1614

The Cobbler – and other poems

by Aasai Theeppori

This cobbler does not work with gold, silver or any gem.

Yet he sees his shoes as precious, yes, each one of them. 

He protects and crowns our otherwise naked soles and feet,

enabling us to walk in harsh cold and scorching heat.

 

He dares to call himself a jeweler and nothing less.

His shoes are like fine pieces of jewelry, oh yes, yes!

Does he not deserve more credit than a mere shoe seller?

So he reinvents his identity and calls himself a jeweler.

 

Rather than being honored for his act of self-discovery,

why is this daring reconceptualizer an object of mockery?

After decades of independence, we still hold on to the past.

We still recognize the labor of people by names of caste.

 

Is working with a dead cow’s skin still a matter of shame?

Yet brand-named leather goods seem to earn much fame!

People exhibit no shame while carrying a leather purse.

Then why does one working with shoes earn our curse?

 

Why should a cobbler still carry a name with a scar?

When he takes another name, it leads to a sentimental war.

Is India still not ready to shed its caste-based scales?

We Indians are more than ready for new rationales.

 

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet.

But the same is not the case with words indiscreet.

A cobbler by any other name does change his identity.

Names may even elevate a labor from ignoble to sanctity.

 

To bring about change, we cannot rely on renaming alone.

We need to deconstruct and then reconstruct what is known.

A cobbler must be no less than a jeweler in terms of labor.

He must be acceptable to come and live as our neighbor.

 

Our minds must break the barriers of the caste concept.

The stigma associated with a cobbler must be cleanly swept.

The key is not only to rename but also to reconceptualize.

This is the only way true independence will materialize.

__________

 

 

Not in my backyard

 

Let’s be merry, come girls and guys.

It’s little luv’s birthday! Let’s socialize.

Tempting treats and lots of goodies!

We are also on camera, so smile please.

 

Gift’s have wrappers, glossy and shiny.

Balloons are numerous, some big, some tiny.

Colorful ribbons hang high and low.

They all need no care, just use and throw.

 

Styrofoam cups hold fizzy caffeine.

Disposables need no maids to clean.

Paper and plastic want no washing effort.

Come have another serving of the sinful dessert.

 

Guests readily take home leftover eats.

Gifts are many, all fit in our cars’ trunks and seats.

Every one lends a hand, so pack up is not hard.

Now, where to pile the junk, in whose backyard?

 

Lord, this day little luv adds a year to her age,

bless her with one more planet to dump all garbage.

_________ 

 

       Seeds of Hope

 

Communities belonging to many a culture

believe in the need to thank Mother nature.

People irrespective of religion, gender and age

indulge in rituals where seedlings take center stage.

Seeds are symbolic of new life and hope.

There is positive energy, full of scope.

A mere handful of seed yields a field full of grain

for those who want to continue to grow and sustain.

 

Navroz is the first day of spring, the birth of new earth.

Celebrated since six hundred years before Christ’s birth.

To the Parsis of India, this is the most important day.

They offer sprouted seeds to earth – it seems the best way.

It is the time to throw out things old and bring in new.

And give self and others gifts that are long due.

Share with others and indulge in good deeds. 

Begin new ventures, plough fields and sow seeds.

 

This festival begins two weeks before the spring date.

Wheat, barley and lentil are sown on a china plate.

The sprouts are three to four inches by Navroz.

Seedlings denote birth of joy and end of all woes.

They are symbols of spring, rebirth and fertility.

Longer sprouts mean plenty, abundance and prosperity.

To celebrate resurgence of life and many a new thing,

Parsi women serve “samanoo”, a delicious sprout pudding.

 

The Lambada tribe celebrates the festival of Teez

to make sure that farm yields never do cease.

This sprout festival, Molakala panduga, is full of fun,

villagers mingle freely and inhibitions they do shun.

Seeds are placed in small bins and watered daily.

With these bins on their head, girls dance gaily.

Along with prayers, neighborhood fun too begins.

Young men tease the girls and steal their bins.

 

In Tamilnadu, Adi Perukku is celebrated in early August.

To thank god for keeping rivers flooded and robust,

villagers carry mulaipari, pots with sprouts well grown.

Into fields and rivers the seedlings are gently thrown.

Women, clad in yellow and hair adorned with flowers,

pray to Mariamman, the goddess of rain showers.

They offer mulaipari, flowers, turmeric roots,

bunches of neem leaves and banana fruits.

 

In MadhyaPradesh, a week before Nagpanchami day,

villagers get together to celebrate and pray

to assure that crop abundance never ceases.

Churkus or conical baskets tied to bamboo pieces

are filled with sprouts on a bed of rich manure.

River water needs to be plenty, healthy and pure.

So on Nagpanchami, these churkus are set afloat.

They area feast to eyes, looking like many a tiny boat.

 

Most parts of India celebrate a nine-night festival

observed both at home and village carnival.

