“THE HINDU” ಪತ್ರಿಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರಕಟವಾದ ”ಕುಸುಮಬಾಲೆ” ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಷ್ ಅನುವಾದದ ಕೆಲ ಭಾಗಗಳು.



April 5, 2015



Kusumabale by Devanoora Mahadeva.


Translations of iconic works by two Dalit writers mark the month of Dr. Ambedkar’s birth. Exclusive excerpts from Devanoora Mahadeva’s classic, with an introduction by Vivek Shanbhag.

Life slowly getting back to the bodies …

And with day done and life slowly getting back to the bodies of Akkamadevi and Yaada that lay strewn (like their torn and stretched clothes), Akkamadevi’s body was in a sweat, and Yaada’s hands that clung to her sides, they too were sweating and sliding. His eyes barely open, Yaada blinked, then closed his eyes. So: Open—close—open—close.

Her eyes full of tears (the one thing she owned)Akkamadevi ran her fingers through her torn and tangled hair. Looking at it, raising it, and showing it to the throng that left no room for air, it was daybreak.

After all Akkamadevi hadn’t come this far so as to return, so she stayed glued to the same spot Siddura flung her.


That happening there, then this over here—

Eery’s child’s spirit sat smiling for twelve whole days on the green fence and then went on its way.

Following this, Channa is murdered, and no one is in the know. That over, the lump of flesh that Kempi delivered in Turamma’s hut bawling, kirrr—ohh! it reaches Turamma’s attentive ears: ears adorned with red palm leaves rolled and stretched into ear lobes you could easily pass a three paisa coin through! And hanging from the rims – a pair of tubular gold-plated stems.

Nervously holding down the live cockroach she caught at a favourable moment, the thumb of her left hand pressing down on it, she squirted the life out of it, saying,

‘Ah this life, go to that life’ and so on three times

all of her body in one mind and intent

and past those clenched blackened teeth again.

‘Ah this life, go to that life’ and so on three more times

and after that pulling herself erect,

she gave of her offerings to the Goddess.


And Kusuma so …

Channa’s mother, who sat glued to the door of her hut (that hadn’t seen lime or colour wash not even for the fire walking festival), had her eyes turned to her husband. Her husband sat where he always did.

‘What now,’ she said. The exact same expression of ‘what now’ in his eyes, Channa’s father turned to look at her.

‘Come over here, won’t you?’ Channa’s mother called.

Not rising from where he sat, Channa’s father said, ‘If you spoke from there, think I wouldn’t hear you?’

‘That same thing, dear, it’s on everybody’s lips … It’d be good if we could go see him.’

A laugh rippling through his cough, Channa’s father said, ‘Foolish woman. What d’ you know about a place like Bombay, unh? You think I haven’t asked around? Get this right woman, people say everything on that side of that city is nothing but water. Hardly three paisa worth of what we call land! So, even if the trinity of—Hari, Hara, and Brahma were to come down from above, folks would be hard pressed. It’s that kind of place! How on Earth d’ you think the likes of us will ever enter there …? Just what are you wanting me to say, woman …?’

‘That’s just it. We’ll put our other son to bonded labour and then, maybe lease out that bit of land …?’

‘Oh, you silly woman. Listen to me, will you …. Say I were to give heed and go on and do all you say, we’re doubly sure to find ourselves in more trouble than we’d asked for. Enough of that woman. Just remember this, my dear. If we bide by our words and our deeds, one day or the other, he’s bound to come back to us. Then he might come to us as a fortune teller … or he might come to us as a songster … who knows?

… He might even come back as a sorcerer ….

‘Whatever form he chooses … and whichever day he does … one day or the other … won’t he come back to us?

Won’t he … ever …?’

‘And why won’t he, woman? The bonds of blood … they’re big, bigger than everything else … my dear …!’



Kusumabale; Devanoora Mahadeva, trs. Susan Daniel, OUP, Rs.250.