Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Varavara Rao

Nov 26, 2020 | Poetry | 2 comments


Who keeps me company in these premises?
The blue sky above,
oceans of thoughts within,
a shut door and a lock hanging outside,
wide open memories and the patience I’m so used to, inside.

Are there no human beings here?
In which sense!

This is solitary confinement to my soul

Trees with fruity minds and flowery hearts,
birds like my urge for freedom
waiting on the power line
to rise up into the sky

Other prisoners find time
to stealthily peep in through the crevices of the door.
‘Convicts’ sneakily wish me
On pretexts of calling me for court or mulaqat.

Nobody should meet me,
Those around me should not speak with me.

A forced peaceful coexistence
with Congress, culture and the black market.
Those speaking with me can’t understand my words;
those who understand can’t get my anguish
The shadow of this block
Is prohibited to fall on the other.

Who is here to keep me company?
A sealed radio and censored newspapers;
If the news of an encounter that is only really fake
is edited out, that is a newspaper.

In the solitary silence of the night
jailmates from their radio send me
the passion of Pyasa and the agony of Malleeswari;
Stars tossed in packets of jasmine
(they get stones in marijuana packets from the street outside).

If you tune the radio for news here
You find only… death.

Death-fang on life’s struggle,
a forced end to the dreams of the youth.
Waiting is the only company
to the tears that swirl in me.
Elongated, sleepless nights,
sound of tracks in the books
that run on my tongue;
It isn’t the noise from the fan,
But the outrage of waterfalls within
my mind.

Black letters turn to red blood cells,
they enter me and give me renewed strength.

As a person who’s slept amidst rails
after intense running,
I wake up with broken nightmares
amidst the crisis of day and night.

As emotion pressures my blood,
my mind in wet thoughts
beats Choma’s Drum.
I imagine the phoenix
turning to ashes in the peace of a graveyard.

In the movement of the locus between dawn and dusk
who keeps me company?
Foresight supplies breath;
Conviction on Naxalbari.


17 September 1986

Notes –

Malleeswari – a popular Telugu film of 1950s, a favorite of poets for its lyrical beauty

Choma’s Drum – a novel of K S Karant, made into a popular film Chomana Dudi, famous for violent drum beat

Translated from the Telugu by N Venugopal

Varavara Rao

Varavara Rao

Varavara Rao (1940) is a poet, literary critic, socio-political commentator, translator and public speaker. Trained in Telugu language and literature, he worked as a college teacher for over thirty years. Has been writing poetry for over 60 years. Inspired by Naxalbari revolutionary politics and people’s movements, he has been writing and speaking to spread the message of alternative politics. In the process, he eared the wrath of powers that be and implicated in 25 cases between 1973 and 2018. Acquitted by law courts as “not-guilty” in all of them, he was arrested again in 2018 in a fabricated case and has been in Maharashtra jails since then without trial and bail.
N Venugopal

N Venugopal

N Venugopal (1961) is a poet, literary critic, journalist, translator and public speaker. After over two decades in mainstream journalism, he launched an alternative small journal of political economy and society, Veekshanam 18 years ago and has been its editor. He is the translator and co-editor (along with poet Meena Kandasamy) of the forthcoming Penguin Random House publication ‘Varavara Rao: India’s Revolutionary Poet’, an anthology of translations of about 70 poems.


  1. Gabriel Rosenstock

    Who is listening to Varavara Rao in his anguish and isolation? The countless gods and goddesses of India? If there is a Supreme Being, does not the Supreme Being
    reside in the individual? Do the Upanishads not tell us, ‘THAT THOU ART’. India, you have jailed God.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ongoing Event

Ongoing Event

Upcoming Books

Ongoing Events

Antonym Bookshelf

You have Successfully Subscribed!