HYDERABAD: A significant name in modern Hindi literature, poet Mangalesh Dabral was in Hyderabad as the chief guest for the Telangana Sahiti Literary Festival. The 71-year-old bard has authored five poetry collections, two travelogues and a book of critical essays. He received Sahitya Akademi Award in 2000 which he returned later to protest gainst the rising intolerance in the country. Known for his powerful lines, poignant thoughts and dissent against the right wing, he speaks to
How different did you find the Telangana Sahiti Literary Festival from other fests?
It was organised by Telangana Sahiti. They released a volume of articles on 131 great writers that have lived. It was by research scholars. The collection unique reference book. I am glad I was invited as the chief guest to launch it.
You said that you regret writing in Hindi and that you didn’t want to be born in this language…
It created a lot of uproar. Look back at the last Lok Sabha election and it was so full of violence especially in terms of language. There was so much foul usage. And not surprisingly this was being done by local goons. I was deeply hurt as a poet because I write in Hindi and the language is getting polluted. I wondered what kind of language I was penning my thoughts in! Poets are also the custodians of language and it’s the duty of the poets to protect and beautify the language. We are its citizens. Poetry works in three dimensions: saves our memory, imagination and language. It lives and thinks like a being. But it’s not to be worshipped. The Hindi, I write in, belongs to the likes of Premchand and Muktibodh. I choose not to write in an abuser’s language.
You also said that poetry is so powerful that it can shake the foundations of dictatorship. With the tense socio-political situation in the country do you think it’s happening?
History has witnessed how poets were sent to exile and oppressed when the dictators realised the power poetry possessed as an idea of revolution. So many poems have been written on the demolition of Babri Masjid and the violence perpetrated in Gujarat. And these are quite strong works. Poetry doesn’t revolutionise anything, it does something deeper. Poetry dreams of revolution. That’s how Neruda could bring a change. Poetry is the ultimate draft of language.
You assert that the country needs Civil Disobedience Movement to oppose Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) and NRC…
The politicians in this country lack the basic understanding of Indian society. Decisions made by this government were Himalayan errors. And later they had to eat their own words. Demonetization was a terrible blunder which cost the common man a great deal. Now we have Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) which is disastrous. CAA implies that the Indians being persecuted in other countries can come back except Muslims which means they want the minorities to suffer. Are they ruling a country? Poets and writers will have to come on the streets and participate in protest. Fiza mein ghussa aur ghutan hai. We have to write fiercely and ignite hope.
What do you have to say about the political misuse of a language especially Hindi?
The political leaders are using a language of hatred and filth and I denounce it; it’s not my language. Not my Hindi! I refuse to belong to this vulgarisation. All I can do is to write–write to protest, write to refuse. The irony is that the Hindi belt doesn’t understand the socio-political reasons. Politics has always been against poetry.
How much does a language suffer amidst political chaos and brutal governance?
Language does feel the pain. It cries. Ninety five per cent of Hindi poetry is Leftist, democratic and secular. When this fabric is hurt poetry protests and cries. Dictators are always afraid of poetry. When 14 Indian authors had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards, International PEN issued a statement. And this included Amitav Ghosh and Salman Rushdie. Several times our prime minister has asked during his speeches: “award waapas karne wale kahaan gye?”
Your next book?
My upcoming collection ‘Home is Always Away’ (Copper Coin) is on how the idea of home is always distant. It’s a collection of my poems translated into English by the poet-publisher Sarabjeet Garcha.
— Saima Afreen