and
Body Purification

1 October 2016

Translated from the Odia to the English by J P Das

If you can, but once,
fix a bone in your tongue,
stand firm on the ground
and ask yourself:
Which Ganges can clean
my shit-smeared body?
How many stacks
of tulsi leaves
will sanctify me?
How many tons of sandal paste
will deodorize my body?

How do I look
when I clean your sewer tank
taking out bucket loads
of faeces floating
on the water used
for cleaning your bottoms?

How do I look
when I swim breathless
on the water flowing
straight out of your latrines
to clean the sewer depths ?

What do I look like when I pick up
the maggot infested mangy dog
to clean the street
so that your car
can have a smooth drive?

Once,
just one time
guide the pupils of your eyes
towards the sun
and look at me,
and then only can you measure
what strength you carry
in your sinews.

Wherever I am
the place reeks of bad odour.
Your nose snivels;
your mouth retches;
your eyes squirm.
But when I’m sick for a day,
your streets stay unswept;
the latrines choke;
hospitals groan
as patients go on rampage.

Ask your grey cells
but once to explain
what Smriti, Purana,
Intelligence, Education mean.
I’m the one who handles shit
and eats his rice
with the same fingers;
and I’m the one
who knows the difference
between shit and rice.
yet, I don’t know
What Smriti, Purana,
Intelligence and Education are.

I’ve seen it all –
Worms excreted from your innards,
snot and drivel
Thrown up from your mouth,
Blood congealing
On your death bed.

You may scoff and sneer at me,
but when I’m not around,
I know you have
a mental breakdown.

Fix a bone in your tongue
and tell me for once –
how much Ganges, tulsi
and sandal are needed
to purify and sanctify
my shit-smeared body

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