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Manglesh Dabral

Manglesh Dabral

Manglesh Dabral

How would you define your altered relationship with Tehri Garhwal?

My hometown and its neighbourhood have witnessed large-scale dispossession and displacement over these years. It was the year of 1911 when the first migration took place and we have been witnessing major displacements ever since. People have abandoned farming or have been displaced due to infrastructural projects and of the 12,500 villages, 2,500 are empty. Ritwik Ghatak used to say that everyone should keep a piece of their childhood in their pocket. The idea of ‘home’ is important to us all. However, there’s no charm left in my hometown for me to relate to. It has undergone momentous changes, hence, altering even my relationship with it.

Why did you choose to translate Arundhati Roy’s new novel in Hindi?

Arundhati Roy’s magnum opus is one of my most favourite novels. Its intense poetic narrative overwhelms me whenever I open the book. So, it was my dream to translate her new novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness into Hindi. Coincidentally, Arundhati too was looking for someone to render her book into Hindi in a way that it could be an authentic version and serve as the basis for translations in other Indian languages. So, she asked me to take up this project. For me, the immediacy and certainty of the theme, the portrayal of contemporary India were the more decisive factors than the uncertainty of fame.

Your poetry is often political and terms like consumerism have a lot of space reserved in your works. What is your take on this?

I have always been against the idea of a totalitarian government and that has been depicted in my works. Moreover, I strongly expostulate with the use of technology and growing consumerism. I do not suggest a complete renouncement of technology, however, its repercussions specifically on memory are what attract my sincere concern. Memory is crucial for imagination and technology as well as consumerism has sabotaged it. For instance, how many people would really remember the cell phone they owned a couple of years ago or the clothes they bought last year itself? I vehemently believe that technology is eroding history and only language and literature can counter that.

You don’t shy away from using English words in your Hindi poetry. Kindly comment.

With the rapid growth of the world of internet, people’s voices have begun to be heard and acknowledged, which is in some way instrumental in inviting strong reactions from everywhere. It is the citizens’ demand for renaissance of the Hindu Belt which has given birth to the emergence of communal and ultra-national forces and it is the internet which makes it seem too vicious. Nevertheless, I believe that some words, such as the internet or mobile phones, are tough to translate in Hindi while maintaining a connect with the reader, I, thus, prefer using them in my works. I am not a linguistic puritan, yet, I believe that it is only through this intermingling that languages can grow richer.

You have closely experienced Emergency as a journalist. How do you look back at the time?

I will look back at it as a very dark period. It felt stifling to learn that even doing your job with umpteen integrity could get you in trouble or behind the bars. It was clear that if you wrote against the state, it will persecute you and label you as an anti-nationalist. The job of a journalist is to present news as it is and convey to the readers the current affairs regardless of who they target. However, this responsibility is hampered when you are restricted from writing the truth, which is purely what a journalist’s work is, only because it holds facts against the government.

How does memory aid imagination?

Don’’t confuse memory with nostalgia. Let me explain through a poem that Vishnu Khare wrote about Mayur Vihar, a neighbourhood in east Delhi. In the poem, he says he hears peacocks cry in the mornings. This is fictional but is based on his memory of the place. Mayur Vihar was once a jungle and peacocks would live there. In his poem, they visit in search of their old habitat.

About the Interviewee:

Manglesh Dabral is a prominent contemporary Indian poet who writes in Hindi. He was born in the village of Kaphalpani, Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, completed his education in Dehradun. He has been the editor of Jansatta. After working in Sahara Samay as Editor, Manglesh joined National Book Trust as an Editorial Consultant. He has published five collections of poetry, namely, Pahar Par Lalten, Ghar Ka Rasta, Ham Jo Dekhte Hain, Awaz Bhi Ek Jagah Hai and Naye Yug Men Shatru, two collections of prose Lekhak Ki Roti and Kavi Ka Akelapan, and a travel diary Ek Bar Iowa. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award given by Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, in 2000 for his poetry collection Ham Jo Dekhte Hain. Dabral's poetry has been translated in all major Indian languages, and a number of foreign languages, such as English, Russian, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Polish and Bulgarian.