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Purveyor of a new poetic idiom

By October 13, 2018No Comments

Source : The Hindu

Despite his playful language and poetic style, the essential emotion in Viren Dangwal’s poetry is love

When Viren Dangwal’s friends and admirers gathered at the India Habitat Centre on September 28, 2018 to attend Vireniyat, a literary meet to commemorate his memory on his death anniversary, a thick volume of his collected poems entitled Kavita Viren was also released. It is a welcome development that complete works of important Hindi writers have started being published, thus making it much easier for lovers of poetry as well as future researchers to access a writer’s oeuvre. Published by Navarun, Kavita Viren carries an insightful introduction by renowned Hindi poet Mangalesh Dabral who was also a close friend of Viren Dangwal.

A recipient of the Sahitya Akademi award, Viren was an unusual person and an unusual poet. He taught Hindi literature at a post-graduate college in Bareilly but also remained closely associated with Hindi daily Amar Ujala whose owners held him in high esteem. A committed Leftist and a pro-people poet belonging to the post-Naxalbari generation, he remained true to his convictions until cancer extinguished the flame of his life on September 28, 2015 when he was only 68. He and his poems were always mocking at the reality while exploring and revealing its unnoticed crevices and presenting them in a completely new manner, often employing a new poetic idiom and language that had the indelible imprint of his own playful personality. Otherwise, who can remember steam engine by comparing its whistle with the “formidable sighs of a lover”? Many years ago, I heard him reading out his poems at a literary meet organised at Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi and was struck by a completely unfamiliar poetic way of looking at world and bringing out its funny side with serious consequences. A poem titled “Kuchh Nayi Kasamen” (A few new oaths) began with the poet taking oath in the name of Halidram’s bhujia, Reliance’s oil, Pramod Mahajan, Pul Bangash, cold Rasmalai and M Gan An Hin Vi V (acronym for Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, Wardha) and such other things, and opened a whole new world before the listeners. “Ram Singh”, “P. T. Usha” and “Tope” (cannon) are some of his most popular poems.

Born on August 5, 1947 in Kirtinagar in the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, Viren Dangwal published three poetry collections, a few articles and translations of great Turkish revolutionary poet Nazim Hikmat’s poetry for Hindi literary journal Pahal. His first collection Isi Duniya Mein (In this very world) came out in 1991 followed up by Dushchakra Mein Srishta(Creator in vicious circle) and Syahi Taal (Ink pond) in 2002 and 2009 respectively. His translations of Hikmat’s poetry have been widely praised and have over the years acquired the status of a template. Many admirers of his poetry would not believe that Viren was deeply influenced by Shamsher whose poetic sensibility and style were very different. The way he has paid his tribute to the genius of Shamsher in a poem of the same name is proof enough of the way he had internalised the essence of Shamsher’s poetry.

Mangalesh Dabral in his introduction underlines this aspect of Viren Dangwal’s poetry when he explains that three great poets – Nagarjun, Shamsher and Nirala – contributed the most towards constituting his poetic personality. Perhaps it is not incidental that while Nirala wrote his immortal poem “Wah Todti Patthar” (She breaks stones) on a woman labourer who was breaking stones on a hot summer afternoon on a road in Allahabad, Viren too wrote a cycle of seven poems on the roads of Allahabad. His poem “Faizabad-Ayodhya” is unmistakably evocative of the events of December 6, 1992 when the Babri mosque was demolished with great fanfare, but does not mention it even obliquely. Instead, it harks back on “Rama Ki Shaktipooja” (Rama’s worship of Shakti), another immortal poem of Nirala and ends with the assurance that even after having been trampled mercilessly, “our Ayodhya is not dead”. Viren has also dedicated a poem to Nirala in which he confidently declares that “sunny days will certainly come”, reminding us of Nirala’s last poem in which the great poet expresses his hope about the breaking of a new dawn and his return to the world.

Despite his playful language and style, the essential emotion in Viren Dangwal’s poetry is love. It is his love for his near and dear ones, his surroundings, his people and his society that makes him revolt against injustice, oppression and exploitation. It is because of this love that he calls for the destruction of kings and wazirs, religious scriptures, thirty-three crore gods whose souls have frozen in the snow-capped Himalayan peaks and all those powerful people who have enslaved us. But, finally, he in a despondent voice realises that in our unjust society, “ek kavi aur kar bhi kya sakta hai, sahi bane rahne ke alava” (what else can a poet do but to remain on the right path)? He summaries his life’s experiences: “Maine prem kiya, isi se bhogne pade, mujhe itne pratishodh (I loved, that’s why I had to face so many revengeful acts).”

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