Dileep Jhaveri (born 1943) is a well-known Gujarati poet and playwright. He has published a book of poems, Pandukavyo ane Itar (1989) and a play, Vyaasochchvas (2003), which was published in English by Seagull Books in 2006 under the title, A Breath of Vyas. His writing has received the Critic’s Award (1989), the Jayant Pathak Award for Poetry (1989) and the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad award (1990). His poems have been widely anthologised and translated into English, Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Bengali, Korean, Chinese and Japanese.
This edition includes six poems, rendered in fine English translation by noted poets Keki Daruwalla and Ranjit Hoskote. Three of these poems are from ‘Khandit Kand’, a cycle of poems written after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 – a pivotal moment in recent Indian history, wherein a political rally erupted into a riot, which, in turn, snowballed into violent communal conflict in various Indian cities. The effects of this incident endure, making Jhaveri’s poems equally a response to the Gujarat riots of 2002.
Ravaged by a mix of anguish and shame, rage and dark irony, these are powerful poems. They howl, they rant, they denounce, they admit their own failure, they acknowledge their culpability. Thick with image, varied in register, they invoke prehistory and myth, primal language and myth, weaving these in with details of aching particularity (a dupatta, a bush shirt, floor décor, curtains). The result is a textured poetry that is determined never to allow its central moral outrage to be overshadowed by the sophistication of its poetics. The point is made again and again, tirelessly, unrelentingly:
From these woods
of ulcerous, oozing, burning, cracked mirrors
lead me, out of this forest.
This edition also includes two lovely poems entitled ‘Verses on Poetry’, in which the poet offers a quirky history of poetry from the stone table to the computer. It is here that he offers us the image of poetry as the “bankrupt drama company”, committed to that strange amorphous shifting currency of language. He speaks of “Uncut, desireless, purposeless, weightless, homeless words . . .”
It is a description of raw material which every poet will recognise. And yet, in that image, Jhaveri has already transformed that raw material into memorable verse.
Pandukavyo ane Itar, 1989 (collection of poems)
translated into English by Kamal Sanyal as:
A Breath of Vyas, Seagull, Kolkata, 2006, ISBN : 9788170464853
Muse India: Dileep Jhaveri in interview with Manu Dash.
Muse India: Dileep Jhaveri writes about modern Gujarati poetry.
Hindu on Net: Dileep Jhaveri speaks about the need to preserve the composite culture in India.