Biography of Namdeo Dhasal
Namdeo Laxman Dhasal (Marathi: नामदेव लक्ष्मण ढसाळ) (Namdev Dhasal) is a Marathi poet, writer and Human Rights activist from Maharashtra, India.
Dhasal was born on February 15, 1949, in a village near Pune, India. A member of the previously called Mahar class, he grew up in dire poverty. He spent his childhood in Golpitha, a red light district in Mumbai, where his father worked for a butcher.
Following the example of the American Black Panther movement, he founded the Dalit Panther with friends in 1972. This militant organization supported its radical political activism with provocative pamphlets. Dhasal was one of the famous and outspoken members of this group.
In 1973, he published his first volume of poetry, Golpitha. More poetry collections followed: Moorkh Mhataryane (By a Foolish Old Man) --inspired by Maoist thoughts--; Tujhi Iyatta Kanchi? (How Educated Are You?); erotic Khel; and Priya Darshini (about the former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi).
Dhasal wrote two novels, and also published pamphlets such as Andhale Shatak (Century of Blindness) and Ambedkari Chalwal (Ambedkarite Movement), which was a reflection on the socialist and communist concepts of Dalit movement founder Babasaheb Ambedkar.
Later, he published two more collections of his poetry: Mi Marale Suryachya Rathache Sat Ghode (I Killed the Seven Horses of the Sun), and Tujhe Boat Dharoon Mi Chalalo Ahe (I'm Walking, Holding Your Finger).
Recently, Dhasal has been writing columns for the Marathi daily Saamana. Earlier, he worked as an editor for the weekly Satyata.
In 1982, cracks began to appear in the Panther movement. Ideological disputes gained the upper hand and eclipsed the common goal. Dhasal wanted to engender a mass movement and widen the term Dalit to include all oppressed people, but the majority of his comrades insisted on maintaining the exclusivity of their organization.
Serious illness and alcohol addiction of Dhasal overshadowed the following years, during which he wrote very little. In the 1990s, he once again became politically more active.
Dhasal currently holds a national office in the Indian Republican Party, which was formed by the merger of all Dalit parties. In 2006, he publicly joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's call for "Hindu brotherhood".
The Dalit literature tradition is old, though the term "Dalit literature" was introduced only in 1958. Dhasal was greatly inspired by the work of Baburao Bagul, who employed photographic realism to draw attention to the circumstances which those deprived of their rights from birth have to endure. Dhasal’s poems broke away from stylistic conventions. He included in his poetry many words and expressions which only the Dalits normally used. Thus, in Golpitha he adapted his language to that of the red light milieu, which shocked middle class readers.
The establishment’s assessment of Dhasal’s political, as opposed to his artistic achievements may differ drastically, but for the writer they are inextricably linked. In an interview in 1982 he said that if the aim of social struggles was the removal of unhappiness, then poetry was necessary because it expressed that happiness vividly and powerfully. Later he stated, "Poetry is politics." Dhasal adheres to this principle in his private life. He told the photographer Henning Stegmüller, "I enjoy discovering myself. I am happy when I am writing a poem, and I am happy when I am leading a protest of prostitutes fighting for their rights."
Namdeo Dhasal's Works:
Tuhi Iyatta Kanchi
Ya Sattet Jiv Ramat Nahi
Mi Marale Suryachya Rathache Sat Ghode
Tuze Boat Dharoon Mi Chalalo Ahe
Dilip Chitre translated a selection of Dhasal's poems into English under the title Namdeo Dhasal: Poet of the Underworld, Poems 1972-2006.
Ambedkari Chalwal (1981)
Andhale Shatak (1997)
Ujedachi Kali Dunia
Sarva Kahi Samashtisathi
Buddha Dharma: Kahi Shesh Prashna
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Namdeo Dhasal Poems
The nocturnal porcupine reclines here Like an alluring grey bouquet Wearing the syphilitic sores of centuries Pushing the calendar away
New Delhi, 1985
The needle probes for the artery; Enemies of poetry gather in your city. Your town is cursed with power; Roses flow in this stream of blood; The waters of your Yamuna stand exposed. India Gate: Over there, the Rashtrapati Bhavan. How ruthlessly has this city been combed and groomed! White elephants sway at the gate of the past. Goldsmiths mould replicas of peacocks. Your well-carpentered glory. Long Kashmiri carpets are rolled out in your streets. Armed regiments on alert; The showy itch of culture; Wooing guests, dancing before them; Parading cavalry; Anti-aircraft guns; Nuclear missiles to frighten off enemies; The President accepting a salute from those hanging between the sky and the earth; The Prime Minister shaking hands With the glorified blemished. Bravo! What a spectacular festival.
