“THE POET IS A CRYPTOLOGIST OF CULTURE’ SALEEL WAGH INTERVIEW - gatewaylitfest.com

| December 26, 2017 | Interview | No Comments

Saleel Wagh (1967) is a leading contemporary Marathi poet. He has seven collections of poetry to his credit. Nivadak Kavita, Aadhichya Kavita, Sadhyachya Kavita, Racecourse Ani Itar kavita (2008), Junya kavita (2010), Ulatsulat (2011), Nyari Nyari Diwangi- Saheli Tijjan (2011). His poetry was well-received and appreciated by the community of critics, poets and learned society of Maharashtra. He is awarded by Shabdavedh Sanman in 2006 and by Sahir Ludhiniyavayi Puraskar in 2017. A literary magazine ‘Atirikta’ has published a special issue in 2017 on his poetry.

 

He is also a critic, translator and a visual artist. His collection of critical articles, notes and interviews is titled Blog Pahila. His Marathi translations of the poetry of the leading Hindi poet, Shamsher Bahadur Singh (1911 – 1993), have been published by Time and Space Communication. He has displayed his paintings at various art galleries in India and received appreciation of art critics and experts.

Selection of his poems translated by Sachin Ketkar is given at the end of the interview.

Interviewer: Sachin Ketkar

Interview translated from Marathi by Sachin Ketkar and Punit Pathak

Sachin : Tell us about your background, your education, profession and upbringing. Tell us how you started writing poetry, and your favourite poets.

Saleel: I was born in Rajkot (Gujarat) and brought up in Pune. I studied printing engineering and started professional life around 1992. My parents were school teachers. I started writing poetry even before I knew that was poetry.

My father was fond of books; especially poetry, drama and adhyatma (spirituality). He was a disciple of Nath Sampradaya. In some way or the other, purposefully or unknowingly he made lots of source material available to me for self-learning. We were staying in a wada just opposite to Kasba Ganpati and I use to attend all Kirtans performed there every day.

Lonavala, Talegaon, Saswad, Jejuri, Morgaon, Pandeshwar, Karathi, Roti, Baramati, Kurkhumbh, Phaltan, Indapur, Karmala, Durgaon, Parodi, Supe, Rise-Pise and Mumbai were the places I visited frequently for this or that family occasions. I also frequently visited my maternal places like Dahod, Vadodara, Sabarmati, Veraval etc. in Gujarat.

Lakshmi Rasta, Tapkir Galli, PhadakeHoud, Vajradeshi Maruti, Lal Mahal, Juna Bazar, Shanivar Wada, Amruteshwar Mandir, Trishundya Ganapati, Premal Vitthal Mandir, UpashiVithoba, Pataleshwar, Pharaskhana, Kotwal Chawadi, Untadya Maruti Mandir, Dakshinmukhi Maruti, Gupchup Ganapati, Vruddheshwar, Nana Wada, Gundacha Ganapati, Jogeshwari, Nana Peth, Pawale Chouk, Sat Toti Chouk, GavkosMaruti, Nagnath Par, Raste Wada, Chartshrungi, Parvati were the places we use to play, room and wondered around.. In collage days Vaishali, Rupali, Kalpana, Vishwa, Cafeterias, Collage Canteens, Amruttulllya and several chay-taparis (tea stalls) were the places where we use to spend more time than our home.

I was a very emotional person, and developed deep affection with the things in a no time- so I was deeply attached with all these places, including the creatures, cows, goats, grass, crops, houses, seasons, people, dust, climates, smells, clouds, skies, and plenty of sounds in air. I was very keen to listen and absorb the feel of everything as a curious child.

I was fond of rhyming words and tried to fit almost each and every word/sentence in to the meter. As I look back, the words and places were too important to me, and I had great affection for them.

My father brought Gorakhbani to me and I guess Gorakhnath was my first favorite poet. Another favorite poet after that was Shamsher Bahadur Singh. They both have influenced me.

Facing East: Saleel Wagh

Sachin: Are you religious? Are you believer or nonbeliever?

Saleel: I am non believer but I do not make propaganda of that; as faith and religion are as personal things as your sexual life. You need not have to exhibit your stands publically. Dr Ashok Kelkar used to say that the person who says that he is an atheist and a nonbeliever is not so in reality. I agree with it and follow it.

Sachin : You came to prominence with your very first collection of poems ‘Nivdak Kavita ‘ in 1996. It is something of a landmark as it was among the earliest collections of Marathi poetry to deal with the world of corporate and multinational globalization. Can you tell us about what made you write those poems and how you came to write them given that the world of Marathi Poetry is pretty old fashioned and backwards looking?

