Birthmark - Khadar Mohiuddin
Part 1 "A well known Muslim Telugu poet. He cuts through the currrent fashions of literary style and directly presents the collective experience of Indian Muslims.”
- Velcheru Narayan Rao (From Twentieth Century Telugu Poetry: an anthology)
What makes the experience universal is not a rhetoric characterised by epic generalisations, but Mohiuddin’s readiness to undress the wound, calibrate his pain for his readers, and temper his anger with satire. This poem must be read in its entirety, and I will soon be sharing the full poem on poetly after the second set of excerpts tomorrow.
Mohiuddin’s poem hit me in the gut. Every day we read about the inhuman treatment of Muslims in the country. I have seen first hand the violence that police have inflicted on innocent, poor Muslim men in the nation’s capital. Mohiuddin’s poetry emerges from the same soil of discontent and rage. His words become a window into the wide gap between the individual and the state - a gap closed by violence, and the absurdity of the “fiction” and “slander” that is discrimination on the basis of religion. The poetry emerges from a bitterness that makes large furrows in the barren field of this democracy. It outlines the uneasy relationship of a state with its people. There is no respite in his fervent letter to the republic, only a gradual but firm reassertion of identity and belonging.
There is a lot of poetry being shared around as the state revs up its engine of hatred. When people are confused by one kind of abstraction, they turn to another - another that they can feel, and own. Mohiuddin’s poetry exposes the welts on the body politic of the country. His poetry of resistance gives hope and strength. But it is also a bookmark in the annales of collective memory.
Part 2 When Khadar says- My blood becomes the auspicious dot on Mother India’s forehead
the red lotus to be worshipped I do not know what to tell him. With what face can I hide the irony of the enforced exile that he and countless other Muslims in this country have faced? The subtext of Khadar’s furious language is betrayal. This is what makes his account even more compelling. India is his own, the mother that he sought care and acceptance from. Like many, we see the journey of one who believes fervently in a secular, democratic notion of this country. His is not an outright rejection of the country that he claims as his own, but an assertion of his place, his subplot in the grand narrative. It is a kind of nationalistic sentiment carved out with the blunt chisel of a fierce connection with the soil. This is the sentiment of “I am here to say”. Imagine what it must take for someone who was born here, and has lived all his life here, to be forced to reiterate this! What I find enlightening in his poem is his seamless blend of the rationality and logic of anti-establishment discourse (Article 370, personal law, citizenship) with a deeply emotional plea of discrimination and suppression. The last lines of the poem should be the political anthem of our resistance today: Yes my birthmark is me my existence, my citizenship It’s my ancestral property inherited from the earth the sky, the air
the surroundings I live in It’s a wound that never heals.