Uday Prakash :: Two poems

From the Hindi--

 Uday Prakash is Hindi’s foremost short story writer today; no-one is as often translated as he. The Girl with the Golden Parasol and his other books have been great successes. However, Prakash began his writing life penning laconic anti-establishment poems, questioning the world at large. His poetry remains untranslated.

Introductory note:

 Uday Prakash is well-known as a short story writer, or rather as a writer of novellas in Hindi. His stories Paul Gomera’s Scooter, The Walls of Delhi as well as The Girl with the Golden Parasol have been trendsetters in Hindi literature. He has been attacked quite fiercely for his stories, which provide deep and incisive insights in the various issues concerning Indian society. He has written against environmental degradation and mining, which are likely to run afoul of various local governments. Ideologically, he’s a disillusioned Marxist, who occupies a centrist, liberal position, from where he explores the various forms of dehumanization around him. A striving to manifest dehumanization in various forms also leads to writings on caste, creed, and the myriad issues which stratify Indian society into different layers.

Uday Prakash has six collections of poetry. It is perhaps indicative of our times that his poetry has lain forgotten while his stories have gained prominence—although he himself once told me, “I’m foremost a poet and I began by writing poetry.” In his poems, Prakash carries forward the themes of his stories. He is also a filmmaker, and his poems seem to be visual cameos of social insights.


Gandhi ji

 Gandhi ji would preach—


 and walk around

with a stick in his hands.


The Building

There is no worker,

but in the building,

the worker’s face is drenched in sweat.


The worker’s face is drenched in sweat,

So, the walls of the building

are damp.


The worker’s body has wounds

festering in various places,

so, the walls of the building

are now full of cracks.

Termites gnaw at the foundations.


The worker is now old,

his bald pate clearly shows,

inside the rooms, the paint is peeling off the walls.


The worker has become quite old,

the building is aging too.


One day, the owner brings the engineer along

to take stock of the building.


The engineer looks around, asking—


‘Where, where, where is the worker?

Call the worker!

The building is shaking badly.’

The engineer screams.


The engineer is unaware

or perhaps he knows

that the building shakes

because three hundred miles away

on an unsteady charpoy,

in the village, the worker,

is coughing.


-- Translated from the Hindi by Roomy Naqvy

Roomy Naqvy (b. 1971) teaches English at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. A half-Parsi, a half-Muslim, he writes, translates between English, Gujarati and Hindi. Recipient of the Katha Translation Award (Gujarati) in 1996, he’s grappling with his first novel. He’s been published in WasafiriVisual Verse, and Indian Literature, and blogs at www.roomynaqvy.com