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Poetry

To Loved Ones

By Jayesh Jeevibahen Solanki
Translated from Gujarati by Gopika Jadeja
Two poems by Jayesh Solanki, a poet and activist who envisioned a different future for Dalit and marginalized communities in India.
Photo of a man walking alongside his bike on a tree-lined path
Photo by Akshat Vats on Unsplash

On October 20, 2020, Jayesh Solanki, a Dalit activist, poet, and dramaturg, committed suicide at his home in Bhuvaldi village, fifty kilometers from the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. He had dropped out of school but carved out a path for his own education—reading, having lively intellectual debates with his activist friends, and creating theatrical dramas that challenged caste- and class-based social hierarchies. And yet established ideologies did not sit well with him. Working in a factory for several years, Solanki learned to question established ideologies of both Ambedkar and Marx.

Until the day that he killed himself, he had remained, as he said once in an interview, a misfit. These poems give us a glimpse into a promising young mind, a poet and activist who envisioned a different future for Dalit and marginalized communities in India.

 

Dearest

The bazaar reveals this to us:
I sell
Get sold
Someone buys me
and I buy someone else

What shall I give you
for a birthday present?
If you permit
I will erase what I’ve become,
return to what I used to be

and bring you mangoes
hiding in the boughs of an old tree
or mend for you a torn kite
stuck at the top of a cactus.

Tell me, dearest,
which of these would you choose?
Shall I give you one, or both?
 

To Sujal, my nephew

Dear Sujal,
this bicycle
should be like an airplane for you.

At your age, the age for riding bicycles,
on summer holidays
I used to go, torso naked, to collect gundar,
lumps of gum from the eranda tree.

There were no cool ice lollies
for a rupee to beat the heat.

On many days,
to fight the burning afternoon sand,
I have peed on my feet
to reach home!


© Jayesh Jeevibahen Solanki. Translation © 2022 by Gopika Jadeja. All rights reserved.

English

On October 20, 2020, Jayesh Solanki, a Dalit activist, poet, and dramaturg, committed suicide at his home in Bhuvaldi village, fifty kilometers from the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. He had dropped out of school but carved out a path for his own education—reading, having lively intellectual debates with his activist friends, and creating theatrical dramas that challenged caste- and class-based social hierarchies. And yet established ideologies did not sit well with him. Working in a factory for several years, Solanki learned to question established ideologies of both Ambedkar and Marx.

Until the day that he killed himself, he had remained, as he said once in an interview, a misfit. These poems give us a glimpse into a promising young mind, a poet and activist who envisioned a different future for Dalit and marginalized communities in India.

 

Dearest

The bazaar reveals this to us:
I sell
Get sold
Someone buys me
and I buy someone else

What shall I give you
for a birthday present?
If you permit
I will erase what I’ve become,
return to what I used to be

and bring you mangoes
hiding in the boughs of an old tree
or mend for you a torn kite
stuck at the top of a cactus.

Tell me, dearest,
which of these would you choose?
Shall I give you one, or both?
 

To Sujal, my nephew

Dear Sujal,
this bicycle
should be like an airplane for you.

At your age, the age for riding bicycles,
on summer holidays
I used to go, torso naked, to collect gundar,
lumps of gum from the eranda tree.

There were no cool ice lollies
for a rupee to beat the heat.

On many days,
to fight the burning afternoon sand,
I have peed on my feet
to reach home!


© Jayesh Jeevibahen Solanki. Translation © 2022 by Gopika Jadeja. All rights reserved.

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