• What the UGCRC doesn’t want students to read: Meena Kandasamy’s ‘Touch’

    ICF Team

    August 17, 2019

    As part of UGC’s Learning Outcome-Based Curriculum Framework (LOCF) for undergraduate programmes, the Delhi University decided to update the syllabi of several courses this year. The process began in January and many changes have been made since then. However, it seems like DU’s curriculum row is not going to be resolved anytime soon.

    According to the Indian Express, The UGCRC asked the English department to replace poet Meena Kandasamy with Premchand and Amitav Ghosh with RK Narayan. The commitee has also asked the department to remove any reference to the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and Jan Natya Manch.

    The English department has refused to accept any of these changes. The Indian Cultural Forum supports this decision and celebrates the work that all of us—students, and all other citizens—must continue to read.

    The following is the poem 'Touch' by Meena Kandasamy.

    Image courtesy Goodreads

    Have you ever tried meditation?
    Struggling hard to concentrate,
    and keeping your mind as blank
    as a whitewashed wall by closing
    your eyes, nose, ears; and shutting out
    every possible thought. Every thing.
    And, the only failure, that ever came,
    the only gross betrayal—
    was from your own skin.
    You will have known this.

    Do you still remember,
    how, the first distractions arose?
    And you blamed skin as a sinner;
    how, when your kundalini was rising,
    shaken, you felt the cold concrete floor
    skin rubbing against skin, your saffron robes,
    how, even in a far-off different realm—
    your skin anchored you to this earth.
    Amidst all that pervading emptiness,
    touch retained its sensuality.
    You will have known this.

    Or if you thought more variedly, about
    taste, you would discount it—as the touch
    of the tongue. Or, you may recollect
    how a gentle touch, a caress changed
    your life multifold, and you were never
    the person you should have been.
    Feeling with your skin, was
    perhaps the first of the senses, its
    reality always remained with you—
    You never got rid of it.
    You will have known this.

    You will have known almost
    every knowledgeable thing about
    the charms and the temptations
    that touch could hold.

    But, you will never have known
    that touch – the taboo
    to your transcendence,
    when crystallized in caste
    was a paraphernalia of
    undeserving hate.


     

    Meena Kandasamy is a Chennai-based poet, writer, activist and translator. Her work focuses on caste annihilation, linguistic identity and feminism.

    Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.