From Gandu Bagicha, 1986 (Arsefuckers Pa...
Arsefuckers Park-1 There are neither flowers Nor leaves; Neither trees Nor birds. All this is mimicry by mercy of His grace: Sealed fragrance of musk. Thus the chains on one's legs are transformed Into music… O revealed friend! O gardener! What shall I recall? Tears flood the soil of your sensibility. In the morning and in the evening, On your sterile field of silence, Home Guards perform their drill. On some festive day, a pederast politician A Councillor preaches here. The dancing water-pot of goddess Yellamma. And an all-India women's conference… Pimps confessing To a study group of streetwalkers. Politicised crows listening to the proceedings. Charas smokers, ganja smokers; Pickpockets and thieves. A mortal forest in the hurt heart. O Arsefuckers Park! What sad hour you've chosen To strike at my roots. Praise and curse; Arousal and ears. An eternity of darkness Lined by a golden shore. The deluge and all hell breaking loose; And Diamond garlands. The stigma of concealed love and The harried soul; The Inferno of lovers' separation and the graveyard of compassion; Extreme loneliness and the magic of the frightened; Behind every word, There's a naked face hidden. How can I yoke these slaves of the bed to my plough? Arsefuckers Park! Your city of insatiable angels. I bear a crown of agony on my head; A luminous fountain of African anguish; A wound has found its home in my heart- - Even words cannot open its doors. A bear made of sunbeams is walking around with a banner. No complaint can be registered here. A wretched derelict of a poet like me Starts dancing to corrupted words in a saint's festival. There are neither slogans nor shrieks of pain. Every face of compassion wears a black veil. You are allowing your downtrodden life to swim In the hell-water of self-alienation. What more can even the trees do now Except scratch the armpits of bygone times? Let me fill into my eyes The darkness in the womb of the soil. Allow me to listen to the counterfeit jingle of the coin Of my distraught, sleek-necked dreams. Allow me just once To plaster the cracks in the sky of contemporary anguish. Wearing a white shroud, A formless silence sleeps in your courtyard. And the sarcastic scrawl of the bleeding piles in the alphabetical chart swells up; A mottled piglet tries to fondle grass… The impotence inherent in good and evil; The supernatural fingers caressing tresses of hair; Female buffaloes of a high-yielding breed go on a rampage In midnight's outburst of ejaculations. The master physicians handling them find themselves paralysed. In a hall of mirrors there's a chaos of mocking reflections… How many images of oneself can one see? Horses are being tattooed on my arms. The creeping plant of my penis is about to flower. Ibsen's Doll is about to get married. All this pining is to get out Of this circular battle-trap. The black truth seeks to ride the tortoise. I see you on your moral path with the cataracts and the tear-peals in your anguished eyes. After that, I remember your silent lips; The distressed insect of your distorted body Getting its wings painted. The owl in the hollow of a tree intones its drone. And you, you refuse to open the door of your perception. Shall I now put on the boot of amazement on my lame foot? Shall I now bell the cat? Or shall I scrape off this intolerable grotesquery? Shall I put out the flame That glows between the beginning and the end?
The Day She Was Gone
The day she was gone, I painted my face black. I slapped the savage schizophrenic wind hard in its face. I picked up small pieces of my life And stood naked in front of a cracked mirror. I allowed me to wreak vengeance upon myself. I stared condescendingly at the Sun and said, 'You screwball!' I showered choice curses upon all artists who paint dreams; I walked from the East towards the West; I picked stones I found on the way and hurled them at myself, How boisterously flows this water in its fit of laughter Through mountains and gorges. What ocean is it seeking to meet? Or will it seep Into the soil at sea-level? Did even I belong to myself? I could not even embrace her dead body And cry my heart out. The day she was gone, I painted my face black.
