Nirmala Putul: A Santal poet questioning ‘development’ and ‘progress’ in modern civilization

Mountain Child by Nirmala Putul

The mountain child —
a fragment of the mountain —
plays in the lap of the mountain

Toddling up the mountain
he plants his feet in the mountain soil
to rise like a mountain
in the land of mountains

The whole mountain
lives inside the mountain child
And in the lap of the mountain
lives the scurrying mountain child

The mountain child sees
a plane flying over the mountain
And he asks his father —
What is that bird?

Source: Mountain Child by Nirmala Putul – Poems – Poetry Translation Centre
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Date Visited: 28 July 2020

Nirmala Putul

Is a poet from India who writes in Hindi.

Nirmala Putul was born in 1972, in a Santhali Adivasi (tribal) family. She writes in the Indian tribal language, Santali. She has a diploma in nursing. A collection of her poems Nagare Ki Tarah Bajte Hain Shabad (Words resound like drums) was published in 2004.

Nirmala Putul counterpoises her tribal world with the ‘developed’ modern world. Her poetry questions the whole notion of ‘development’ and ‘progress’ in modern civilization. Her poetry is very musical and full of nature imagery. There is an echo of tribal songs in her work.

Source: Poet Nirmala Putul – Poetry Translation Centre
Address :
Date Visited: 28 July 2020

Read more by Nirmala Putul’s on the Indian poetry website >>

[M]any issues relating to tribals have been raised by non-tribal, upper caste Hindu writers and activists like Mahasweta Devi, Nandini Sundar, Ganesh [GN] Devy. Some educated tribal writers from the North Eastern states have recently managed to enter the national discourse (such as Temsula Ao who writes in English and used to teach at NEHU Shillong) but most tribals from eastern, central and southern India still lag behind in education. Hence, writers from these areas use languages that are inaccessible to the mainstream. The well-known Santal poet from Jharkhand, Nirmala Putul, started writing in Santali and remained unknown until she was translated into Hindi by Ashok Singh (an upper caste Hindu scholar). Similarly, the south Indian tribal writers, Narayan and CK Janu, were also unknown until they were translated into English by upper caste Hindu scholars.

Source: Dr. Ivy Hansdak, Jamia Millia Islamia University New Delhi & Editor-in-Chief, The Johar Journal (email 20 October 2020)

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