Then Will Come Envy

On September 30, 2015 by admin

photo by/ rohit umrao/photojournalist mob-09412524507

Viren Dangwal

[Translations: Ashok Pande]


Defining the poet of our times, Nazim Hikmet once remarked: “The real poet is not engaged in his love, his happiness or pain. In such poet’s poems his people’s pulse must beat … The poet, in order to be successful, should, in his poems, shed light on the material life. One who escapes from real life and thus treats of unrelated subjects, is destined to burn like straw.”

Probably the most innovative and the most daring among his contemporaries, Viren Dangwal treats the ordinary world with intense objectivity and skillfulness. He has turned the most mundane things like cows, elephants, tables, papayas, flies etc. into themes for his unique form of poetry. Attempting this requires immense compassion and audacity.

Critics and poets alike have time and again emphasized that Viren has ardently followed the tradition of great Hindi poets Nirala and Nagarjun. Part of this is true, but what makes Viren Dangwal a unique poet is his modernity and awareness. His socio-political convictions were vociferous and underline his unassuming loyalty to common people. Constantly challenging the evils of the new world order, he dares to experiment with hitherto unknown forms and themes, constantly making us aware of the threats and vulnerability that we are exposed to.

His poetry encompasses love, hope, struggle, irony and above all life – life that is simultaneously trivial and enormously full of possibilities. Summing up his vision, he observes:


Down these very roads tyrants have kept coming

Down these same roads

One day

Our people will come too.


(From the Preface of ‘Its been Long since I Found Anything’ – Translation of Viren Dangwal’s poems. Published by Adharshila Prakashan, 2005)


P.T. Usha


Dark youthful gazelle

Flies on her swift long legs

Daughter of my impoverished country


Still alive in the brightness of her eyes

is the modesty recognizing hunger

Therefore there is no Sunil Gavaskarsque

splendor on her face

Don’t ever sit P. T. Usha

in that Maruti car you received as prize

Giving yourself airs even in your thoughts

Rather, put your feet up on the seat

when you travel in the airplane


Does your mouth make sounds while eating?

No worries

Those who regard silent jaws as civilized

are the most dangerous gluttons in the world.

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Allahabad : 1970



I carry you along

As the water carries the bank along


A roguery, a nostalgia, a mischief,

A panic, a suffering, a turn around, a crumpled hat,

A hard kick on the bum,

Scratching of a closing door with the wretchedness of paws


Life is a strange riddle


As soon as one thinks one belongs

And spreads out the towel, ready to breathe easily

One is thrown out mandatorily.



Scores of girders come crashing down

Under them there is a man still alive

His pupils are turned upwards

From the corners of his lips a line of blood trickles

But he is still alive, that man.

His sleep is a chariot

To take him to the dream that glimmers

A thousand light years away



Groping in the dark for a matchbox

Fingers find

The unfamiliar feel

Of well known things

Knowing full well that I should have

I still didn’t fill the stove

Last evening


Go, lethargy

Stay, love

Get, job

Wife, be

Make some khichri and chutney



Don’t stick to my neck

On the crumpled pillow

Like the sweat of May.



One personal gloom

Two sandals getting worn out

Three dogs barking

So passed even this too, this day


How wonderful would it be

On opening the door to see

Four or five letters

Lighting up the darkness



I read it from the very beginning

There were so many mistakes

It was impossible to amend them

Life was a book printed in a cheap press

So many prescriptions for health

They had themselves become disease.



A poet is fortunate to be read

Just as to be eaten is the good fortune of a guava

Yes, it tastes good and is healthy too

Maybe, something else would flash in the mind

As someone else lives in some other place.



Slowly, after the taste of failure fades away

Envy would come.


You will remember fixing

The strap that keeps slipping off

Of your rubber chappals

You will not remember the sharp

Taste of a firm guava

The glittering sharpness will terrify the depressed


Goodness will taste bitter

Shame will not leave the heart

Those companions will meet like half-acquaintances

With whom one learnt the lessons of life


With success will vanish

The sorrow of losing, the bliss of finding


Then will come envy

Blowing the trumpet of greed



The sorrow of passion, adolescence

Pennilessness, a dosa a luxury

In the coffeehouse some petty men

Some supermen

Two Che Guevaras

The human being with me was Ramendra

He had Four and a half Rupees





A talkative smile on the face

Like a xylophone the catechu-pot

All this comes only with experience

The shirt will always be sparkling too-blued white

The knees will ache of course

If you have to sit for sixteen hours in this tiny place

“Now it is not like the old days, Sahib,

Now every Tom, Dick and Harry

Comes to study in the university,”


In this contempt is hidden

A unique brand of flattery

All this comes only with experience.


“My own son, Ekram at any rate

Never got beyond the sixth grade”

This much is certain that Gaffar

Never was insulted by any student leader

But neither did he ever

Give anything on credit to a feeble customer.






Yellow tinged verdant

Leaves have come up.




Trees have

Just this one way

To tell

They too love the world.





The night is my mirror
In whose hard coldness is also hidden the morning
Bright, clear

The seven sages, wetting their beards in the lake
Point at me and smile at each other,
Just because I loved
I had to suffer such revenge

Loneliness was the evening star
That I swallowed
Like a sleeping pill but couldn’t sleep

Winds, may I dissolve
Streams, spread me out to dry over the broad shoulders of waterfalls
Leaves, let me keep up, like you, night and day
-A soft, trembling stubbornness
Workers, may you be able to say – ‘This too is us’
Immortality, may I disappear in you
Sticking always in your heart
Like a sweet splinter.




The Big Gun


The big gun of 1857

Is kept at the entrance of the Company Garden

Just like the Company Garden received in inheritance

It is maintained very carefully

And polished twice a year.


Tourists come to see it every morning and evening

And this gun tells them

I was very strong

And made mincemeat of even the greatest warriors

In my time


Now, at any rate,

If it is free after children have ridden it

The birds sit upon it

And chichat

Sometimes they mischievously even enter it

Especially the sparrows


They tell us

That actually however big a gun is

Its mouth has to be shut one day.





I am the brilliance of summer

And like a seed

The hidden warmth of winter

I am the pleasant lonesomeness of spring

Munching leisurely

The monkey nut found deep inside the pocket

I am the check-design shirt


When surging clouds abrade each other

I am their articulated rage


Desires come to me in various guises

Every need of mine I recorded with them

All my weaknesses in one inventory

They even know

When I would become quiet and hang my head

But I still keep going

Always holding on to language like a rope

On the path of my comrades


What else can a poet do

Except trying to be right.




The Hawkers’ Calls at the Station


Only the passengers hear them

Even when they are asleep


Those who alight don’t listen to them


This is really too much

Even not listening


You have reached.





Its shapeliness is a deception

Like a wound its suppleness

Though genuine its colour seems false

Even on the tree it has a hung face

Aloof from all when sold

Bought without joy

Ready to be squashed at the slightest bump

A difficult burden for the bag

Its hard to eulogize about a papaya

If you are not wearing

Pant and shirt.

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Tamarind is very strange

The way it fruits secretly overnight

The leaves that are yellow-green

And soft beneath your teeth

Those are the new ones

The others are just while their time away


When you  pass by a tamarind tree

And from it see a flock of parrots flying for its life

Or see schoolbags resting against the trunk

Don’t go that way. Understand?






When you lie there

One is sure

One can do nothing more with you


When you are hanging

According to the peg

You are hung on

Sometimes you look desperate

As though you have been kicked

By the whole world



Keep ironing you

And wearing you out

All their lives.







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