Hand lent by Dhiraj Singh
  A request to the dead  

  Vol I : issue 1

  Noam Chomsky
  Amartya Sen
  Ashis Nandy
  Nabaneeta Dev Sen
Raj Kamal Jha
  Martha Nussbaum

Krishna Sobti
  Ramakanta Rath
  Mrinal Pande
  Antara Dev Sen
  Only in Print

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Ramakanta Rath

I offer this water to you,

my father, grandfather and great grandfather,

and to you, soldiers and generals

who fought for us and who fought against us

and who were killed by this war.

I stand here, on this battlefield,

and give this water and this rice

to you -- you who must be hungry

and thirsty.


Ask for nothing

other than water and rice,

don't add to the long list

of things I was not able to give

be content with this water and this rice

and return

to wherever you came from.

Consider this: the years

I have spent with you were many;

and this: it will not be long

before I join you wherever you sojourn

had I possessed things

other than this water and this rice,

would I have denied them to you

and asked you to return?

Whatever I have

Other than this water and this rice

are surely not appropriate offerings

for departed souls.

True, I traverse every day of my life

with this baggage of witheld things,

but whenever I look at them

I disintegrate and cry out

with a voice that rends

the heavens

and the underworld.

Tears fill my eyes

when I make this offering

of water and of rice.

I know, when my turn comes,

I shall have neither.

Look, the sun has almost set.

Now, go back to wherever you came from

with the little water and the little rice I gave you.

Look, I myself do not have,

either any water or any rice.

Look, I have nothing except the few things

I didn't give

and kept with myself.

Translated from the Oriya by the poet


Ramakanta Rath, poet and Akademi Award winner, writes in Oriya. A former civil servant, he is now president of the Sahitya Akademi. He lives in Bhubaneswar