“Merit Rule of Brahmin”, a poem by Varavara Rao


You are born rich
To say in your language
“Born with silver spoon in the mouth”

Your agitation sounds creative
Our agony looks violent

You are meritorious
You can break the glass of buses
In a shape

As symmetric as sun’s rays

You can deflate the tires
With artistic elan
While indulgent police look on
With their jaws rested on rifle butts

You can tie ‘Rakhis’
Even in
The dark chambers
Of a police station
You do not buy bus ticket
Not because
Your pocket is empty
That is practical protest

The beautiful roads
Are all yours
Whether you do a `Rasta Roko’
Or drive vehicles with `save merit’ stickers

We are bare-footed
Sweat-stinking road rollers
What if we built the roads?
The merit of plan is yours
The credit of contract is also yours

Those exhilarating sixty days, what fun!
When your cute little girls
And their daredevil mates
Were going on a delectable rampage,

Everybody was delighted
Parents, their parents
Brothers and sisters
Even the servants
And reporting Newspapers?
Oh, absolutely thrilled!

Boys and girls
Hand in hand
In protest
Of buried merit and dashed future
Going off to a picnic
O Yaar,
How heroic!

You are the marathoners
In merit competition
Poor tortoises
Can we run with you?

You serve “Chair” in Chikkadpalli
Sell “pallies” in cinema hall
Polish boots in Kothi Circle
Stop a Maruti or Priya on the Tankbund
To demand agitation fund

Media persons are `merit’ creatures
Their camera hearts `click’
Their pens shriek,
“Youthful brilliance”!

We are drab faced duds
Sitting in the stink of dead animals
We make shoes
By applying color with our blood
And polishing them
With the sinking light of our eyes

Isn’t the shine different
When polished
By someone in boots?

We clean up your filth
Carry the night soil on our heads
We wear out our bodies
Washing your rooms
To make them sparkle
Like your scented bodies

We sweep, we clean; our hands are brooms
Our sweat is water
Our blood is the phenyl
Our bones are washing powder
But all this
Is menial labor
What merit it has?
What skill?

Tucked-in shirts and miniskirts
Jeans and high heels
If you sweep
The cement road with a smile
It becomes an Akashvani scoop
And spellbinding Doordharshan spectacle

We are
Rickshaw pullers
Porters and cart wheelers
Petty shopkeepers
And low grade clerks

We are
Desolate mothers
Who can give no milk
To the child who bites with hunger

We stand in hospital queues
To sell blood to buy food

For the smell of poverty and hunger
How can it acquire
The patriotic flavor
Of your blood donation?
Whatever you do
Sweep, polish
Carry luggage in railway station
Or in bus stand
Vend fruits on pushcart
Sell chai on footpath
Take out procession
With `Save merit’ placards
And convent pronunciations

We know
It is to show us that
Our labor of myriad professions
Is no match to your merit

White coats and black badges
Hanging over chiffon saris and Punjabi dresses
`Save merit’ stickers
On breasts carrying `steth’s (stethoscopes)
When you walk(ed) in front of daftar
Like a heaven in flutter
For EBCs among you
And those who crossed 12000 among us
The reservation G.O.
Is not only a dream shattered and heaven shaken
But also a rainbow broken

Is movement for justice
On the earthly heaven
That is why
`Devathas’ dared more for the amrit

The moment
You gave a call for `jail bharao’
In the press conference
We were shifted out
From barracks
To rotting dungeons
Great welcome was prepared
Red carpet was spread
(`Red’ only in idiom; the color scares even those who spread it.)

We waited with fond hope that
The pious dust of your feet
Would grace not only the country
But its jails, too

How foolish!
The meritorious cream
The future
Of country’s glorious dream
How can they come
To the hell of thieves,
Murderers and subversives?

We read and rejoice
That function halls
Where rich marriages are celebrated
Became your jails

Ours may be a lifelong struggle till death
But yours is a happy wedding party of the wealth
If you show displeasure
It is like a marriage tiff
If you burn furniture
It is pyrotechnical stuff
If you observe `bandh’
It is the landlord’s daughter’s marriage

The corpse of your merit
Parades through the main streets
Has its funeral in `chourastas’
Amidst chanting of holy `mantras’

But Merit has no death
You creatively conduct symbolic procession
And enact the mourning `prahasan’
In us
To die or to be killed
There is no merit

We die
With hunger, or disease,
Doing hard labor, or committing crime,
In lock up or encounter
(Meritorious will not agree inequality is violence)

We will be thrown
By a roadside;
In a filthy pit;
On a dust heap;
In a dark forest

We will turn ash
Without a trace
We will `miss’
From a hill or a hole

Our births and deaths
Except for census statistics,
What use they have
For the national progress?

We take birth
And perish in death
In and due to
Miserable poverty
You assume the `Avatar’
When Dharma is in danger
And renounce the role
After completing the job
You are the `sutradhar’

You are lucky
You are meritorious.

Varavara Rao (b. 1940) is a member of Viplava Rachayitala Sangham (VIRASAM: Revolutionary Writers’ Association). He lives in Hyderabad.


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