Flowers for Varavara Rao



Letter to India

(On the imprisonment of Telugu-language poet Varavara Rao)

Does the goddess Saraswati smile
When you imprison your poets
When, Covid-stricken, they hallucinate
Sitting in a puddle of urine?
Is Saraswati pleased?

Varavara Rao, I send you these words
That they might glow
Like scattered motes of dust
Caught in fleeting sunshine –
Oh, India! Do you allow
The light of dawn to enter his cell without being searched
Or the light of the moon
Or distant stars?

Saraswati’s beatific smile
Is fading on her lips.

(Multilingual versions of this poem are published here


Flowers for Varavara Rao

I send you invisible flowers
Varavara Rao to perfume your cell

And bring a smile to your lips
That I will not see

They may not last very long

A few simple roses
Varavara Rao to perfume your cell

They may need some watering;
Your jailers, have they any tears
Invisible tears?

You know full well it’s not their fault.
This goes all the way to the top.

Simple roses
Varavara Rao to perfume your cell.

Prime Minister Modi, sniff the air
What is the scent of freedom?


Marilyn Monroe Visits Varavara Rao in Hospital

Hi V V, it’s me, an old friend,
Marilyn Monroe.
Surprised to see me?

During your studies in Warangal
And later in Osmania University
You watched a lot of films, didn’t you?
Oh yes, I know you did
Because you were watching me
And I was watching you, old friend

I heard they arrested you without trial
And now you’re here in hospital
You can’t read
You can’t write
Your body and brain
All messed up

I guess, I was a bit of a mess, too,
Towards the end
Yeah, I gave up on it all
Didn’t I

Well, never mind all that now
I just came by to say:
Don’t give up, Vararvara Rao!
Don’t you dare give up!

In movie terms, you know,
This life is just images
Projected on a screen . . .

That may be so
But your sufferings are very real, Varavara Rao,
And I just came by to say
I remember you, friend,
I do
Who could forget your smile.


The Isle of Light

There is an Isle of Light
I will take you there
It has never known iron bars
Come with me to the Isle of Light

There is no government there
The seas rule and the ocean winds
Seasons change at the word of poets
Come with me to the Isle of Light.


From “Times Now”

Varavara Rao (born 3 November 1940) is an Indian activist, poet, teacher, and writer from Telangana. He was arrested several times and has been in prison since August 2018; he recently got Covid-19. Pleas for release on grounds of his failing health have been rejected.

The cover picture is a frame from the video Flowers for Varavara Rao.