2 poems: The Difference, Really?
“Often compared to Pablo Neruda and Mayakovski, Sri Sri led two Marxist literary movements in Telugu, the Abhyudayakavitam (Progressive poetry) movement in the forties and Viplavakavitam (Revolutionary poetry) movement in the seventies….In that sense he is a public poet, a poet who moves large groups of listeners en masse.” - V.N. Rao (Twentieth Century Telugu Poetry, Oxford University Press)
Rao goes on to talk about how Sri Sri’s (Srirangam Srinivasarao) poetry defies translation - much of the beauty lies in the “singability” of his poetry, and the “texture”. Indeed, many of his poems are popular telugu songs. This sometimes reduces the English translations to “shallow political rhetoric”, he observes.
But I cannot leave Sri Sri out of this series of Telugu poetry. The power of his sentiment is undeniable, even its ability to move - he was truly the people’s poet (1910-1983).
The two poems shared are milestones in the realisation of a political dream. The first “Difference” uses the positionality of a marginalised community to draw out the bigotry of the priveliged. I find this idea of “comfort” with uncertainty compelling. It is this quality of turning struggle and hardship into resistance that threatens the carefully constructed facade of luxurious comfort of the priveliged in a society. A lot of Dalit art, Marxist poetry refers to this blurring of lines, a layered experience of struggle that drives the commitment and passion of revolutionaries. The affinity and proud reclaiming of “darkness” and “kaala” offset by the insistence on Brahminnical purity and perfection remind me of Dhasal: A human being shouldn’t become so spotless. One should leave a few stains on one’s shirt. One should carry on oneself a little bit of sin.
The second poem - “Really?” I have shared today, because it is the tacit question in all our conversations about the current state of the country, and the anti-establishment protests. We are all trying to figure out the endgame- in fact the popular Marvel trope of “Endgame” has become a common citation in the fight for freedom and self-determination in Hong Kong. We are slowly reaching that mixture of disbelief, surprise and the anticipation of victory.