|A request to the dead|
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
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
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
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