We Adivasis have our own ways of naming new-borns. We have borrowed from rivers, forests, their land, days of the week, or a particular date, or even from their ancestors. But, with time, our right to name ourselves the way we wanted was snatched away from us.  Organised religion and conversions took away this unique right. Our names kept changing, and were reassigned. When Adivasi children went to modern schools in the city, organised religion altered our names. The certificates they received were in the new names forced on us. This is how our languages, our names, our culture and histories got slaughtered. There is a conspiracy in naming. Today we are in search of that land that is connected to our roots, our history. We are in search of those days and dates marked with our existence.

Listen to Jacinta Kerketta recite her poem in Hindi

Listen to Pratishtha Pandya recite the poem in English translation

यह किसका नाम है?

मैं सोमवार को जन्मा
इसलिए सोमरा कहलाया
मैं मंगलवार को जन्मा
इसलिए मंगल, मंगर या मंगरा कहलाया
मैं बृहस्पतिवार को जन्मा
इसलिए बिरसा कहलाया

मैं दिन, तारीख़ की तरह
अपने समय के सीने पर खड़ा था
पर वे आए और उन्होंने मेरा नाम बदल दिया
वो दिन, तारीखें सब मिटा दी
जिससे मेरा होना तय होता था

अब मैं रमेश, नरेश और महेश हूं
अल्बर्ट, गिलबर्ट या अल्फ्रेड हूं
हर उस दुनिया के नाम मेरे पास हैं
जिसकी ज़मीन से मेरा कोई जुड़ाव नहीं
जिसका इतिहास मेरा इतिहास नहीं

मैं उनके इतिहास के भीतर
अपना इतिहास ढूंढ़ रहा हूं
और देख रहा हूं
दुनिया के हर कोने में, हर जगह
मेरी ही हत्या आम है
और हर हत्या का कोई न कोई सुंदर नाम है ।

Whose name is this?

I was born on Somwar, Monday,
so, I was called Somra.
I was born on Mangalwar, Tuesday,
so, I am Mangal, Mangar, or Mangara.
I was born on Bruhaspatiwar, Thursday,
that is why I was called Birsa.

I stood on the chest of time
like the days of the week,
but they came and they changed my name.
They destroyed those days and dates
that marked my being.

Now I am either Ramesh, Naresh, or Mahesh
or Albert, Gilbert, Alfred.
I have names from every one of those lands
whose soil hasn’t made me,
whose history is not my history.

I keep searching for my history
inside theirs and I realise
that each corner of this world,
in each place, I am the one being slaughtered
and each killing has a beautiful name.

Translated from Hindi by Pratishtha Pandya.

Poem and Text : Jacinta Kerketta

Jacinta Kerketta of the Oraon Adivasi community is an independent writer and reporter from rural Jharkhand. She is also a poet narrating the struggles of Adivasi communities and drawing attention to the injustices they face.

Other stories by Jacinta Kerketta
Painting : Labani Jangi

Labani Jangi is a 2020 PARI Fellow, and a self-taught painter based in West Bengal's Nadia district. She is working towards a PhD on labour migrations at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata.

Other stories by Labani Jangi
Editor : Pratishtha Pandya

Pratishtha Pandya is a Senior Editor at PARI where she leads PARI's creative writing section. She is also a member of the PARIBhasha team and translates and edits stories in Gujarati. Pratishtha is a published poet working in Gujarati and English.

Other stories by Pratishtha Pandya