(Translated from a poem by Joy Goswami.)
Which land were we headed to
What land were we leaving behind
Crossing hills and hollows
Dew-wet trees and barbed wire
Down we went through the plains
On we went through the rice fields
My little sister, Ma, Baba
And all the village folk.
Walking beside them was I
Parents called Dulaali at home,
Priyobala was the name at school.
I had only recently begun to go to school.
Someone from the village said,
“Flee this place, ho, flee!”
So we fled.
With the entire village.
Ma, Baba, two sisters,
Making our way through bushes and wild weeds,
Making our way through brooks and creeks,
Made our way sleepy hauling
Our sleepy thatched-roof,
Our sleepy bamboo fencing,
The sleepy bottle gourd,
Laid on the yard the sleepy cart-wheel,
The sleepy plougher.
The shiuli plant on the portico,
The moon hidden half by the limp neem tree.
We moved on without making a sound.
A twig touched down the forehead and the head,
Cold in dew, wet and calloused,
The folio of a tree is so like the folio of a hand.
After crossing so many many fields,
We rested under the shade of the trees.
Each of us unpacked our sacks,
For jaggery and puffed rice.
Eyes drooping down from slog.
There was a sudden scuttle,
Fire had broken out in villages.
“O Aaduri!”, “O Dulaali!”, “Where are you two?”
Ma, Baba called for us.
I was found.
But Aaduri was lost.
Nobody knows where she has ended up.
We all crossed the barbed wire boundary,
Heads down, necks down.
We also passed through the book.
The book of Immigration.
We travelled on the steamer,
On the train.
The path was torn into bits.
Where was the land we’re headed to,
What an age we left behind!
“Dulaali, Dulaali!” “Priyobala, Priyobala!”
The name is lost on the road.
Some part of the name is lost in the rice meadows.
Some part is lost in the waters of the streams.
Some part the school has taken away.
Some part is lost in the riots along the way.
The trees under which we rested,
Some part of the name is lost to those trees.
Some part of the name the dew-drops of the fields took away.
Some part has gone to the neighbours of the night.
Some part got caught in the bamboo fencing.
Some part is hidden away beneath the thatch-leaves.
Some part is stuck in the barbed wires.
Some part is gone to the Immigration book.
One age I left in that country,
One age was taken by my man,
One age passed by to raise my son,
It is by my son’s name that I’m known today.
I was a part-time maid,
Meals and clothes I get here as part of pay,
Son has separated after marriage.
I stay here only.
Sitting here, I, Nanda’s Ma,
Don’t think of my son.
Neither of my man.
I just remember,
We were going
To some land.
We all were fleeing.