Two Poems by Sonali Pattnaik

Painting: Amer Bader

By Sonali Pattnaik

 Not in my Name

you will not bruise, beat and maim
not in my name
you will not trample upon truth
nor upon freedom
a singular stake claim
not in my name
you shall not separate a nation
from its constitution
and young parents from their
helpless children
not in my name
you shall not persecute and hate
those who do not bite your bait
not in my name
you shall not tell people of this nation
that this is not their home
and kill those who assert the truth
that they belong
not in my name
you shall not tear through the rights
of a people and divide them eternally
uniting only in hate
not in my name
you shall not history, monuments
and places of learning desecrate
nor infiltrate places you
should be safeguarding
only to blind, stun, molest
and amputate those that remind
you of the threat to your lies
those that you demonise
asserting with your bloody hands
that revenge is your right
and you the sole possessor of this land
that the might of your undemocratic reign
lies in the terror you generate
in the way you suppress dissent
and as you shred to pieces
the words and deeds
and beliefs that make us one
shred to pieces the strength
of the people as together we stand
and you cry out that you speak for me
as you beat down with your lathis

this democracy, a country
with a hundred fault lines
but founded upon the idea
that we are a collective
ensconced in plurality
over which a singular,
blood-drenched narrative you foist
a will to power you claim
can you hear thousands chanting,
as they march hand in hand,
‘not in my name’, ‘not in my name.’



we would do well
to remember
that we all came from elsewhere
we all came from someone,
through someone, because of
someone else, from somewhere
we are here
and if here, then we belong

why, to have been born
is to have moved
birth is a coming out,
a leaving of home
a movement, a passage, a departure,
a nomadism that makes
our very existence

to be human is movement
it is to have moved, to move, to be moved
borders and boundaries
are all lines that mark
our places finely
but cannot hold back that
which must come through
manifesting in mixed hues
desires, colours, rivers, peoples
are of a nature to move
to seep through
no border is tight enough
for those

feet, flesh, firmament all part
so our places, with each new birth
become, in the act of comings
and goings anew, a kind of land

let’s remember that we all came
from a partition, a parting
for there’s water at birth
beneath and around time’s sand
even time migrates
and there’s only shifting
under the seeming fixity of land
we only think
we know where we stand

we pass through
passages of time, body, memory
of place and possibility
not knowing how to disentangle
one from the other
body from memory, time from place
and child from mother
to migrate is to go and stay

migration is blood
to history’s sinewy limbs
and blood, it will not let us forget
that it has a way of seeping through
a way of going from here to there
not caring for the fences of name, race
and nation that we place

when drawn upon the axis of love
blood will forge hybrid maps
upon the skeletons of pristine paths
blood mixes, miscegenates, migrates

it reminds us as it matches
and un-matches,
gives life and takes away
like the meandering maze of history
and the diaphanous tongues of stories
that we all are migrants
our faces recognisable
only as our stories are told
that the untold dis-places

that our feet in journeys grow
that we are here because we moved
a long way from elsewhere
from lands made of stardust,
or flood ravaged and torn,
and where we stay
is home
where we go
is home

Sonali Pattnaik teaches literature in English in Ahmedabad. She has a PhD in the subject and her thesis elaborates upon the body politics of contemporary Bollywood cinema within its neo-liberal context and its complex colonial and pre-colonial histories. She has taught English and film studies at Delhi University, Mumbai University, SNDT University and Whistling Woods International. She is a poet, a visual artist and academic and has been an active participant in gender activism as well as activism around issues regarding environmental destruction, minority rights and displacement. She is a committed mother who revels in homeschooling her daughter and is currently working on turning her thesis into a book.


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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Poetics and politics of the ‘everyday’: Engaging with India’s northeast”, edited by Bhumika R, IIT Jammu and Suranjana Choudhury, NEHU, India.

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