Namdeo Dhasal: Revolutionary poet remembered

    By Gail Omvedt

    Namdeo Dhasal, a founder of the Dalit Panthers and a revolutionary poet, died on January 15, 2014.. He will be missed by all those dedicated to the revolutionary anti-caste movement. For a time the Dalit Panthers symbolized the rebellious aspirations of a generation of Dalit youth. Dhasal’s poetry was militant and hardhitting; Golpitha, his first collection, was named after a red-light district in Mumbai. Golpitha’s language reflected the raw realism of that milieu. “Poetry is politics,” said Dhasal, and he acted accordingly, Political splits occurred in the Panther movement, but the spirit continued. His poem “Kamatipura” (from Golpitha) is given below:

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    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.

    This raw “poetry of the underworld” is the heritage of Namdeo Dhasal.

    From Gail Omvedt’s blog