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(October 22,1972 / Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India)

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Kalahandi

In the shifting shadows of lantern light
her hollow contours become yet more pronounced
against the pitch darkness of the impatient man
as he advances she struggles with the suffocating stench
of empty sacks stained with kerosene smoke

Smell of hooch, of sweat, of flesh, the Man's
drunken half-smile, look of vague desire, the dark
hollow of her dry hung elongated breasts, the dark
gaping cleavages of paddy fields throw a mocking sneer:

Erratic fingers, nails digging into the skin -
haggard looking crows swooping down in haphazard trajectories.

Twisting of bodies, arms clasping, unclasping
emaciated naked children fight over a loaf
of dark bread snatched from a tired dog:

silhouettes of puppets in a drollery

Woman wails by the body
of husband crushed under a sack of relief rice
his breath, her breath, hot, mingling together:
dry leaves rustle in the mid-afternoon air.

She cambers up, indifferent, like a crab, in spasms
as the hairy-chested man prepares for a decisive thrust:
look of tiredness in the eyes,
ready to bite, but unable to move the underjaws.

Her body, breathing, lies exhausted -
a gleam of compromised content in her eyes
having added two rupees to the forty she earned last

week by selling off her daughter.

******

Note: -

* Kala-handi (literally 'black pot') : - A drought-affected district in Odisha, once infamous for poverty-induced child selling.

* Forty Rupees: - Less than a US Dollar. At the time of the poem's composition it could fetch about 20 kg of subsidized rice.

Submitted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Edited: Sunday, September 08, 2013


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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Translated by the poet from the Odia original written in 1991. It won Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature Golden Jubilee Translation Prize for Poetry.

Comments about this poem (Give Me That Promotion, Sir! by Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan )

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  • Patricia Grantham (11/11/2013 9:52:00 AM)

    A very captivating poem yet vaguely disturbing. So much degradation and
    and depreciation of the human existence. People trying to survive for just
    a few pennies. Quite an eye opener! Well done.

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Prem Surya Kumar (8/21/2013 11:29:00 AM)

    Absolutely fabulous. One of the best ever poems I have read in poem hunter. Unique and unforgetable imagery.

    Congrats.

  • Pradip Chattopadhyay (8/17/2013 3:56:00 AM)

    a vivid portrayal of the poverty-induced dehumanization!

    a wonderful read.

  • Geetha Jayakumar (8/17/2013 2:31:00 AM)

    Wow. Wonderful write.. Yes, poverty can lead to anywhere..just for a mere of Rs.40...This poem is so well expressed..Loved reading it.

Read all 4 comments »

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