A Malayalam poet’s ode to farmers protesting injustice in Delhi

A translation of two poems by Malayalam poet Vishnuprasad who read hope in the massive protests in Delhi staged by farmers against the Union government in 2020-21.
A Malayalam poet’s ode to farmers protesting injustice in Delhi
Gemini AI
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Two years after farmer unions staged a massive protest in Delhi against the three farm laws by the Parliament in 2020-21, which lasted 16 months, farmers have once again intensified their agitation embarking on a 'Delhi Chalo' march. Farmers from three states - Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh - under the aegis of over 200 unions are headed towards Delhi, demanding a guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP). The capital has been heavily barricaded and farmers are being stopped through use of tear gas shells dropped from drones and water cannons. 

When the 2020-21 protests were at its peak, Vishnuprasad, a leading Malayalam poet from Kerala wrote two poems inspired by the resistance offered by farmers, which was unmatched in scale. One of them was an ode to the tractors driven by farmers past the barricades and the other a critique of the heavy-handedness of rulers.  A school teacher from Wayanad district of Kerala, the 1972-born Vishnuprasad's writings are experimental in style and marked by rich imagery. The poems have been translated from Malayalam to English by Binu Karunakaran.

Tiger masquerading as butterfly


You're not a rattletrap anymore

Decrepit six-wheeler

evoking pity in onlookers,

forever ready to secede

as head and tail, clamber

hills and ploughland

loaded with earth, bundles

of hay, grain bags

and cow dung - a simpleton

covered in grime and dust.

Your eyes show a resolve

Today, you'll speak up for the sweat

of farmers on the streets of Delhi

Today, you'll take up the vakalat

of croplands across the country.

Today, you'll be a new revolutionary

The throne of injustice will tremble at your sight

Snazzy, expensive cars and aeroplanes

will bring their head down ashamed

by your new-found stature.


You are not that decrepitude anymore…

coughing up phlegm, treading village roads

that I knew till yesterday, 

How youthful you look today!

Today, you are a six-legged butterfly...

Nah, a tiger masquerading as butterfly.


In an evening when

tractors dressed up as dragonflies

or dragonflies dressed up as tractors

where soaring the skies

the king asked the wind

flowing from the wheat fields:

What should I do?

The wind parted the sights

around, pointed towards

a blade of lemon grass

and spoke...

Look at the sparrow

perching on the lemongrass blade

its heavier than the leaf

see, yet the leaf holds...

Wondrous, isn't it?

Highness, last month

you went on a game hunt

showed your escort a green frog

nodding off on a wild taro leaf.

It wasn't weighty as

the frog but how trustful its

repose! The covenant

the leaves have with the world

is that of tranquillity and care.

Highness, you can't perch on

the blade of lemon grass like birds

or recline on the taro leaf

like the green frog. They'll let go

your expansive butts and you'll

end up with a broken spine. But

the plants would spring.

to their feet again. The tale of

a babe who sleeps on banyan leaf

might have allured you but nothing

can bear your load save

a chopped down leaf of banana...

said the wind

drifting away to join

the revolt of green leaves outside

the palace gates.

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