Saleel: It is true that the collection and those poems have proved to be very lucky for me. Intellectuals and critics took note of it. Much of the credit for this goes mainly to the readers of these poems. Many of them were poets themselves. Later on with the passage of time their own collections also came out. Poems often are written spontaneously and in an unpremeditated way and hence even the poets are themselves not aware of the things they have written. If he is self-conscious, very often he can’t compose them. His situation is similar to a patient who is under anesthesia: he won’t be able to say much about the process of creation or analyze it. And if he does say something, it is bound to be something else altogether.  Of course, it doesn’t mean that poetry is some sort of divine revelation. If one thinks so it would be a kind of humbug ‘ babaism’. Whether a poet can judge his time and environment around him from outside his creative writing is an unanswered question. That the readers of different generations could meet the poet and themselves in this collection is its good fortune.  Though they were published in the nineties, the poems belong to period after 1984. I had not even thought of publishing them then. Later the publisher himself took initiative and published them. It must have taken almost a decade or so for the edition to be completely sold and reach people. However, all these are intellectual mind games. The real reason was that I had fallen in love….turned inwards and wrote them.

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Sachin: How you look at poetry as a literary form and what is your philosophy of poetry?

Saleel : Poetry is always a search. It is a form of life constantly in search for something. Many things happen in the world, in the natural world,  in the society, between people around us in our life. There are people who interpret it in pragmatic terms. However, someone should also try to understand them from point of view that transcends pragmatism. Poetry does that and so it is a form of cryptology and the poet is a cryptologist. The poeticality of poetry lies in its cryptology. The entire world and our entire life is full of astonishing secrets. Man runs into these secrets in multiple forms. He may or may not be aware of them. The job of poetry is to reveal this eternal mystery. The desire to reveal this mystery is motivation behind poetry. it is found naturally in all human beings. These mysteries are within language and yet beyond it.

In the time of war, there are cryptologists who decode wireless communication, there are software coder and de-coders who crack the code or to obtain passwords, procure source code and there are cryptologists who in acoustics/ sound physics, procure the ‘noise-to-sound ratio’ and obtain the signal from the sample sound. The poet similarly is a cryptologist of culture. Poetry is cryptology.  Decoding signals is the poet’s job. After decoding, the poem rebuilds the message or the content autonomously (“device-independently”) without bothering about the rules of language or autocracy of the norms of cultural taste to makes the reader turn inward and curious. Poetry is the vidya of decoding, as a vidya possess both science as well as art.

As a crude example we can think of a nightingale which is singing for her mate during mating season. It is signification between birds. Man captures this communication and adds his own interpretations like ‘ spring has arrived’ etc. That means he releases the message from the code. What is happening around him? What is being discovered? What is being missed? The poet catches these signals and shouts the message to the world at the top of his voice. So if a poem is really a poem, then its poetic-ness lies in this.

It is said about the painter Gaitonde that he used to sit and stare for hours and hours in front of the sea. Some said that he wanted to search for horizon; some said he was searching for the color of the sky and some even said that he found rhythm in the waves.  But we can understand this more seriously.  Gaitonde was a native of Goa. The nature and the sea of Goa were inscribed in his collective ethnic unconscious and his DNA.

From the cells it went into his family and from his family it descended into him. He wanted to bring this sea from his ethnic unconsciousness to the surface of his canvas. He wanted to verify this internal sea by closely observing the external sea. He was looking for the flow of consciousness that was flowing through innumerable attractive, colossal, violent form, their rhythms, innumerable ports, shores, stories, life forms, fisherfolk, ghosts, conventions, myths and narratives of all kinds in this sea. He retrieved all these from his unconscious mind and poured them into his paintings. Such paintings are nothing else but poems. This process is of uncovering and unfolding wonder and astonishment- the process of cryptology. The language is of colours and shapes, that’s the only difference. Poetry is no different.

Sachin: Your more recent collection ‘Racecourse Ani Itar Kavita’ seems to be very different from Nivdak Kavita. While Nivdak Kavita seem to be more personal and autobiographical, Racecourse seems to be more satirical and dark picture of contemporary society. What are your views about it ?

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Saleel: During the time of ‘Racecourse’ I was working as a department head of an I.T. company. Projects were very successful and I and my team were working very fast. There was success and prosperity. But after that I felt that I was being spiritually drained. I was having a feeling that all of my essence of life was being sucked up and destroyed. The Marathi that I had ingrained within myself, the ability to touch it was becoming rare. The very mention of language itself would enrage me.  The thought that in order to succeed and be prosperous, there had to be a moral laxity was becoming unbearable. It was similar to the later period of Peshawai (Uttar-peshawai) when the rows of Brahmin beggars who would be hankering after the leftovers would be queuing up and be on a prowl for ghee. Of course this is not the only dark side of it and Racecourse is not a commentary on globalization. It is an expression of what was happening to human beings who were being turned into monkeys from within at a time when globalization was opening up many new avenues and opportunities for people. This was merely an apprehension. There are no blacks and whites here but lots of gray areas.

