The watchman has lit the lantern
By Subimal Misra
A hut of thatch over earthen walls that’s our home.
Sleeping, sitting, cooking and eating, goats, chickens and ducks,
All beneath this single shade
When native sahibs come to the dak bungalow for shikar,
We get to eat their leftovers and bones
Through joys and sorrows our life goes on
Like a bullock cart
Every now and then the babus come with women
To have fun
As they get drunk on liquor
They shed their clothes
They cavort naked
In front of us
Right in front of our little children
The intoxicated bibi straddles the naked babu
They don’t even think we’re human
Hey – are servants and watchmen human
Just slip a ten-rupee note
And everyone bows their heads and salaams
Phuli, frightened, takes the children
And runs away
Seeing the sexual frolic of the big sahib
The one-and-a-half year old kid sucks noisily
At the teat
And gapes, wide-eyed, in alarm
The wife scurries around in concealment
She doesn’t even want to come to grind masala
Actually, as they’re lowly folk
They’ve still retained a bit of shame and decency
The watchman has lit the lantern.
While the meat cooks he kneads flour into dough
His two muscular arms move up and down
All ten fingers seize the watered flour, and that babu-white flour paste
Slips so easily through the crevices between his fingers …
[Translated by V. Ramaswamy]
Subimal Misra (b. 1943) is an anti-establishment and experimental writer in Bengali and lives in Kolkata. He has written exclusively in little magazines from the late sixties. About thirty volumes of his stories, novellas, novels, plays and essays have been published. The Golden Gandhi Statue from America, a volume of his early stories in English translation, was published in 2010.
V Ramaswamy is a Kolkata-based literary translator. He is currently working on a multi-volume project of translating the short fiction of the Bengali writer, Subimal Misra.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.