untouchables. If there is to be a Mission, it must be to the Untouchables and if the Untouchables can be cured, untouchability will vanish. Nothing requires to be done to the Touchable. He is sound in mind, manners and morals. He is whole; there is nothing wrong with him. Is this assumption correct? Whether correct or not, the Hindus like to cling to it. The assumption has the supreme merit of satisfying themselves that they are not responsible for the problem of the Untouchables. How natural is such an attitude is illustrated by the attitude of the Gentile towards the Jews. Like the Hindus the Gentiles also do not admit that the Jewish problem is in essence a Gentile problem." 
When the Dalit speaks of democratizing Indian society, the “Touchable Hindu” talks of nationalism; when she speaks of equality and the spread of education and opportunities, the Hindu posits it against merit; when she talks of rights and justice, he dismisses it as identity politics; when she argues for diversity and inclusiveness, he pays it lip service and dreams of Hindu supremacy in the region and a spot in the elite club of world powers.

The “Touchable Hindu” still remains utterly clueless about the Hindu problem. He is the one who is consciously rejecting the Dalit discourse all the time.

Whereas the conscious Dalit now attempts to speak of all—from the Shudras to Adivasis to Muslims and other religious minorities to women to the disabled to the sexual minorities – and does it by actually going on the streets to demonstrate, build solidarity, produce advocacy literature and wrangle with political society, the Touchable Hindu becomes ever more self-absorbed, obdurate and privilege-focused.

So the sources are diverse: lived experience, the wada and the world. Pain, deprivation, humiliation, inequality, oppression, festivity, faith, protest, celebration, battles, revolution, pogroms, love, nature, labour, hopes, genocides, lynching, victories and losses from the wada, the village and the world. As Sikhamani expresses it very lucidly in his poem, “Seashell:”
Though you've separated
My ocean from me
I've assimilated the whole ocean in myself.
Whatever inference
You may draw from that roar,
I speak that language. 
Listen to the Dalit segregated from his fellow men, the poet seems to be saying: “you can listen to the infinite roars of the ocean,” just as you do when you hold the seashell, separated from the ocean, close to your ear, and listen “with patience.”

When you listen to her, you’ll also hear the roaring pain of history, as in the words of Kalekuri Prasad:
I was Shambhuka in the Treta Yuga 
Twenty two years ago, my name was Kanchikacherla Kotesu 
My place of birth is Kilvenmani, Karamchedu, Neerukonda 
Now Chunduru is the name that cold-blooded feudal brutality 
Has tattooed on my heart with ploughshares 
From now on, Chunduru is not a noun but a pronoun 
Now every heart is a Chunduru, a burning tumour; 
I am the wound of multitudes, the multitude of wounds: 
For generations, an unfree individual in a free country 
Having been the target 
Of humiliations, atrocities, rapes and torture 
I am someone raising his head for a fistful of self-respect. 
In this nation of casteist bigots blinded by wealth 
I am someone who lives to register life itself as a protest  
I am someone who dies repeatedly to live 
Don't call me a victim 
I am an immortal, I am an immortal, I am an immortal 
~ ~ ~

please read the rest of the interview here.

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