In Punjab, seeds are grown in pots called Khetri.

It is done to attract the mother goddess’s entry.

Khetri wheat and barley are as precious as pearls.

Symbolic entry is by the neighborhood young girls,

on the eighth day to receive the Kanchak treats

of red scarf, money, fried bread and sweets.

 

In Rajasthan, ashes are collected from Holi ground

and placed inside a small pot, colorful and round.

In this ash, soaked barley and wheat are buried.

This festival of Gan-Gaur, most popular indeed.

The season when Gan god and Gaur goddess unite.

Girls carry guddia, a bin with holes and a central light.

Camels, horses and elephants, all washed and well fed.

Villagers sing folk songs with the sprouted pot on their head.

 

In Gujarat, during Garba, people dance all night.

Dipagarba lamp is lit and pots are painted bright.

Filling these pots are germinated barley and wheat.

Men and women celebrate with tireless dancing feet

in colorful attire and a pair of dandia sticks in hand.

The folk songs are characteristic of their native land.

The dance and sprouts are gifts to mother goddess

to ensure a bountiful yield and nothing less.

 

In neighboring Nepal, ten-day long festival is Dashain.

To thank god for the plentiful harvest and rain,

pots are coated with cow dung and barley is sown

and shielded from sunlight until they are fully-grown.

The sprouts are a lovely yellow and adorn people’s heads

when they pay visit to relatives, temples and riverbeds.

Elders place a red mark on the foreheads of the young.

Feast is shared, money is offered and folk songs are sung.

 

All the above cultures believe in the power of the seed.

Sprouting seeds satisfies basic urges – to feed and to breed.

Soaking grains and letting them sprout is a symbolic act.

By doing so, all cultures speak just one language in fact.

All farmers save a handful of grain from every harvest.

The seed saving act is done out of ecological interest.

This handful is used as seed for the next crop.

Or else nature’s cycles come to a full stop.

 

A grain must sprout, or else it does not remain a grain.

If grains cease being seeds, a farmer’s toil becomes vain.

When a grain does not sprout, it’s purpose and meaning is lost.

And buying seed grains for every crop comes at a high cost.

Monsanto’s seeds yield grains that do not rebirth.

This nasty game is violence against mother Earth.

A trick similar to Nestle’s drying up of mothers’ breast.

Against such crimes, every one must stand up and protest.

                                  __________

 

                Stunted Vision and Lengthy Woes

 

Tiny green heads peep out of brown muddy earth.

Oh what joy it is to see Mother Nature give birth!

Every inch of this green shoot has a very lengthy tale to tell.

As the stalk grows longer, there is assurance that all is well.

 

To the traditional farmer, plant stalk is no less than green gold.

Stalks hold the key to balance; secrets nature shall later unfold.

But to the eyes of western science, stalks are mere waste.

The goal is to produce only what caters to human taste.

 

Not just topmost grains, lower stalks can be food too.

Stalks are fed to livestock, so they have equal value.

Grains are reaped for humans, stalks reserved for cattle.

But rescuing stalks from biotechnologists is no easy battle.

 

Is not saving time the prime goal of western society?

It comes up with a quick-growing dwarfed variety.

Crops grow faster as the length of stalk is short.

At the cost of animals’ food early yield is sought.

 

Livestock growers are left with very little free feed.

Nature and its keepers fall prey to capitalist greed.

While cattle starve to death, technocrats reap gold.

Short-term vision sees not what the future does hold.

 

Decomposed plant and animal waste offer biomass as fertilizer.

Traditional practices with cyclic vision have proven to be wiser.

Feeding on mere plant waste, cows give rich manure for fields.

No additional expense, yet farms get extra income and yields.

 

Cattle and field - twin livelihoods that feed each other.

Perfect example of mutual care, this tie must never wither.

To both dairy farmers and agricultural farmers it is a win-win.

Inter-dependant animals and plants are like kith and kin.

 

Whether this twin livelihood thrives depends on straw and hay.

Greed for higher yield in a short time has a heavy price to pay.

Nature’s ways as a necessary balance is not how the west sees.

Human food and animal fodder are separate lucrative industries.

 

The West pays for each need without supply from within.

Pay for food, fodder and fertilizer – oh what a way to win!

Corporate giants dictate how and what crops are to be grown.

They break every rule that nature and tradition have shown.

 

Cows’ fodder is grown with toxic fertilizer and pesticide,

resulting in toxic dung, and so the manure option is denied.

Instead of dung, fields are poisoned with chemical stuff.

This in turn poisons humans and the going gets tough.

 

The West feeds ground beef and bones to cattle with ease.

Has not this forced cannibalism led to mad cow disease?

While its own local episteme pays such a heavy toll,

teaching the east how to live has been the West’s goal.

 

Aasai Theeppori is the poet's penname. She is an independent researcher
interested in uncovering the relationship between dominant epistemologies and
environmental disempowerment. Her country of origin is India. Contact