Writers and activists in their demand for basic human rights and social justice often employ poems to bring attention to an issue or campaign. A poem has the power to seize a moment, sentiment and response. This quarter I read two poems written in Hindi, both examples of lament poetry for the mighty Ganga River, which we have attempted to render in English; undeniably much has been lost in translation.
Arun Tiwari, a journalist, wrote the first poem featured here while covering the Kumbh Mela in 2008, a cyclic Hindu festival held at four designated riverbanks. This particular event was held at Haridwar on the banks of the Ganga, and the poet questions the depraved thinking that has led to the ruination of the river.
Vimal Bhai, an anti-dam activist, has written the second poem featured on this page. In 2001, at a time when civil society was still waging the anti-Tehri dam struggle, in a spontaneous expression of sadness he wrote this poem on the banks of the Bhagirathi River adjacent to where tunnels had been laid to divert water in order to build the 260 metre high dam. He wrote the poem as the tunnels were being sealed in order to allow the reservoir to fill.