Vasant Abaji Dahake
Biography of Vasant Abaji Dahake
Vasant Abaji Dahake is a well-known Marathi poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, short story writer, artist, and critic from Amaravati district in the Maharashtra state of India. He is awarded Sahitya Akademi Award for his collection 'Chitralipi' for the year 2009.
His first collection of poems, Yogabhrashta (1972), instantly established him as a successor to the early modernists in Marathi literature such as Mardhekar, P.S. Rege and Vinda Karandikar.
Taut, complex, richly metaphorical, and yet by no means apolitical, Dahake’s work – informed as it is both by decidedly regional and unapologetically international influences – has been marginalised by the more nativist forces of the Marathi literary mainstream.
Writes noted poet and critic Ranjit Hoskote of his work: “Vasant Abaji Dahake’s poems reverberate with the clash of opposites: they speak of the displacement of a solitary consciousness from the countryside to the metropolis, from the expansiveness of landscape to the constrictions of architecture, and the anxieties and the exhilarations that such a traumatic experience can produce.” Hoskote locates Dahake as a poet who entered adulthood in the 1960s – the era of Che Guevara and the Beatles, also characterised more specifically by a young nation’s growing disenchantment with the realities of the post-Independence landscape.
In 1992, Ranjit Hoskote and Mangesh Kulkarni translated Dahake’s first book, Yogabhrashta, in a volume called A Terrorist of the Spirit. This made accessible to a wider readership a poetic voice of many resonances. This was a poetry that could speak of the impulse to “read the astrology column furtively/ when no one’s looking”, as well as register a note of political and moral dissent when evoking “legislators’ lying arguments/ that scratch in the same old groove,/ playing out the same old tunes/ from the capitalist jukebox”.
It was a poetry that could speak of the private terror of being “caged in our separate solitudes” under a “terrifyingly empty sky” but could also savagely denounce an entire system: “A generation: its shoulders stunted under the weight/ of a ditchwater system; on whose dwarf heads,/ wartlike, aimless universities sprout;/ squalid slums of the mind . . .”
Ranjit Hoskote revisited Yogabhrashta recently. In this first Indian edition of PIW, he shares some of his new translations of that compelling book. Also included here is his essay on Dahake’s literary and cultural context and contribution.
His writings show an influence of existentialist writers like Kafka. His poetry is often dark and provocative.
He is associated with the Little Magazine Movement in Marathi during the mid- fifties and the sixties.
Dahake is married to Prabha Ganorkar (प्रभा गणोरकर), also a writer.
He also has a son Ritwik who is married to Tahira Thekaekara and a daughter Rahee.
Vasant Abaji Dahake's Works:
Yogabhrashta (1972). (Translated into English as “A Terrorist of the Spirit' by Ranjit Hoskote and Mangesh Kulkarni.)
Pratibaddha Ani Martya” (1981)
Essays & Literary Criticism
Yatra Antaryatra (1999)
Kavita Mhanje Kay? (1991)
Samakaleen Sahitya (1992)
Nivadak Sadanand Rege (1996) (A selection of Sadanand Rege’s poetry)
Shaleya Marathi Shabdakosh (1997) (A Marathi dictionary for primary and secondary school students).
Sankshipta Marathi Vangmayakosh (1998) (Co-editor of an encyclopaedia of Marathi literature)
Kavita Visavya Shatakachi (2000) (Co-editor of an encyclopaedia of 20th century Marathi poetry)
Vangmayin Samdnya-Sankalpana Kosh (Co-editor)
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Vasant Abaji Dahake Poems
Holding my six-year old daughter's hand I watch your screen-stirring presence, laughter, dance and song. Watch you talk and act rebellious in the face of this life. I don't particularly like this life either.
No mortal tree, you will keep growing inside me, branching in my veins.
The Fine Grain Of My Days
Through this evening's window, through tranquil eyes I watch on the far road a scene of slaughter: each day gathered up to be winnowed.
A night like opium when the moonlight moans through the water, that's how your eyes
My Burning Chest
On my burning chest I suffer the monsoon's first showers, across the film of blood on my eyes a blue light spreads and in my flesh-marrow-skin the black birds flash their emerald wings.
This is a complete afternoon: a thousand shards of solitude. I count I match
Thirst thighs loins breast throat thirst from out the eyes
On A Rocky Tree
On a rocky tree a mynah, on a rocky road a steamroller, the white-hot afternoon setting a bronze bust on fire.
One by one, we left the black-shadow cities behind and yet I've seen the gutter-yellow eyeballs of high towers fixed on you.
Superman In A Jar
In the see-through jar of this century, you see preserved a Larger-than-Life Figure. A row of jars, a Great One in each.
One more bogeyman flaps on a calendar, bragging. They're all prisoners of hope, shoulders sagging in the present, lips festooned
Like a wild bull the moon charges headlong through green unearthly thickets.
Now I've filled my lungs with cold darkness and my eyes are unpeopled roads. My ascetic feet have given up these cities with their domestic nests, and moved on.
The Hare Chase
Staves batter my dreams and I wake up, wiping oaths from my face.
A night like opium
when the moonlight moans through the water,
that's how your eyes
brim over my face.
[Translated by Ranjit Hoskote]