Sachin: Your collection using the persona of Saheli Tijjan uses a dialect of Hindi but is thoroughly Marathi …almost Bambaiya. The poems are satirical about not just contemporary culture but also Marathi political establishment .It is a political poem of a different kind especially when most of the political poetry in India is of the Leftist variety. Can you talk about your affair with Saheli Tijjan and her political ideology?

Saleel: Some five or six years ago a person had to use a feminine pseudonym to write about sexuality etc in an unrestrained way. Today in 2016 sexuality and naked language has become almost a domestic favorites for many intellectuals and people discuss it wildly. One worriedly wonders if such ‘porn-pundits’ will be employed as teachers in schools in the future. Society was not so intrepid five six years ago. Hence male editors and critics got carried away promoting this person who used the feminine pseudonym. Out of the need among my friends to satirize this stupidity, Saheli
Tijjan was born.  In my childhood there was a lady staying opposite to our house in my native place Karathi. Her name was Chichani. Saheli uses Chichani’s Bagwani language.

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Though it started out as lampooning, it took a serious turn and Saheli started speaking out on many subjects.  Those poems appeared in Hindi journal named ‘ Aalochana’ as Hindi poems and the same poems appeared in Marathi magazines named ‘Anushthuba’ and ‘ Arthapurna’ as Marathi poems! Just like the Navaddotar ( post-nineteen nineties) generation brought a fad called ‘ globalization’, the Sathottari generation ( the post nineteen sixties) in Marathi had a fad called ‘ bhakti’. There is a strong tendency bring up one fad or the other in Marathi. Its going on from generations. Saheli speaks on these faddist tendencies through contemporary social and political metaphors without thinking about the Leftism or Rightism.

Sachin: Is there going to be a sequel to Saheli Tijjan?

Saleel: No. Too much of something ruins it. It is good to be precise and brief.

Sachin: Tell us something about your own association with the Royist movement and how you moved on from there to other ideological arenas. What according to you is the connection between political ideology and poetry?

Saleel: Since 1985 I was generally associated with Manavendranath Roy’s Radical Humanist Movement.  This movement was a international forum that was continuously exploring worldwide politics and which was connected to many national and global trends. I got opportunity to participate in many study- camps, national and international seminars and discussions. For instance I recall an international seminar on birth centenary of M.N. Roy sometime during 1987. It was attended by many scientists and thinkers from various countries. I remember a prediction made in that seminar that just like socialism attracted intellectuals and thinkers in the nineteenth century; environmentalism would attract intellectuals towards the end of the twentieth century.  Besides many Royists were Marxists and had affinity for communism and Russia. Hence we were abreast with the latest developments in the Soviet Union.  The news and the discussions about Perestroika and Glasnost were everywhere. Multinational Corporations started coming to India and the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan and globalization got a stamp of confirmation. All Royists were critics of communism. However after the fall of the Soviet Union, the enmity gradually gave way to a soft corner. Then I got a job as a software support engineer with a dealer of Apple Mac. I travelled throughout India and abroad for job related work. There were very few computers in India those days and Apple computers were even less. The support engineers had more respects than the priests in those days. It was a beginning of liberalization in India. It was a period between 1984 and 1994. Those were exciting times.  Around 1984-85, I came in contact with Royists like M.D. Tabib, V.R Zwahiri, G.W Pradhan, B.R Sunthanakar etc. In the daily called ‘Kesari’ I even wrote a small note on Roy and Royism.  Personal and intellectual bonding developed among us.  I obtained and read the major writings of Roy and all the aspects related to it. After that I came into close contact with V.M. Tarkunde, Indutai Parekh, S.R Bommai, Shiv Narayan Ray, Sunil Bhattacharya etc. There were numerous branches of Radical Humanist Movements across India. They were not limited to the big cities like Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkatta or Mumbai but were also found at district levels where many Royists activists worked. For instance, when  in 1979-80 in the times of  Morarjibhai Desai Janta Party Govt, there was a proposal for restructuring of reservations under B.P. Mandal, our senior activist from Solapur M.S. Dhale wrote many articles and delivered speeches analyzing BP Mandal’s report and later he brought out two booklets titled ‘ An Analysis of the Mandal Report’. Comrade Dhale was from Solapur and stayed there and worked at that level. We had also arranged for his lecture in Pune at Yog Vidyadham Hall. Of course, the Mandal report became controversial later on largely due to VP Singh’s implementation and that is a separate issue….

