Editor's Note

Chitrakonda Gangadhar’s unique, rash voice flashed briefly in some Telugu journals, and disappeared mysteriously. Unselfconscious, sometimes incoherent, the images and phenomena of his poems belong to inner reality and are yet tangible, and the angst seems generated by the doomed world the poet inhabits. 

This is the first ever translation into any language of Gangadhar’s poetry.

— Mani Rao
The Bombay Literary Magazine

Translator's Note

Gangadhar was writing at a time when massive changes were taking place. The old world of the Cold War, revolution, people’s movements, utopias, etc., was coming to a definitive end to be replaced by a new world of Coca-Cola, disaster capitalism, and micro-realities. It was at this juncture that Gangadhar found himself writing poems. He moved from his birth-village  to the city to earn his livelihood, working at construction sites as a labourer.

His poems take place in a world that is perpetually wintry. Reality is violent in his poems. The poems smell of dead leaves. He is a vagabond lost in a cycle of arrivals and departures. He describes the precarious insect-like life of menial workers of the neo-liberal era. The mother figure in his poems never understands her son.

When I first read his poems six years ago, I was not aware of his biographical background. As I skimmed through his book of poems at random, just as I would flick through any book of poems in a bookstore or a library, a poem suddenly stood out. The poems I read that day had a shock-circuit-like effect. Only someone acquainted with deep contradictions in society could produce such an effect. I learned more about him as time went by and translated his work every now and then, whenever I could.

–Rohith

Prisoner

 

In this city, only the madman

is truly content

 

From the cement moon to the streets

I possess it all

 


 

Death

 

A train charges at me

from my mother’s face

 

Half the bogies, hammocks

The other half, laden with salty tears,

run past me

 

As the last bogie crosses

with the sound of a chop-saw,

I push my paper boat

into an ocean of burning thunder

to welcome death

 


 

From the Other Side

 

Some dead man washes clothes

beating them against a boulder on the riverbank

in the middle of the night

A lone clock sits on the rocks

 

Who will enter me now?

 

Traveling on the last train,

sitting by a dark window, I

 

There’s poison in my pocket

preserved in the dry world-flower

 

From this side to that, frantic,

Someone with hands in unbuttoned cuffs

waves a flag, a red one

.         He is headless

 

.         Signal!

Tonight will be shattered

 


 

Unreachable Hand

 

I hang with those who departed long ago

In the shade of trees that die years after my passing, I sit

I romance with those who burn me in a graveyard

I wander through the mango grove under the heart beat of a bird in mid-air

I witness the flowers leaning against the dying radiance of skin

 

.         May you find your end

.         in sorrow

.         in longing

.         still breathing

.         in the realm of unending melancholy

 

Death hasn’t promised anything yet

Gazing into the eyes of an infant

Trying to reach for its hands

It became a lone, white swan and waddling around, forgot itself

 


 

Toddy and Toil

 

Like a black storm-cloud lid over the fields

of white grass-flowers swaying

in a tender green forest

an urge for death enters the heart

 

The head of youth melts

and falls off like candle wax

 

When I leave the drunken room,

my heart breezy bamboo

 

Streetlights light the night street

harbouring an unknown grief

on this barbaric planet

 


 

Corpses

 

Trees deprived of light keep walking

Death is the only way to witness them

 

In the shade of a petrified tree

where the legs of a ladder are hitched

A sallow octopus eats an apple

 

No music audible from the trees

No lips visible

 

Upon the surface of the city

covered in leaden snow

A leaf green water drop faints

and falls with its aged hands

Acknowledgments

Image Details:

© Akshay Mahajan. Man On The Train. Reproduced here with his kind permission.

Akshay’s photos always tell the kind of story that compels the viewer to finish the telling. This one, we believe, is no exception.

Author | CHITRAKONDA GANGADHAR

Chitrakonda Gangadhar (1974 – 2011) wrote poems in Telugu from 1995 to 2003, while working as a daily wage labourer in different cities. His poems appeared in Telugu literary magazines of this period. He took his own life in 2011 by drowning in the pond of his birth village. The news of his death reached his literary friends in Hyderabad much later, in 2017. His friends gathered his handwritten manuscripts of poems and published them posthumously with the publishing house Premalekha Prachuranalu. His poetry collection is titled Atmahatya Sadrusha Desha Dimmari Aakhari Korika (2018). His unfinished novel titled Mrutha Nagaram Lo was published by his friend Ajay Prasad in 2020 through Pallavi Publications.

Translator | ROHITH

Rohith is a poet and translator from Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. After completing his MBBS, he pursued a PG diploma course in Literary Translations offered by Ahmedabad University. He is currently working as a doctor at the Palliative Care Centre in Puttaparthi.

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