The Die is Caste

The Little Magazine has its recent issue on the theme: “Reservation: Die is Caste“. Below are two extracts, the first is a short story by Rajendra Yadav translated from Hindi.Two in the next world

Brothers, I have found ease in the next world. Let’s set aside the complicated question of whether this is heaven or hell. Suffice it to say that the doctors bought me my ticket from the hell of this world to that of the next.

It happened like this — I was scheduled to undergo a complicated operation. A government surgeon would handle it. But I learned that he was from the reserved quota. In other words, there was no question of him being either capable or skilled. I sought the protection of a young, presentable and clever doctor in a famous nursing home. The fees and other charges took the starch out of me. But my family decided to gamble on it. If my life could be saved, they reasoned, I would get it all back. But I died on the operating table. Just bad luck, I suppose…

Now, in the next world, I have learned that the young doctor had made his way through the medical course by greasing palms with lakhs in cash and grabbing the feet of ministers and officers. And the day he graduated, he had collected a dowry worth crores and set up this nursing home overnight. Who knows where he had found the twenty-odd doctors who manned it. He must have recruited them in the hope that they would not be like him.

The doctor’s young wife had committed suicide because she could not extract enough from her parents to meet her husband’s needs. The day the doctor operated on me, he also made an alliance with a highly placed and prosperous family for his second marriage. And yes, the drugs which he had prescribed for me were fake. They were from a chemist’s shop conveniently located in the nursing home, established so that patients would not have to rush hither and thither to get their medication. So you see, I was fated to die.

Anyway, I’m fine here now. I think I’ll look for the doctor’s first wife and strike up a friendship with her. Poor dear, she must be somewhere hereabouts.

Translated from the Hindi story ‘Do Divangat’ (2006) by Pratik Kanjilal

Following is the poem What would you do? by the leading Dalit writer Omprakash Valmiki.

What would you do?

If you

Are thrown out of your village

Cannot draw water from the well

Are abused

In the screaming, echoing afternoon

Told to break stones

In place of real work

Are given leavings to eat

What would you do?

If you

Are told to drag away

Animal carcasses

And

Carry away the filth

Of a whole family

Given hand-me-downs to wear

What would you do?

If you

Are kept far from books

Far from the threshold

Of the temple of learning

If you are hung up like Jesus

On a blackened wall

In the light of an oil-lamp

What would you do?

If you

Have to live

In a hut of mud and straw

Which can be flattened by a breath

Or swept away in a night of rain

If you are told to sleep

In knee-deep water

What would you do?

If you

Have to swim against the current

To open the doors of pain

And do battle with hunger

Send your newlywed women

To the landlord’s mansion

On the first night

What would you do?

If you

Are denied in your own land

Made slave labour

Stripped of your rights

Your civilisation burned away

The pages of your glorious history

Torn to shreds

And thrown away

What would you do?

If you

Cannot vote

Are beaten bloody

Beaten in the name of democracy

And at every step reminded of

How insignificant your race is

If your life stinks

If your hands are raw

And yet they tell you

Dig canals, dig drains

What would you do?

If you

Are insulted in public

Your property is snatched away

In the name of religion

Your women told

To become devdasis

And made prostitutes

What would you do?

Your fair complexion

Would be burned black

Your eyes would be dry, dead

You could not write on paper

Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.

Descendant of the gods, you

Would be lame, a cripple

If you had to live thus for ages

Like me

What would you do?

Translated from the Hindi by Pratik Kanjilal

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bhupinder singh

reader, mainly and an occasional blogger

One thought on “The Die is Caste”

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