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Manevendranath Roy was basically an extremist revolutionary. He was part of the Bagha Jatin ( Jatin Das) group in Bengal. He wanted to wage war against the British Govt. He went to Germany for procuring arms and ammunition. He later went to American where he came under the influence of Evelyn Tent and turned Marxist communist. He came back to Europe and then went to Russia.  He then became the right hand man of Lenin and a close associate of Stalin. He was a favourite among all Russian communist leaders. His books were found on the table of Trotsky who was killed in hiding after many years of power struggle. He used to call Roy a ‘Huge Thinking Machine’. Then he was given the responsibility of founding Indian communist party. He along with Adhikari brothers and many youngsters founded the Party in around 1920-21. Comrade Dange was one of such youngsters. Later he was given the responsibility of the Chinese revolution which failed. Due to changed conditions he left Russia and came to Germany. Later , during the thirties he returned to India. His earliest associates after he returned to India were VB Karnik and Vamanrao Kulkarni from Mumbai.  Within a year, due to a tip given by Harindranath Chattopadhyay the British Government arrested him and imprisoned him for six years.Later he joined the Congress and went on to start a journal called ‘Independent India’. After independence he started Radical Democratic Party and fought elections. After he lost elections he dismantled the party but kept the journal going. He suffered a major accident in 1952 and died in 1954. His wife Ellen also died in 1960.

(M.N.Roy 1887-1954)

Later the Radical Humanist Movement was lead by VM Tarkunde. Under him Sunil Bhattacharya took up the mantle of editing the journal. Roy’s life and way of thinking was extremely inspiring and I am still inspired by his works. Interestingly Roy was bitterly against poetry. He hated it. Though poets like Satchidanandan Vatsyayan (Agyeya) , Nissim and Essim Ezekiel were in his group, he believed that the poets should state what they want in prose. He would say so many a times.

Sachin: So in spite of being a supporter of the comrade who was for an armed rebellion, you are…

Saleel: Bengal and the revolutionaries there is a unique phenomenon. The Bengali culture is connected to Assam and Orissa. West Bengal and Bangladesh taken together is Bengal. What we identify as Bengali culture has taken from Assamese and Odia.  Assam is a great worshipper of Devi as Mother and one of the foundational Shakti Peeth for the Shaktas is in Assam.  There is a great influence of the worship of Shakti on Bengali culture. They worship the Goddess as Mother and Motherland in feminine form. The British act of dividing Bengal was a great blow on Bengali mind and emotion. In a way it was almost like desecrating the Mother. To support it was self awareness that had come from the English education and the ambition to ride the tradition of knowledge. Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar is an illustrious example of this awakened self-awareness. Of course there was also the exploitative Jamindari system. Therefore the Bengali youth of those days was enraged. Roy was no exception. But later all this changed but changed altogether as they never opposed arm rebellion. When in later period when Roy opposed the armed rebellion in promoting Marxism, he used to argue that as the state was far better equipped with arms and hence the armed rebellion would fail……………I drifted away from the movement…

A Morcha of School going Children Saleel Wagh

However, after leaving the active movement it was not as if I did not move into something else. In my book on Shamsherji I have written about it. The movement dissipated slowly and gradually. The older people died and newer blood did not enter it. Whoever joined later came largely out of academic or career interest and so the movement could not survive. There were good groups in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Delhi but they did not do much. There were also groups in Mumbai and Pune. They too disappeared with time or went in search of livelihood. I was among the last activists of Radical Humanism in Pune (or India you can say) and as my job involved lots of travelling, my participation declined.  Apart from that the movement had some personal and intellectual contradictions too. We refused to speak about them publicly and so I will remain silent about them here even today. But the personal and intellectual contradictions were many and they grew with time. This was the period towards the end of the Cold War. This was the phase when social activists started turning into ‘NGO’s.  The era of ‘NGOization’ of social work arrived. Some of us were possessed by the idea of going after funding agencies.  Some of us were interested in entering political parties and getting some benefits for themselves. Some of them were ruined by pure academism. For instance, I remember an incident when a very senior leader S R Bommai was addressing the practical problems faced by the activists of Radical Humanism in a seminar, another senior Bengali Radical Humanist (who I will not name) got up and said with disdain, “Tell us about your problems and we will provide solutions.” Now for someone who has got a house due to Jyoti Basu in Bengal to tell somebody like Bommai who later on went on to become the leader of opposition and chief minister of Karnataka that we will solve your political problem was the real tragedy of the Radical Movement. One can cite many such instances. This movement got cut off from the people and this was the real reason for its end. They could not retain their grass-root cadre like the RSS or the Communists.

Sachin: However, it is said that many leading political leaders and intellectuals were part of this movement. Like Lakshman Shashtri Joshi, Yashwant Rao Chavan, Govind Talwalkar, DB Karnik, AB Shah etc?