I am a venereal sore in the private part of language. The living spirit looking out of hundreds of thousands of sad, pitiful eyes Has shaken me. I am broken by the revolt exploding inside me. There's no moonlight anywhere; There's no water anywhere. A rabid fox is tearing off my flesh with its teeth; And a terrible venom-like cruelty Spreads out from my monkey-bone. Release me from my infernal identity. Let me fall in love with these stars. A flowering violet has begun to crawl towards horizons. An oasis is welling up on a cracked face. A cyclone is swirling in irreducible vulvas. A cat has commenced combing the hairs of agony. The night has created space for my rage. A stray dog has started dancing in the window's eye. The beak of an ostrich has begun to break open junk. An Egyptian carrot is starting to savour physical reality. A poem is arousing a corpse from its grave. The doors of the self are being swiftly slammed shut. There's a current of blood flowing through all pronouns now. My day is rising beyond the wall of grammar. God's shit falls on the bed of creation. Pain and roti are being roasted in the same tandoor's fire. The flame of the clothless dwells in mythologies and folklore. The rock of whoring is meeting live roots; A sigh is standing up on lame legs; Satan has started drumming the long hollowness. A young green leaf is beginning to swing at the door of desire. Frustration's corpse is being sewn up. A psychopathic muse is giving a shove to the statue of eternity. Dust begins to peel armour. The turban of darkness is coming off. You, open your eyes: all these are old words. The creek is getting filled with a rising tide; Breakers are touching the shoreline. Yet, a venom-like cruelty spreads out from my monkey-bone. It's clear and limpid: like the waters of the Narmada river.
Speculations On A Shirt
Crossing over a period of painful love-play, Let's reject the traditional garden of conventions. Let's change the sex of Eve. Let's make Adam pregnant. Let's speculate beyond animal anxieties. Hell's quagmire. The Moon acts like a pimp In the history of human bonds. The bull of sexual passion masticates On a disembodied heath. We sail in a sinking ship And turn into savages. Even just plain cloves burn our tongue; And we are afraid of light. This is how liberation itself punishes a human being. A human being shouldn't become so spotless. One should leave a few stains on one's shirt. One should carry on oneself a little bit of sin.
The nocturnal porcupine reclines here Like an alluring grey bouquet Wearing the syphilitic sores of centuries Pushing the calendar away Forever lost in its own dreams Man's lost his speech His god's a shitting skeleton Will this void ever find a voice, become a voice? If you wish, keep an iron eye on it to watch If there's a tear in it, freeze it and save it too Just looking at its alluring form, one goes berserk The porcupine wakes up with a start Attacks you with its sharp aroused bristles Wounds you all over, through and through As the night gets ready for its bridegroom, wounds begin to blossom Unending oceans of flowers roll out Peacocks continually dance and mate This is hell This is a swirling vortex This is an ugly agony This is pain wearing a dancer's anklets Shed your skin, shed your skin from its very roots Skin yourself Let these poisoned everlasting wombs become disembodied. Let not this numbed ball of flesh sprout limbs Taste this Potassium cyanide! As you die at the infinitesimal fraction of a second, Write down the small ‘s' that's being forever lowered. Here queue up they who want to taste Poison's sweet or salt flavour Death gathers here, as do words, In just a minute, it will start pouring here. O Kamatipura, Tucking all seasons under your armpit You squat in the mud here I go beyond all the pleasures and pains of whoring and wait For your lotus to bloom. — A lotus in the mud.
APPROACHING THE ORGANISED HAREM OF THE O...
Approaching the Organised Harem of the Octopus We are approaching the organised harem of the octopus I am the seal bearing the image of the bull dated March '65 My properties are Mohenjodaro I am the one who drew the head on the lion pillar My ornamental daily weather Radiates from the feet From hand-to-hand I release my catacombs Go scatter curds milk butter in the courtyard Organised harems of the octopus are approaching us Frightening grotesque people eating Starvation underlined in decimals In the womb of 1970 Menstruating broad The capable hand in bed holds a partisan inferno Bhang in the intestines Those who are wearing gum-boots may raise their hands Organised harems of the octopus are approaching us After she conceives the female eats up the male 1234567890 are all numbers on the trees We have to absorb the slowness of a day in our own momentum Place a weathered face in the flesh market Pluck it out of the flesh market There is a four and a zero before us The zero can generate four scattering away in four dimensions If a zero is placed after four it becomes forty If a zero is placed under four it gets a strong foundation Four-zero accompany us when we say ‘Inquilaab Zindabaad!' We plant ‘the Banner of Blood' Those who were gloomy while frisking four and zero Remained forever the slaves of slaves After she conceives the female eats up the male Go scatter curds milk butter in the courtyard Organised harems of the octopus are approaching us.
The nocturnal porcupine reclines here
Like an alluring grey bouquet
Wearing the syphilitic sores of centuries
Pushing the calendar away
Forever lost in its own dreams
Man's lost his speech
His god's a shitting skeleton
Will this void ever find a voice, become a voice?