Two Poems

1. Agariya

I.

Expanse of white salt called the rann
Field of fire called afternoon

No water to drink
No school for their children
No home but the salt pans
Caught between the sea and the desert
The agariya harvest salt
For the tongues that do not know
The meaning of water

II.
Driving on Surajbari bridge
past salt pans that line the road on both sides
we make an offering of coins to the sea,
(too many, mother would say later,
the sea has carried her children away)
wishing for travel and plenty.

The bright pink of the agariya woman’s dress
The only colour in the white expanse of salt
of her longing for water
makes contrast for my phone camera

The camera does not see
Mirages that dream become her dreams
Thirst spreading its fingers on her throat



2. Ignorant Agariyo

Ignorant Agariyo
My mother, why did you
give me away to the agariyo

He makes me dig the salt well ,
He makes me build the salt pan
He bids me work day and night
My mother, why did you
give me away to the agariyo

He smokes ganja and drinks alcohol
Drinks English all the time
My mother, why did you
give me away to the agariyo

He makes me lift loads
He makes me pull down loads
He makes me pull down the saltpan bank
My mother, why did you
give me away to the agariyo

He makes me count the canals
He makes me build the steps into the well
He makes me build the banks
My mother, why did you
give me away to the agariyo

He breaks the pot of water
And flings down his turban
He drinks all day long
My mother, why did you
give me away to the agariyo

Note: The poem and the translation are part of a larger project of writing from archival materials, juxtaposing colonial texts and histories with the personal histories, oral storytelling and songs, thus foregrounding personal, local hi/stories, and bringing into focus the many voices from western India. The colonial text used here is a page from The Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Vol III, Kathiawar (1884).