Saleel: This is not quite true. Shastriji was a great scholar but only nominally a part of Royist group. He used to have good time in places where you would be flocked by women. Chavan used all the movements to establish his political ambition.  Later he was so comfortably in the seat of power that he had no use for any movements and later would not even like the mention of the word ‘movements’. Once when Sunthankar went to meet him in regards to the Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement and asked to talk to him, he responded very rudely and asked him why was he here and why should he bother about Maharashtra. Even Sunthankar who was two times MP from Belgaum would be treated like this, so what can a commoner expect? D
B Karnik was the first editor of Maharashtra Times and though he was a part of Royist group, he wasn’t up to the mark when it came to intellectuality and analytical abilities. Besides his actions and activities were not as great as his older brother Comrade VB Karnik’s who had performed major and leading role in workers union. He used to keep good relationship with people whose actions were greater than his. Later on Yashwantrao’s recommendations Govindrao Talwalkar became the editor of the Maharashtra Times. (Prof Goverdhandas Parikh was on the governing board of Bennet and Coleman at that time). Earlier he was with Loksatta and the first editor of Loksata was HR Mahajani who was also a committed Royist. Mahajani was brilliant and forthright. He was part of the freedom struggle and had also been to jail. As he had spent many years of deprivation during the movement, he had turned slightly intolerant and ungenerous. As he had faced lot of financial difficulties he turned insecure and clung to the position too. He did not allow anyone to go ahead of him till the very end of his life. Still his pen was sharp and extremely vigilant. He was primarily a traditional Sanskrit Mahajanishashtri scholar. His disciple Talwalkar followed his mentor’s footsteps and served to the editorial chair for years after years. People in the world of journalism were pleasantly surprised when the mantle of editorship passed on to a supportive and open minded person like Kumar Ketkar. Govindrao was not deep into the movement. As an editor and journalist, one needs to develop an insight into contemporary affairs and hence mingling with scholars and intellectuals proved useful to him and therefore he joined the Royist movement. The group from the Royist movement was like ‘Google’ to him. He wasn’t very useful for the movement. While the movement was useful for all these big names like Talwalkar, Yashwantrao, Brahmadatt, ‘Ageya’, Dr A.B. Shah, Nissim and Essim Ezekiel etc- these big names weren’t very useful to the movement. During the period of Cold War, A B Shah started a periodical named ‘New Quest’ for anti-communist propaganda with the help of capitalist establishment with a superficial front of secularism. He was never a Radical humanist. There are many such things. In words of Sunthankar these people were ‘fair weather friends’. I moved away from the movement because hardly anyone from this movement were ready to change with time. Philosophically there was a great lacuna in the Royist thought and it was that it was entirely Eurocentric. Roy was blinded by European culture and hence his followers were also blinded by the same. There was hardly any exposition of objective material realities in his writings and hence they seemed bookish.  Just like Roy went ‘beyond’ Marxism, his followers could not go ‘beyond’ Roy and the problem was they hardly had any inclination to do so.

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Sachin: What in your view is connection between ideology and poetry?

Ideology and the quality of poetry are not related. If you look at Shamsher and Muktibodh, they are hardcore Marxists but if you look at their best poetry, you find human being, human values, and emotions at the centre not any ‘ism’. On the other hand, if you look at best works of Savarkar who was a hardcore Hindutva-wadi, you find human life, human predicament and nature at its centre. The feelings and values found in his poem like ‘Ne Majasi ne parat matrabhumila..saagara praan talmal la’ can be found in the heart of some Marxist or even a migrant Indian who has gone abroad in the wave of ‘ brain drain’. One end of art is grounded in objective material reality while the other is rooted in abstract soil. At a distinct juncture, art turns towards the abstract and there is no ideology applicable in the abstract realm!  Abstract doesn’t have an ideology.

Sachin: My own view of your poetry is it is typically Puneri (from Pune) in terms of your pungent sarcasm and wit and also in terms of cultural landscape you portray. How far has Pune shaped you as a person and as a poet?

Saleel: During the 1980s and 90s Pune was turning into a metropolitan city. What is urbanization? It is nothing but ‘suburbanization’. As the cities grow they develop suburbs around them. People who live in the heart of the city and their future generations often are thrown outwards towards suburbs and the hordes of immigrants come down and settle in the suburbs. Hence if you look at suburbs of any city, you will find them teeming with a mixed crowd. There is a saying in Pune, “Once you come to Pune, you will be wiser.” (Puneyat aala ni shahana zala). I met good friends. I got libraries of institutions like Fergusson College, Servants of India Society, Deccan College, Bhandarkar Institute, Wadia College, Film Archives, Jaykar Library, Government Library, and British Council Library. Typical Puneri impishness made me think seriously. All credit for my serious work goes to Puneri cheekiness and roguishness. Pune’s air prevents you from having airs about yourself and keeps a Punekar grounded and the other person grounded too.

A Nude Study Saleel Wagh

Sachin: There is a conflict between the urban and non-urban poets in Marathi and the urban poetry is charged with elitism and hegemony. What is your take on it as a poet and critic?

Saleel: I do not accept this distinction in the first place. I think it is based on non-poetic aspects. Everywhere there are bad poets in equal proportions. There is no use taking sides. If you go for one, you have to put up with another.

Sachin: You are also an accomplished translator and have translated major voices like Shamsher and you have also published Shel Silverstein into Marathi. What was your motivation behind these translations and what strategies did you use while translating these major writers?

