'America' Tribute Series: Part II - Amitava Kumar

The second poem in the ongoing series is by Amitava Kumar. We plan to reprint poems inspired or adapted from Ginsberg's America, by various Indian Poets. We are thankful to him for granting us the permission to use it.

India (for Safdar Hashmi).

January 1999

(Adapted from Ginsberg’s America. First published in Himal South Asian, 2013)

India I have given you all and now I'm a memory.
I'm a name for a playwright killed and a movement born on January 1, 1989.
I can't stand my own countrymen's minds.
India when will we end the daily war?
Go fuck yourself with your nuclear bomb.
India, I'm not Sanjay Gandhi I don't give a damn about making Marutis.
I will write poems about tyrants spilling blood in the streets.
India when will you be a playground for your children?
When will you celebrate Holi with red flags?
When will you remind the world of the dead in Bhopal?
When will you be worthy of a single landless peasant in Bihar?
India why are the songs of Bhikhari Thakur about lean days?
India when will you stop sending your engineers to America?
I'm sick of the world's insane demands.
When can I appear on Doordarshan and shatter H.K.L. Bhagat's dark glasses with my smile?
India after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your ministers are too much for me.
You made me want to be poor.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Gaddar is in a prison even at home it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this a practical joke of the Home Ministry?
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
India stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
India the gulmohar is blooming.
I haven't read the newspaper for months, every day somebody is accused of wild corruption.
India I feel sentimental about Telengana.
India I became a communist when I was a kid I'm not sorry.
I sing songs at town squares every chance I get.
I sit in tea-shops for days on end and talk to strangers about bringing change.
When I go to a basti we raise the cry "Halla Bol..."
My mind is clear that they're going to make trouble.
You should join me in reading Marx and Premchand.
The priests say the old order was perfectly alright.
I will not repeat the old half-truths and outright falsehoods.
I have revolutionary dreams and songs about a new world.
India I still haven't told you what you did to Manto when he did not leave for Pakistan in '47.
I'm addressing you. Are you going to let your emotional life be run by television?
I'm obsessed by television.
I watch it every day.
Its eye watches me every evening as I step inside my home.
I watch it with friends in a room in A.K. Gopalan Bhavan.
It's always telling us about the greatness of this country.
Cricketers are great.
Movie stars are great.
Everybody's great but us.
It occurs to me that I am India.
I could not be talking to myself when I say this.
Alisha sings she is "Made in India."
What happened to Mukesh singing "Mera joota hai Japani, Yehpatloon Inglistani, Sir pe laal topi Rusi, phir bhi dil hai Hindustani?"
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of ten glasses of tea our nukkad-natak the fire in the stomach of my unemployed friends the exhaustion on the faces of those productively employed who after work put in four or more hours in rehearsals and street-performances.
I say nothing about the factories closed down, the busted trade unions, the millions who wake under the dying suns of fluorescent pavement lights.
I have abolished bonded labour in Delhi, dowry deaths is the next to go.
My ambition is to have Bertolt Brecht elected the head of each gram-panchayat despite the fact that he doesn't belong to any caste. India how can I write an epic poem in your television soap opera?
I will continue like J.R.D. Tata my plays are as patriotic as his factories more so they're also for the working class.
India I will perform a street-play Rs 50 apiece Rs 400,550 down on your Apna Utsav festivals.
India put behind bars Bal Thackeray.
India save the Naxalites.
India Avtar Singh Pash must not die again.India I am Shah Bano.
India when I was young my parents had organised mehfils in a small garden with communist artists like Bhisham Sahni and Habib Tanvir they had performed with the Indian People's Theatre Association and we started with Machine because in a factory goons fired on striking workers who had wanted a tea-shop and a cycle-stand. Comrade Mohan Lal was reminded of the martyr Bhagat Singh and Bhishamji said that a new link had at last been added to the freedom struggle the rhythm of people's heartbeats had found expression once again.
India you don't really want to go to war.
India it's them bad Pakistanis.
Them Pakistanis them Pakistanis and them Chinese. And them Pakistanis. The Pakistan wants to make eunuchs of us all. The Pakistan's terrorist. She wants to take all our cricketers hostage.
Her wants to destroy our temples.
Her needs a Qur'an-quoting Times of India.
Her wants our HMT watch factories in Karachi. Him military government running our corner bania-stores.
That not godly. Chi! Him convert our untouchables. Him need the support of all Indian Muslims.
Ha! Her make us all victims of missile attacks.
Help.India this is quite serious.
India this is the message being repeated by our rulers.
India is this right?
We better get down to the job.
It's true I don't want to train in shakhas of right-wing vigilantes or join mobs intent on demolishing mosques, I'm a Muslim and unwelcome anyway.
India I'm putting my unyielding shoulder to the wheel. 

* Note from the Author: This poem mimics "America" by Allen Gindberg. 

Read other poems from the 'America' Tribute Series.

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