મારી માની ભાષા / My Mother’s Language

Dr Pratishtha Pandya is a poet and translator working across Gujarati and English, whose first collection “Lalala…” (ળળળ…) has been published by Navjivan Samprat. She works with the People’s Archive of Rural India as a writer, editor, and translator.

From translating nirguna poetry into Gujarati to foregrounding women’s writing from Gujarat, Dr Pandya is involved in various projects at the Ashoka Centre for Translation—and her translations are forthcoming. 

I do not speak to my children
In the language of my mother.
My mother spoke in one to my father
and in another to the gods.
I speak in none when I speak
to father, God, my daughter or my son.

What happens when some strangers?
abduct the language of your mother?
Do you lose her? Do you let her go?
Or do you still chase the army of dragons
and fight like a brave prince to save her?
How long does it take for the venom
to leach from the blood-soaked landfills
of the present and seep
into the aquifer of history
spreading it all the way down to her roots,
to faraway lakes, streams, oceans
and to all the tributaries that made her?

How long does it take
before someone else’s sins ruin her
and flow in the veins of a generation
like blue industrial waste,
like poison
and get swept in the current
of the rivers of a nation
like decomposed corpses?
How long before
the red and blue mix with each other
and turn into some mucky brown or black?

Not long before algal bloom gags her.
It is not long before
you realise that you cannot
save the river,
or separate the blue
from the red and the black,
or filter out the evils,
or wipe off the sticky rainbows from its face,
choking it to death,
or clean the hate filled waste,
now dissolved in the blood.

It is not long before
your mother’s language
floats in your veins
like upturned fishes
with bellies like inflated balloons.

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