Saleel: I wanted to share my perception of Shamsher with friends, that’s all. Translation has left me unmoved.

Sachin : What are your views about large scale translation from Hindi to Marathi and very little Marathi poetry gets translated into Hindi and that too of a bad variety.

Saleel: A good translator is even rarer than a good writer. If one is translating literature, the translator should be able to grasp the idiom (muhavara) of both the languages. It fails if one can’t get this. There is no point in being very pessimistic about this situation. Though not much good quality work happened in the past, one can’t say it won’t take place in the future. In future it is possible that new breed of good translators will crop up in both the languages. We need to encourage translators.

Sachin: What in your view is the place of literary translation in Marathi literary culture?

Saleel: The reason why good Marathi writing does not reach other languages is those who can translate either translate themselves or translate others for money. The government takes up the task of sponsoring the translations of Sahitya Akademi. Yet good works by good writers lie untranslated. Only if a writer has his own support system (means key translator, a team of critics etc) he/she get translated in other language safely. Professors/teachers know how to handle this issue of translation well. They can get not only their works translated but also the works of their children or disciples and have them published as well. Others have a difficult time. A good work or good literature needs to be translated very thoughtfully. For instance the selection of poems to be translated into Hindi will be different from the poems being translated into English. One has to be vigilant. One should not translate anything that one lays one’s hands upon merely for the sake of amateurish hobby. You can see how pathetic some of the poems of our friends look when they go into English or Hindi. It is also possible that a good translator may be compelled to translate a substandard work or a good work may land up with a bad translator. It is rare that someone like Tukaram may find someone like Dilip Chitre. Otherwise it is a miss most of the time. For a good translator to emerge in a language it is necessary to have good lexicographical practices. Not just translators but other citizens also seem to have turned their back towards lexicography- they haven’t made proper use of dictionary and thesauri preparation. When the government started preparing these things many people, including people like Pra Ke Atre mocked at the efforts and made fun of it. Many popular humorists started to destroy labor and efforts of many scholars and intellectuals. It had a bad impact on social psyche. Dictionary or Technical glossary became subjects of joke and ordinary people started keeping away from dictionaries and their contents. Politicians did not take it seriously nor could they understand its significance. Discredit for this goes to our own wretchedness and irresponsible politicians. When the use and preparation of dictionaries grows along with terminologies and registers from various fields, it makes available a treasure house of synonyms for the translator. I don’t think it is too late yet. If those who have the resources of technology, money, intelligence, capacity and are in the positions of opportunity for the good of the language stop wasting their time and doing nonsense, then it is not difficult to collaboratively produce rich language resources. It is necessary for those who are ‘ Marathi-savvy’ and ‘language-savvy’ people on the internet , the ‘Marathi Conventires’, smart talkers and the obstinate paper-oldies struck with obsolete terminologies to come together and interbreed. I think it is happening slowly and gradually – let’s hope for it. However, there are expectations from the government. There are the states conscious of linguistic identities like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Bengal. They encourage researchers in their languages, and sponsor good translations. The Maharashtra government allots responsibility of research in languages to a Physics professor and those who have studied in Arts but have managed to get into administrative services the responsibility of doing scientific research.

Counting Raindrops Saleel Wagh

Sachin: You mean there is government apathy towards culture?

Saleel: There is government apathy towards not just culture but towards all aspects. The real reason lies in the bureaucratic Babu culture. One should do away with this system of selection for judiciary and administration like IAS. One should in fact do away with the posts like IAS that smack of ‘subedary’. They are signs of systems of slavery introduced by the British. All people like IAS should be relieved from their duties. Instead of that we should appoint various experts in the respective fields or hire their services in government. After all these people don’t do anything on their own and they don’t know what is to be done either. Hence this system should be discontinued. The same applies to the judiciary. By giving them abundant salary and leaves is not going to remove their superficiality and mediocrity. These people should be regularly trained by the leading experts in the fields and examined regularly. We need total transformation of administrative machinery and judiciary.

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Sachin : You have written critical articles on poetry and contemporary culture as your book ‘Blog Pahila’ indicates. What are your views about the state of criticism in Marathi today? What do you see is your position as a critic?

Saleel: I don’t at all see myself as a critic. I am completely disqualified for that. For criticism you need some sort of wisdom, scholarship and unbiased attitude which I don’t have. Unfortunately, there is no dignity to criticism nowadays. But this should change. Society needs good critics otherwise sahityavyahar literary world will become one sided and imbalanced.

Sachin: Your critical assessment of some significant poets like Vinda Karandikar has been controversial. As a critic how do you read post-independence Marathi poetry? What is your assessment of the poets of the 60s and the 90s?

Saleel: I, now, do not look at any poetry as 60s or 90s etc. I am morally against such a view. But yes sometime such categorization provides convenience to the critics and readers to understand the chronology of events. But ‘chronology doesn’t precede content’! Vinda, like many other writers, was overrated writer and poet.

