Sarkar Bahadur had named him Annadata, and now he had gotten trapped inside his name. When Sarkar Bahadur would say, ‘sprinkle seeds,’ he would sprinkle them in the fields. When Sarkar Bahadur would say, ‘put manure,’ he would feed the soil. When the crop was ready, he would sell it at a price fixed by Sarkar Bahadur, who would then proudly tom-tom the productivity of his soil in the world, while the Annadata would buy from the markets the same food that he grew to fill his stomach. This was the pattern throughout the year, and he had no option. One day while following this path he found himself mired in debt. The land under his feet caved in and the cage in which he was trapped, only grew bigger. He thought that he would find a way out of this prison. But his soul too was a slave of Sarkar Bahadur. And his existence had been buried, a long time ago, under the shining shillings that were allotted under the Samman Nidhi scheme.

Listen to Devesh recite his poem in Hindi

Listen to Pratishtha Pandya recite the poem in English

मौत के बाद उन्हें कौन गिनता

ख़ुद के खेत में
ख़ुद का आलू
फिर भी सोचूं
क्या मैं खालूं

कौन सुनेगा
किसे मना लूं
फ़सल के बदले
नकदी पा लूं

अपने मन की
किसे बता लूं
अपना रोना
किधर को गा लूं

ज़मीन पट्टे पर थी
हज़ारों ख़र्च किए थे बीज पर
खाद जब मिला
बुआई का टाइम निकल गया था
लेकिन, खेती की.
खेती की और फ़सल काटी
फ़सल के बदले मिला चेक इतना हल्का था
कि साहूकार ने भरे बाज़ार गिरेबान थाम लिया.

इस गुंडई को रोकने
कोई बुलडोज़र नहीं आया
रपट में पुलिस ने आत्महत्या का कारण
बीवी से झगड़े को बताया.

उसका होना
खेतों में निराई का होना था
उसका होना
बैलों सी जुताई का होना था
उसके होने से
मिट्टी में बीज फूटते थे
कर्जे की रोटी में बच्चे पलते थे
उसका होना
खेतों में मेड़ का होना था
शहराती दुनिया में पेड़ का होना था

पर जब उसकी बारी आई
हैसियत इतनी नहीं थी
कि किसान कही जाती.

जिनकी गिनती न रैलियों में थी
न मुफ़्त की थैलियों में
न होर्डिंगों में
न बिल्डिंगों में
न विज्ञापनों के ठेलों में
न मॉल में लगी सेलों में
न संसद की सीढ़ियों पर
न गाड़ियों में
न काग़ज़ी पेड़ों में
न रुपए के ढेरों में
न आसमान के तारों में
न साहेब के कुमारों में

मौत के बाद
उन्हें कौन गिनता

हे नाथ!
श्लोक पढूं या निर्गुण सुनाऊं
सुंदरकांड का पाठ करूं
तुलसी की चौपाई गाऊं
या फिर मैं हठ योग करूं
गोरख के दर पर खिचड़ी चढ़ाऊं
हिन्दी बोलूं या भोजपुरी
कैसे कहूं
जो आपको सुनाई दे महाराज…

मैं इसी सूबे का किसान हूं
जिसके आप महंत हैं
और मेरे बाप ने फांसी लगाकर जान दे दी है.

They were no one – the dead

The farm is my own.
The potatoes home grown.
Yet I am not sure
what I should eat.

Who would listen?
Who would believe?
How to encash
my harvest gold?

Who will share
my tragic tale
Where to let out
my anguished wail?

The land was leased,
millions spent on seeds.
Manure came
but time for the sowing went.
We toiled anyway, ploughing,
sowing, harvesting, selling the crop
for a pittance in hand.
The market was in moneylenders’ hands.

No one came
to bulldoze that scam
In the column for the cause of suicide
police wrote: ‘a fight with his wife.’

It was she
who weeded the fields.
It was she
who kept the soil ready.
It was she
who made the seeds sprout.
It was she
who fed the kids, even when we were in debt.
She was the ridge between the fields
She was the tree, lush green,
in the centre of the city

But when it was her turn
she was not good enough.
to be called a farmer.

They were not counted,
not in the rallies
not in the bags of free ration
not on billboards
nor in the buildings
nor in advertising stalls
nor in the sales in big malls
not on the steps of parliament halls
not in cars
nor in paper trees
not in rupee notes
nor in the stars in the sky
not in the sons of the Sahibs.

Who would count them now?
They were dead.

Hey Nath! My lord!
Shall I read the shlokas,
or worship Nirguna?
Shall I recite the Sunderkand,
or sing Tulsi’s chaupai ?
or shall I perform hatha yoga,
offer khichdi at the feet of Gorakh?
Shall I speak in Hindi or Bhojpuri?
How should I say it
so that you can hear my voice, Maharaj…

I am a farmer from the same province,
where you rule as Mahant
and where my father hung himself to death.

Translated from Hindi by Pratishtha Pandya

If you are suicidal or know some in distress please call Kiran, the national helpline, on 1800-599-0019 (24/7 toll free), or any of these helplines near you. For information on mental health professionals and services to reach out, please visit SPIF’s mental health directory .

Poem and Text : Devesh

Devesh is a poet, journalist, filmmaker and translator. He is the Translations Editor, Hindi, at the People’s Archive of Rural India.

Other stories by Devesh
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
Illustration : Shreya Katyayini

Shreya Katyayini is a filmmaker and Senior Video Editor at the People's Archive of Rural India. She also illustrates for PARI.

Other stories by Shreya Katyayini