Poems by Santosh Dharma Rathod

Pic by Dids



 A Shirt*

I was reluctant, brother, to say:
“This summer vacation
Get me a shirt from a city.”
Lest it shouldn’t be
A command or a demand
Of a younger to the elder.
Pay right there
For my shirt
I’ll replay here.
Hardly we get to go to the city
For we’ve in Tanda1
A little or no facility,
And if at all
We go to the town
We demand a Fetiya2
They sell us a gown.
When your wife sees a hole under my armpit,
She feels embarrassed.
My kind sister-in-law then donates your old shirts to me.
The crook shopkeepers take our money and cheat the customers,
Your worthy, dutiful wife gives freely.
In a Tanda wedding, thank God, I avoided tattered clothes
Evaded bringing disgrace upon you
And saved your grace, brother.
You are just one year elder to me,
so it fits in length but a bit loose at stomach
Because of your BIG BELLY.
Though groom’s outfit was fancy and fine,
In the whole party
Branded shirts was only mine.
I was determined to kick anyone,
irrespective of age and gender,
who’d tease and laugh at me.

During rituals under process,
One started pulling my leg
I lost my temper
I smacked and I stunned
I did bash and I did thrash
Till he fainted on the grass.
Then his mother
with her fiery eyes,
resumed the fighting.
In hustle and bustle,
crowd pulled and pushed
till I lost shirt buttons.
Now one has no buttons,
And other a hole in the armpit.
Had you got me a new shirt,
Brother, we could have avoided THIS SHIT!

*A Shirt is a rendering of poet’s Gorboli poem
A caravan of Banjara nomedic community
Banjara woman’s skirt


 My Pinky, My Li’l One

Mom, see all my mark memos:
Maths, full marks
History, satisfactory
Science, out of
Language, first class with distinction
Extracurricular activities, grade ‘A’
Leadership, excellent
Sports, superb.
Do you recall any class activity, test, assignment, project
Where credits were not awarded,
Or stars, chocolates, pens not rewarded?

And this whom you call Barkya, Pinky, the Li’l one
Never passed his Maths without grace
Nor partook in any competition or race.
None was happy with
His performance in sports, arts, crafts, and dance.
Some complained about his fuelling the fights,
Tearing other’s kites.
Half the time this truant
Stayed away from school.
And yes, this fool,
Ran errands for all;

And grew as an acolyte, a henchman
Mastered arts and science of sycophancy
Both in theory and practice.

Today, mom, one such Little one
Is chosen over me
And denied my promotion.
Everywhere’s the race of lil ones.


 Curse You All!

O City, O Town, O Village,
Open your mouths
And show me my Tanda
You all have engulfed.

O Pants, O Shirts,
O Saree, O Salwar kameez,
Unzip and untie yourselves
You all have covered my clothes.

O English, O Hindi,
The most spoken languages of the largest groups
Step aside
Let the air pass
My Gorboli is being suffocated and smothered.

O Government Offices, Nongovernment Buildings,
O Foreign Malls,
Uproot yourselves and see around
There might be our remains and cremains
Relics like shacks and shanties
There may have marriages solemnised
Nasab convened
Children played
Naked, half-naked.

O four-lane, eight-lane
Tarred and cement
National and State
Peel off your crust
Check the tracks of our ladeni
Like a mosaic of network
Or a cobweb connecting India
Together for the centuries.

Simply due to our nomadism
We are disrobed off everything,
Nay, they usurped, stripped us off everything
Curse on you all.


An Ode on the Eve of Terrible Time

Night, O night
We do not have enough strength to fight
For the enemies outnumber
In quantity and quality.

We hear roars, chirps, shrieks,
And see horrific eyes
Whisper of conspiracies amplifies
Our whole families, allies of the war,
Though intimate and close to us,
Turned far objects in the darkness.

O Night
This time is not right;
Our folklores tell the tales of
Darkness with all its might
And the horrible face
Swallowing our entire race.

If you could,
Pass this message to our lost members in darkness:
Hold tight
To pass the terrible night;
For the bright sun does follow the dark night.


My Teacher’s Cane

Without your cane, teacher
They’re turning insane
I hear them insulting you
For instilling values
Into their wards
I see them protesting
And using political cards

They find violence
In your brandishing cane
And doubt your pen
But don’t mind violence
In painting your stories
And tainting your cane.

Take out your cane, teacher
To keep them sane.
For no cane, no discipline
No pain, no gain.


Whom Shall I Tell?

Whom shall I tell:
My mother-in-law or my Jethani?
How long shall my sister-in-law be taken care of and protected?
The young girl should now be married off.

Time and again
She goes into the house
And frequently undoes her hair
And does it again.

She lets her
Mother and brother
Go to sleep
And then sneaks in
To put on kanchali
And keeps staring at her breasts
In the mirror.

When we take the clothes to the stream,
She swims in the deep water,
Only I wash our family laundry.
Engrossed in swimming,
She shirks her duty at the stream,
And mixes with boys
To play sports and toys.

Whom shall I tell:
My mother-in-law or my Jethani?
How long shall my sister-in-law be taken care of and protected?
The young girl should now be married off.


About the Author

Dr. Santosh Dharma Rathod (b. 1977- ) is presently an Associate Professor of English at IDOL, University of Mumbai. He writes in English, Marathi, and Gorboli, the language of Banjara Community. He has two plays in English and Marathi namely, Their Mother’s Husband and E for English. His collection of short stories titled A Swordtail and Other Stories in English appeared in 2010. His poetry in English Marathi and Gorboli has been published in the leading journals like Parivartanache Wataru, Langlit, Research Innovator, and Research Chronicler.