Sachin: What are your views on the Little Magazine movements of the sixties and the nineties in Marathi?

Saleel: The questions of each time and generation are different so it is not possible to do such categorization or comparison.

Sachin: You are also a visual artist and have experimented with art. Tell us something about your motivation and experiments. Also comment on relationship between visual art and poetry.

Saleel:  I am actually still experimenting. I have a long way to go with painting. It is not necessary that painting and poetry should be related. Actually you can pour yourself only in one art as you have only one self. You play either Tabla or play Mrudungam. You can’t play both simultaneously. However, it is equally true that the things you are searching for in poetry, similar things can be sought for in the painting. For instance you can find a common form in Shamsherji’s poetry and paintings.

A poet is searching for a form in life through poetry. If he is searching for the form through another medium, he can verify if his search is in the right direction. Other medium can illuminate the first one. Apart from Jivya Soma Mashe, I haven’t met or seen any painter in my life in person. The inferiority complex I have developed after meeting him does not go away. Even then I am still trying in some way from past five to seven years.

88

I have worked as a pre-press expert from many years and hence I have developed a habit of looking at the visual from point of view of ‘colour-separation’. I am trying to unlearn that. Future work would be more of ‘de-learning’ or ‘un-learning’ for me. Most of my work in visual art is largely unlearning.

Sachin: What are you currently working on? What are your future plans?

Saleel: The work on another collection of poems is in progress. It is called ‘Talalelya Kavita’-The poems that were avoided.

 


 

POEMS OF SALEEL WAGH

Translated from Marathi by Sachin Ketkar

(I) Patil Kankariya Projects

Smashaanvatika.com   centralized AC

Ultramodern amenities for cremation

of five hundred plus corpses, horse rides for kids,

close circuit TV, free pick up facility for senior citizens,

on the crematory campus

Amusement park, club house, spa,

beauty parlor, yoga passage, sauna bath facilities for get-togethers

Special lighting effects sad music tunes, touch-screen,

automatic music system hall for mourning, qualified NRI (B. Tech) priest,

on the spot antyeshti-shlokas

One funeral arrangement free on every two corpses,

surrounded by lush greenery,

and natural scenery, lovebirds will peck at the pindas

Double-storied parking space, boating facility

for the relatives and acquaintances

No need to wait till the skull cracks in pyre,

online recording facility, DVD within an hour,

ashes home delivered by courier

Welcome-drink, mendi, astrology, Feng-shui, Six Sigma

ISO certified Crematory Park

Online booking open twenty-four hours

We accept all credit cards

Book your site visit right now

Smashaanparadise.com specially for five-hundred plus corpses-holds


 

(II) Sari Day

Pragnya Saangle (giddy tillu)             Sara Fernandes

Janhavi Tilak   Akshada Joshi

Manali Sharma            Harshada Kumar (newlymarried)

Simran Kaur

Ishita Guha     Aakanksha Rao

Aparna Seth (black bra)

Kripa Satyanarayan     Ayesha Bodwani

Aabeda Dongarwala   Anita Gaykaiwari

Samruddhi (Sammy) Tipaniya (red nipples)

Kausar Khan Ibadi

Yana Tista Reshma Anand

Lara Khanna Mona Borkar

Smita Vasan (caring)

Aishwariya Tambe (mole at the belly button)

Sohoni Jaiswal (bumchickabum)

Richa Kulkarni

Rasika Tripathi Malvika Roy

Anaya (not there)

Rashmi Kapoor

From left to right

Café Coffee Day

Smile Pleeeeease


 

III) HRD

 

Nero fiddles away at the fiddle

After fixing matches

After bribing the security

To let in the material without permission

Blue collared officers stuff themselves kickbacks

Nero fiddles away at the fiddle

They purchased the entire Maval region                                        Nero fiddles away at the fiddle

Limitless money used to bribe                                                      Nero fiddles away at the fiddle

Ministers finishters leaders crooks                                                Nero fiddles away at the fiddle

Pigheaddicks of workers                                                               Nero fiddles away at the fiddle

Dimwitted motherfucking management                                       Nero fiddles away at the fiddle

Nero fiddles away at the fiddle

Those who divided the country

Those who divided the country among themselves

Those who sold the country

All chant Jindabad jindabad in unison

Neroes hold PRM meeting

Nero fiddles away at the fiddle


 

IV) The Poem Number Zero

 

don’t try to

read this or

make a sense of it

this is a dummy copy

don’t try to read this or ma

ke sense of it

this is a dummy copy don’t try

to read this or make a sense of

it this is a dummy copy don’t try to

read this or make a sense of it this is a dummy copy

don’t try to read or make

a sense of it

this is a dummy

copy don’t try to read this

or make a sense of

it this is a dummy copy

don’t try to read this or make

a sense

of it this is a dummy

copy don’t try to read this or make a sense of it

this is a dummy copy don’t try


 

V) Untitled

 

An evening

Like a journey

From the yield point to the maximum stress

Charted on the graph

Showing the stress-strain relation

Of a loaded wire.

