In what language does a mother dream? In what language does she speak to her children on the banks of Ganga to Periyar? Does her tongue change its colour with every state, every district, every village? Thousands of languages, lakhs of dialects, does she know them all? In which one does she speak to the farmers of Vidarbha, the children of Hathras, the women of Dindigul? Listen! Press your head against the red sand. Stand atop a hill where the wind caresses your face and listen!  Can you hear her, her stories, her songs, her cries? Tell me, can you identify her tongue? Tell me, can you hear sing you a familiar lullaby, just like me?

Listen to Gokul G K recite his poem


A dagger sinks through my tongue!
I feel its sharp edges -
tearing the delicate muscles.
I can no longer speak,
the dagger got my words,
all syllables, all songs, all stories,
all known and felt.

This bleeding tongue,
a bloody stream
flowing from my mouth to my chest,
to my navel, my sex,
to the fertile soils of the Dravidian.
The land is red and wet like the tongue.
Each drop breeds new ones,
blades of red grass from black earth.

Hundreds of tongues underneath,
thousands and millions.
Dead ones rise from ancient graveyards,
Forgotten ones blooming like spring flowers,
singing songs and stories my mother knew.

The dagger sinks through my tongue
blunt edges tremble,
fearing the song of the land of tongues.

Poem and Text : Gokul G.K.

Gokul G.K. is a freelance journalist based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

Other stories by Gokul G.K.
Illustration : 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