Sunday, January 20, 2008

Keshav Vishwakarma, RIP

Usually, I do not put any of my own poetry on this blog, but this is an elegy and I'd like it read.

This much is set, Keshav ji – can I call you Keshav?
I feel an affinity, an ease, that is hard to explain,
Considering we’ve never met, and now, never will
Yet I’m sure you won’t mind my speaking so plain –

This much is certain: you will get no memorial, no statue
No marble slab with metal plaque, saying,‘Keshav: martyr’
Nobody will say you died that we might live, or less poetically,
That you upheld a nation’s head, honoured our civilizational charter.

What you died for – were killed for – was too much an everyday thing
So you will not go down as a human rights’ champion
Nor the leader of a bunch of people with a cause
Nor a just warrior for the aggrieved, the downtrodden

Nobody’s going to write that you’re a victim of what we’ve become
Nobody’s spine with tingle with the dread of this fact.
At least, not beyond next week, when you’ll be a statistic -
For that’s the way people keep their minds intact.

Don’t mind, Keshav, it is not on purpose that
Nobody will write you a full-length obit, or
That only one paper bothered to go and dig up
Info on how you lived, and who you lived for.

Keshav, if you knew (did you?) what they’d do
Perhaps you’d have shut up and let it be
Some insults, a woman – it happens all the time
Harassment and women – like sand and sea.

You see, we women rarely bother ourselves
We’ve learnt to shut up and stay shut; some say
Our eyes are glazed with the cataract of silence
We’re told, to live safe, there’s no other way.

Keshav, stupid Keshav, what made you take on
The mantle of hero? It is not as if
Someone was looking, and those who were, looked away
(as they do). Did you think they’d help? As if!

Keshav, young Keshav (only thirty-five, good God!)
They’ll forget. Oh, they forget, they forget each time
They’ve begun to forget the mobs of new years past,
And Meher of Lucknow? Her too! This forgetting’s sublime.

Keshav, it’s true, I cried for you, but so what?
You burnt, you died, and those three will live.
Noone’s clamouring for a public hanging (women’s security
Isn’t 'national') so… yes, some sentence the court may give.

That is, if the police finds those three.
You actually thought they would, and you walked
After being set on fire – two kilometers!
To the police station and there, you talked.

What did you say, Keshav? What were your dying words?
Were you angry rather than scared? Or both?
That I can relate to; it’s the same with me.
That tremulous rage – frustration and fear both.

Did you wonder, as you walked, if you’d actually die?
Did someone tell you, it was your own fault?
Did they say, why couldn’t you guess at
The demons-in-waiting? That you should, by default?

That’s what they tell us; that’s how we go on.
They tell us all the time and that’s how we know
No alone. No dark street. No panga. No sharp words.
No smart clothes. No reds. No smiling. Nono.

Where did you study, Keshav? Which school?
Which blighted, mind-altering, twisted-soul place?
Who taught you? Or forgot to? What kind of friends
Did you have that they tell you the rules of this race?

This race. These people. We. Our nation.
Women. Children. Cosmic pawns playing parts.
What shall I say? Keshav, should I say something like,
You’re a hero and will live in our hearts?

Oh, who cares? Heroes! I bet you’d rather just
Have been alive and maybe all heroes feel that way
To live! That would be nice, they must think, but
They go ahead and die if they must, anyway.

Not that it matters to you any more, Keshav
The writing of this. Any words. Anything.
You were burnt alive before you were properly burnt
And maybe you never did care of what poets sing.

I’d bring you flowers if you had a grave.
I’d build you a statue, if I had a piece of land
I’d write in big letters – ‘Look! This is our shame
And this our pride. This murder is man.

Listen, Keshav, it is too late, but listen.
Wherever you are, lie in peace, now it’s over.
And know that you stepped up higher than man.
(And lower than man… even God sank no lower)

I’ll spare you the platitudes about how you are free
Or how, in heaven, the apsaras long to kiss you
But this fight you’ve fought, I’ll fight to the death
But Keshav, brother, in the meantime, we’ll miss you.

