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Subaltern Poet: Namdeo Dhasal is No More
|by Prof. Madhav Sarkunde|
Padma Shri Namdeo Dhasal – a renowned poet from the subaltern world – breathed his last on 15th January 2014. He was suffering from myasthenia gravis for a decade and recently was detected for having colorectal cancer. By the time I received the message of his demise, I was in Nagpur. I received a call from a scribe in the office of a national daily – Lokamat. He asked me to say something as homage to the poet. While in drive, I expressed my feelings in few words in praise of Dhasal and that appeared in the next day’s issue.
Anyway, I will continue my work and try to talk the poet through his poetry. Like Namdeo Dhasal , Langston Hughes is also one of my favorite poets. I have translated into Marathi over a dozen of his poems along with other black poets. Its book: “Black is Beautiful” is published in Marathi Language. I have a great respect towards these poets and that is what made me to do some substantial job at research level. Here what I have to say is about Namdeo Dhasal in preference.
It is said that the environment one grows up in has much more to do with the making one’s mind and persona and Namdeo Dhasal was not exception to this rule. Since He grew up in Dhor Chawl on the fringes of the red light area in the then Mumbai, he witnessed the world which struggled to survive through innumerable miseries and hardships. And all this had deep impact on his sensitive mind. His way of thinking was carved out of this social milieu. But it is surprising that though he was part and parcel of this world that was abysmally steeped in all types of social evils – pick-pocketing, smuggling, thievery, gruesome quarrels, murders, exploitation, deception, prostitution and so on, just like the ones in some Hindi movie, he did not spoil himself by dissolving in it. Rather he chose to be a catalyst. He looked on each and every event happening around. He tried to interpret them all against the vast backdrop of the high-brow world rolling in all sort of delight and happiness. He compared and contrasted life both in the Dhor Chawl and outside it. And the discrepancy met his eyes was so steep that unsettled him root and branch. So his poetry is nothing but an outgrowth of this soul-chilling situation. He became a dominant voice of the voiceless in his world. He boldly questioned the old social order based on inequality and oppressions. The following piece from his Golpithais is a fitting example of how the gullible were exploited.
Who has sheared and enclosed people in a glass paperweight?
Indeed the canvas of Dhasal’s poetic world was very wide, comprising almost all the depressed sections of society in India. As he was a grass-root activist, he saw life of common people from very close quarter. He shared their agonizing trials and tribulations too. He left no stone unturned to give proper considerations to their unnoticed grievances through his poetry. He portrayed their problems at philosophical level from the rostrum of Dalit Panther Movement. For that he seriously studied Karl Marx and other revolutionary leaders from the world over. Particularly, he stood up for the people who were deprived of their natural human rights. While India boasts of the greatest democracy in the world, millions of people are there who have not enough food to eat, a humble hut to live, let alone the education. I hold that if these people are not done justice by ensuring them food, clothing, shelter and education in time, they would come forth and blow up the very foundation of democracy one day. Namadeo Dhasal argued that the old social system which believed in inequality based on castes must be discarded , if India has to emerge as a superpower in the world. Those who are at the helm of the power should look upon the poor masses as human resources that can be harnessed to raise the economy of this country. He was of the opinion that both, the oppressed and the oppressors ought to forget their past feud and come together for the betterment of their nation. Because today times have changed, a great deal. Be they haves or the have-nots, their destiny is inextricably intermingled. They can’t go ahead in isolation. So they must seek each other’s assistance, if they have to make progress. Thus in his last phase, Namdeo Dhasal spoke out the language of social unity. He wrote some verses of Samashti – poetry of all-oppressiveness in the last period of his poetic career.
|More by : Prof. Madhav Sarkunde|
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