Dilip Chitre


Dilip Chitre is no more. His works are with us. Will be with us as they are so good. His voice, so intense about poetry and art. So sharp and unhesitating about the work of writing. His keen cultural mind will be with us. Dilip Chitre, Arun Kolatkar, and a few others did work the significance of which is yet to be properly understood. Their entire movement within literary/cultural ‘sub’culture (rather than the highway of official literature) is very intriguing. Slowly I hope we will make sense and learn from it. Preserve it too.

My friend Prasad writes this as a kind of obit.

Dear friends,

I’m in total shock after just receiving the terribly sad news that one of my heroes and friends, Dilip Chitre, passed away early this morning (Thursday) in Pune. He was 71 and had been struggling with cancer over the past year.

Below is a short piece, with a great photo of the man at his casual best:


One of the hardest parts of getting this kind of news is of that its reminder that another generation is passing on. Dilip’s foremost peer, Arun Kolatkar, passed away in 2004, and this past year we lost two major Indian critics, Bhalachandra Rajan and Meenakshi Mukherjee. Others of Dilip’s millieu (like Namdeo Dhasal) are also not doing so well health-wise. This is also the generation of South Asian artists who did things purely for the love of it; there was no real money (let alone fame) to be made in this field when they started out in the sixties and seventies.

I am more shocked, than sad. I was just talking about him yesterday with a friend, advising that she meet him while she’s in India. I was also planning to purchase his most recent two books online, and have been thinking of him and his family while reading Dom Delillo’s White Noise, which references the Bhopal tragedy that happened 25 years ago; I believe Dilip and his family were in Bhopal at time, and a few years back they lost their son (who’s probably age) due to health issues that  they fear were related to that horrible event.

In fact, he was on my mind this morning, and I was thinking about how nice it would be meet him again on my next trip to India, after I am done my PhD and with both Soumil and Sheila this time. All such hopes will remain unfulfilled, and so be it.
Dilip left us all a great legacy of poetry (English and Marathi), translations, film and paintings. I am also fortunate to have two cassettes of a recorded conversation that he and I had when I met him last time in 2006, and in  which he expressed many ideas that I would have otherwise not seen in print. The  urgency of going through this material feels that much stronger now than ever.

I didn’t mean to turn this into an obituary, but now that I have, I’ll just say this: the work of Dilip Chitre (to which I would never have known about were it not for  my dear friend and mentor, Jayant Deshpande, in Pune) is single-handedly responsible for providing me with a perspective on my Maharashtrian heritage, one that I would never have known about from family or community peers, here or back home. It was  a perspective devoid of nostalgia or sentimentality, and though often drenched in irony, skepticism and profanity, it was also one of deep humanism. I rediscovered
Marathi culture through Dilip’s work, and it’s led me to rediscover other aspects of India and South Asian culture. In short, the work that I do as a student of literary criticsm and postcolonial theory would not be the same were it not for this set of influences.

For those of us who knew Dilip, let us all pray (however we may) for the journey of his soul, and the peaceful mourning of his widow, Viju.

And for those who did not, I highly suggest you put one of  Dilip Chitre’s books or translations on your reading list.


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