The Republic of Verse: ‘O Wind, Do Not Sing Sad Songs’

The voices of the republic include dreamers, dissenters, and rebels against borders and authorities. One poem of resistance, from a different Indian language, each day this week.

Credit: Jelle/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Credit: Jelle/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

In a country that has no ‘national language,’ the presence of many languages is at once beautiful and politically charged.

For a week from Republic Day, The Wire presents poems that throw open how our languages can be oppressive, oppressed, and insurgent. The poems are curated by Poorna Swami and Janani Ganesan, from a special edition of Asymptote, an online journal for international literature in translation.

Each of these poems is a work of resistance but also of presence – asserting a future where our many languages, while different, are more accommodating of each other.


O wind, do not sing sad songs

O wind, do not sing sad songs
Look at the falling leaves
One after another, scattered
On a distant
Straw-strewn Jhum field
Look at the deserted pigeon
Sitting alone, sitting in agony
On a branch of a leafless oak tree
Don’t you hear
The plaintive song
Of a lifeless ravine
And the reddened morning sun
From a night spent in tears.
Do not sing sad songs, O wind,
Do not tell sad stories any more
Tell me instead
How you spent the dreadful night
How you resurrect yourself on your grave again.

— Arambam O Memchoubi

Translated from Manipuri/Meiteilon by Kshetri Prem

Kshetri Prem teaches in the department of rnglish at Tripura University. He is the author of Hijan Hirao: Text, Context, and Translation and two forthcoming poetry anthologies translated from Manipuri.

This translation first appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Asymptote, as part of its Indian Languages Special Feature. Asymptote is the winner of the 2015 London Book Fair’s International Literary Translation Initiative Award and a founding member of The Guardian’s Books Network with Translation Tuesdays.

  • Sumit



    Thought- provoking and excellent use of imagery