• Rising Higher

    Translated from Hindi by Sarabjeet Garcha

    Vishnu Khare

    October 3, 2017

    Sketch by Varun Aggarwal

     

     

    The citizens are happy and proud.
    In the past years
    the height of Ravan’s effigy
    has been increasing.
    Now, he is visible from a
    radial distance of two kilometers,
    even three from the western check post.

    The artisans
    who raise his structure
    of cane and paperboards say
    that buses, trucks, cars, two-wheelers
    appear to be crawling
    when seen from such height.
    Even the proud Ram and Lakshman,
    who come over in jeans and Pathani suits
    to survey him, thinking, we’d kill him tomorrow,
    can’t — first and foremost — be recognised
    from the height of Ravan’s heads,
    and — secondly — look like dwarfs.

    It is certain that next year
    Ravan will grow all the more taller.
    Standing alone on the top he casts
    an enormous glance over the whole settlement
    with all his ten faces and twenty eyes.
    He knows that a crowd of millions
    surfaces only to see him, and not
    for the sake of Ram and Lakshman who
    in their make-up of lipstick and powder
    look like cheap women or impotent men,
    and who are barely recognisable among
    the parliamentarians, MLAs, mayors, collectors
    and SPs on the Dussehra maidan.
    On the pretext of getting photographed
    one of these is often made to shoot
    the arrow that assassinates Ravan with fire.

    Ravan is least concerned about, or ashamed of, burning.
    He knows that people only vie with one another
    to arrive before he is set to fire.
    Nobody remembers the face of any Ram from any Dussehra.
    Lakshman is ignored even more.
    But everybody compares
    last year’s Ravan with this new one
    and is glad to see that this is better than that.

    Collapsing in flames
    he sees with ten faces and twenty eyes.
    To him, every city seems like his golden Lanka.

    He keeps getting prepared all year round.
    Next year he stands up again, alive.
    Again, he looks even further into the distance and below
    at his devotees, armies or humans, flat like insects and moths.
    Today, he knows he has to act out, once again, 
    his pantomime of the triumph of good over evil,
    then burn with more realism
    before returning next year,
    having become more vertiginous, more gargantuan.

    When every single body part of his, along with his face falls
    throbbing from that height a little more in their midst,
    both of this year’s sons of Dasharath
    along with their bows and armies of monkeys,
    hastily take shelter in a protected circle where
    the somewhat cowering, somewhat terrorised,
    somewhat angered parliamentarian, MLA, mayor,
    collector, SP and even honorouble citizens had
    already been promptly rallied with their terrified wives
    and cowardly priests carrying platters of aarti —
    bedecking her after she was set free,
    Sita would be brought forth later.

     

     

    Born in 1940, poet, translator and critic Vishnu Khare has published five collections of poetry, Pathantar (2008) being the latest, and a book of criticism Alochana kee Pahlee Kitaab. He has been a prolific translator in Hindi, English, German and other European and Asian languages. Book-length English collections of Hindi poets Shrikant Verma and Bharat Bhushan Agrawal, a collection of Hindi poetry in German (with Lothar Lutse), collections of Nottebaum, Czeslaw Milosz, Wyslawa Szymborska and Miklos Radnoti in Hindi, and Finland’s national epic Kalewala in Hindi are some of his published translations. Goethe’s Faust in Hindi is his latest translation, to be published soon.

    Sarabjeet Garcha is a bilingual poet, editor and translator. He has published a book of poems in Hindi and two in English, the latest being Lullaby of the Ever-Returning. He received a junior fellowship in Hindi literature from the Ministry of Culture in 2011. Garcha is co-founder and director of Copper Coin, an independent multilingual publishing company.

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