- Annie Zaidi, Jan 17th, 2008.


1conoclast said...

And to think that a modi instead of a KESHAV is a hero in Gujarat!!!!!!

When will these illiterates wake up???

lanestamp had something to say on the Juhu incident. It applies here as well.

I gave him a suggestion that I believe could work up enough awareness around this.

Imagine a hard-hitting video that relates Keshav's heroism & martyrdom!

dipali said...

Oh my God, Annie, this is terrible. I'm glad you've immortalised Keshav, but the entire episode is just so bloody disgusting. I hope those creeps are given life imprisonment at the very least.

AmitKen said...

thanks, annie, for sharing it... its a shame - the society that we live in and are a part of.

Unknown said...

What do we say? the incident shocked and repulsed, the poem moved.
He will be forgotten. But what would it take to stop it? What would it take for rapists to realise that a penis does not give them a right to rape? That they need to be stopped? When did we become so twisted that rapists became so courageous that they actually punish people who stop them? What do they think to justify themselves to tehmselves?

rads said...

A fitting tribute indeed. Very sad and disappointing.

ddkosambi said...

You may like to read this report.

CandidConfessions said...

That,lady,is heartfelt! And just as fitting!

Amit Charles said...


And Annie __________________
(words fail this scribbler)

Keep it rollin

Arasu Balraj said...

//But this fight you’ve fought, I’ll fight to the death//

felt the resolve getting rigid inside. that's the right tribute.

Teresa UK said...

Brilliant. Beautifully written. Moved me, made me sad, anguished, angry, revived anxiety for change. The best that poetry can do to a human being.

D said...

Very touching. But the reference to Meher of Lucknow seems incongruous in your poem - she was a victim, never a hero like Keshav.

Unknown said...

Send this to Keshav’s parents, Annie, if you haven’t. It may console them a trifle that’s hoping for too much; but it may touch their hearts in some way…
I’d like to give you that small piece of land sometime, somewhere…God willing…for your songs, your busts, whatever.
Have you procured a snap of Keshav?

Maaz bin Bilal said...

Painful as the content was,the musicality of the text also moved. Potent Art.

Raza Rumi said...


This was so moving and so lyrical - alas the subject matter is so sad that one quivers while writing further..
but your tribute is powerful -
please do send it to Keshav

EYE said...

absolutely moving

Raza Rumi said...

Today I read this again and the sharp pain of Keshav's death just came back. This is so so original, powerful and zabardast..
what a tribute to humanity and I loved the fact that you will not give up and un-learn the play it safe mantra.

Jeeti raho bityaa

Kits said...

It was amazing. I have goosebumps. I didn't even knw he had died. Its terrible that someone who wants to do good for society is burnt alive like this. The police r grateful it says at the end. I don't know wot to make of this!

Anonymous said...

Hi annie - such a powerful tribute to an unsung hero...Thanks for posting that. Love the blog!

(It was lovely meeting you.)


A said...

I'm glad he died, for all you know if he survived the female in question would have denied being involved in this incidence herself if this incident went into court. And keshav wld be behind bars or something.

I looked arnd this blog and read something abt blank noise but noone really mentioned or atleast i cldnt read anywhere that a lot of girls are just cowards them selves.

I have personally been in a situation where i intervened in a situation where guys were eve teasing a 20-22 year old girl and after couple off minutes os scuffle , fist fights and a crowd of 25 wanting to know "whos the bad guy" in the fite, i see the female in question is nowhere in the scene. Gone, Disappeared. Coward.

I was left looking like a maniac who likes to pick fites with goons for fun.

That kindda shit makes u wonder if these weak "i am victimised" people need to be sympathised with at all.

I for one wld never help a girl who doesn't try to fight for herself first.

Animesh said...

Annie: Thanks for highlighting this incident, and for the touching poem.

Am too numb to write more, but I can assure you that he is not the last guy to stand up for what is right. Whether we think it is logical or not, some of us will still choose to step up to the plate at times.

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