While crossing

all the boundaries of eveningness

There is this haste

Always.

Or else one digresses

Even before uttering a word,

Simple glances are interpreted as opinions.

State of spiritual absorption turned into a pond

It wakes up from exceptions.

In the evening when the Word of words sets,

The expanse of meanings open:

It is from here that my story gathers momentum

With all its ultimate material.

I always prefer

To write on a lined paper.

I cannot brace

The open void

Of the blank paper that rushes at me.

I draw the lines if there are none.

The reasons for this

are my fucking handwritings.

They can’t remain alone at equal distance

In a straight-line right from the beginning.

The first letter and the second hardly match.

The curves, the vectors of the strokes

Keep on changing like me even now.

If there is no gravitational pull

My basically itinerant handwriting

Runs at the brisk pace of my brain

Then cracks and disintegrates.

My loving touchy coquettish letters

Dart around madly

They forget to which word they belong.

They become uneasy and edgy

They can’t understand

What are they supposed to do.

They can’t understand their own rhythm of dissolution,

Their own ultimate liberation.

Therefore I always

Decide to write on a lined paper.


 

VI) Untitled


My price is being decided on the dinner table.

I am being sold on the dinner table offer-wise.

Negotiations move around offer-wise.

Three thousand plus too and fro

Travelling expenses

Food clothes shelter and luxury

This means this will fulfil the basic necessities.

My myth is being snatched away from me.

Under the heels of my executive shoes

I have become a tribal in suits and boots.


 

Ascent and Descent of an Obstinate Quarrelsome Sparrow

 

T u e s d a y   W e d n e s d ay

Thursday holiday

With these very eyes I saw

The ascent and descent of an obstinate quarrelsome sparrow

 

F r i d a y

The pieces of scribble pads

Lying around A T

TCK, PLK, Dang, Pari, and GPK. Filename rename

Corrections of end tags, KCB Gypsy Laila

DTN, D-PST to be posted

Lopping off a para snipping off a tail end

The number coming out on the top.

 

S a t u r d a y   S u n d a y

Beyond two PC XT

Covered with sepulchre

A keyboard switched after a dustup

A job of Sinhastha-Nashik darshan

Deliberately brought here. Take care as you go.

 

M o n d a y   T u e s d a y

No one opens the window

with a view of a newly built bridge

No one changes the leaf of the calendar

No one uses the sketch pen with thick letters

No one deletes the back files of TP

 

W e d n e s d a y

It is almost eight days

The quarrelsome sparrow

has scattered her letters everywhere in the cabin

I feel my nameless guilt everywhere in the cabin

I cannot delete the files she has made

I cannot throw away her bytes free papers

I cannot see the corrections

GPK has made.

 

T h u r s d a y   F r i d a y

The voice resonates in my ears repeatedly

The cursor becomes blurred

The menus drop down dejectedly

Even before the Ventura opens.

 

S a t u r d a y

Today out of curiosity

I brought her home

Holding her in my palms

She too came without much fuss

I told her that you have these many feathers

On your wings and all that put together

She said ok had her tea

and flew away.


 

Sachin C. Ketkar is a bilingual writer, translator, editor, blogger and researcher based in Baroda, Gujarat. His books in English include Skin, Spam and Other Fake Encounters: Selected Marathi Poems in translation, (2011), (Trans) Migrating Words: Refractions on Indian Translation Studies (2010). His Marathi books are Jarasandhachya Blogvarche Kahi Ansh (2010) and Bhintishivaicya Khidkitun Dokavtana, (2004). He has extensively translated present-day Marathi poetry, most of which is collected in the anthology Live Update: An Anthology of Recent Marathi Poetry, 2005 edited by him. Along with numerous recent Gujarati writers, he has rendered the fifteenth century Gujarati poet Narsinh Mehta into English. He has also translated the work of the well-known contemporary Gujarati short story writers like Bhupen Khakkar, Nazir Mansuri and Mona Patrawala. His poetry, critical writings and translations have appeared in reputed English and Marathi journals like New Quest, Indian Literature, Little Mag, Abhidhanantar, Khel, Mouj, Poetryinternationalweb. Com, Cerebration. Org, Muse India and so on.   He won ‘Indian Literature Poetry Translation Prize’, given by Indian Literature Journal, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi in 2000. He holds a doctorate in Translation Studies from Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat and works as Professor in English, Faculty of Arts, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara. His books are available at Amazon.in and Paperwall.in

Many of his publications are available at Academia.edu  His blog: Cosmic Joke

Punit Pathak is currently pursuing his Masters in English from the Department of English, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara.

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