I think the most important 20th century poet of India has to be Namdeo Dhasal. I am nobody to make the judgment, but that is my gut feeling on the basis of the poets I have read and read about. No wonder that another poet whom we all want to turn to has translated him with so much love, Dilip Chitre. His book on Namdeo Dhasal is published by Navayana and is a must buy. It has several of Dhasal’s poems and photographs. A kind of a basic reader for Dhasal. Order it from navayana or flipkart.
(translation: Dilip Chitre)
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
Let these poisoned everlasting wombs become disembodied.
Let not this numbed ball of flesh sprout limbs
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.
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.
The Marathi original: