Feminist Marathi poetry of Vishnu Wagh

This century would belong to the new breed of writers and poets from the
masses of Goa who could not have opportunity to showcase their talent
under the colonial regime and the exploitative class structure. Modern
education, democratization of institutions and expansion of equitable
platforms for creative appreciation have fertilised the new creativity.

This would now explode with new forms, new experiments, novel idioms,
styles and ex-pressions. When a genius writer like Pundalik Narayan Naik
makes a statement- “amchyo kitalyoshoch piligyo monyanich gelyo’ (Our
forefathers died silently without ever expressing themselves) –it becomes
a message and a manifesto for the new writers. Nothing would stop them
now. They are bound to take Goa’s Marathi and Konkani literature to new

Popular playwright, poet and artist Vishnu Surya Wagh and Konkani poet
Nilaba Khandekar both have their roots in Dongri village in Tiswadi. Both
are young ambassadors of Goa’s modern poetry. Nilaba Khandekar is much
ahead of his time in “Agni” and “Black” his two path-breaking Konkani
poetry collections. After entertaining vast audiences in Goa and
Maharashtra with his popular poems, Vishnu has just broken through the
stereotype with his brand new Marathi poetry collection – ‘Bacchubhaichi
wadi’. This place is a real address near the red light area in Mumbai.

When he sent me a copy, I was stunned by its’ high production value. Such
books in Marathi are rarely designed and printed in Goa. This
trend-setting poetry collection includes perhaps the first ever poem on
Scarlet Keeling in any language. The 10 page long poem ‘dear Scarlet’
depicts the dilemma of western tourists who land up in Goa in search of
‘nirvana’ but often fail to understand and enjoy the real culture of Goa.

Full of compassion for the British teenager, this poem also exposes the
problems associated with the hedonistic lifestyle of the Europeans and
their irresponsible parenting standards. Vishnu wishes at the end of the
poem that Scarlet could be reborn as a Goan to experience Goa which she
never cared to understand. Bacchubhaichi wadi is Vishnu’s ninth
publication and fifth poetry collection. His five poetry collections have
filled up the tremendous vacuum created after the death of poet laureate
Bakibab Borkar and Shankar Ramani.

Vishnu has been writing, painting, singing and directing plays since past
30 years. He was a very sensitive and creative child. Having born in a
farmer’s family in the rustic setting of Dongri village, an estuarine
island surrounded by vast Khazan lands and crisscrossing saline creeks of
Cumbarjua canal Vishnu’s personality was moulded by his hard working
parents. His poetry has absorbed the imagery from his childhood, boyhood
and youth. He had seen the deep interest his artist father, a well-known
director of Marathi dramas used to take in propagating noble and timeless
cultural values. He has devoted several touching poems to his mother who
succumbed to breast cancer at a relatively young age.

Having seen a lot many personal tragedies and upheavals, Vishnu Wagh came
out stronger after each of the ordeal. He burst on the Marathi literary
firmament with his first poetry collection – ‘Zinzir Zinzir sanj’. It is a
kaleidoscopic collection of poems on nature, Goa’s cultural ethos,
folklore and many other topics. However, Vishnu seems to have broken
through the mould in his latest ‘Bacchubhaichi wadi’. The collection
comprises longer poems. Most of these have powerful feminist statements.
The autobiographical preface by the poet introduces to the readers a
hitherto unknown facet of Vishnu’s sensitive and compassionate
personality. The thirty feminist poems in the first part with the common
caption- “yes, I am that woman’ are unique in contemporary non-Dalit
Marathi literature. Each poem is like a miniature bomb blast-revealing the
naked reality of the women’s world - their untold sufferings, the male
perception of women as sexual commodities and above all the heaps of
injustice that the female gender in India has been subjected to. These
poems have no parallel in post liberation Goan Marathi poetry because a
composite reading of all the 30 poems sends a strong cohesive, secular and
compassionate message to the society-that real poetry needs to move beyond
fickle romanticism and aesthetic escapism and empty debate on empowering
the women.

A woman farm labourer works more than her male counterpart but is still
paid less because the wage structure is unfavorable to her. Vishnu’s poem
raises the question of such economic injustice. There are thousands of
households in rural Goa where the head of the family spends the hard
earned money of the wife or daughters on alcohol and gambling. The women
get beaten if they challenge this behavior.

>From Vishnu’s pen emerges the dissected layers of pathos, the silent
sufferings of women who are still crying for true equality and justice.
But in his final poem in the first part the woman vows to rebel and become
“Kali, the destroying goddess”. Vishnu signals a revolutionary change in
future when the voices of women would not be easily suppressed. After a
very dynamic first part-Bacchubhai’s wadi moves to the “poems of darkness’
(andharachya kavita). These are personal impressions of the poet caught in
a vortex of self-identity.

Vishnu finds a novel and convincing ecofeminist interpretation for the
popular legend of  theogony of Lord Ganesh in “maza Ganesh’ (my Ganesha)
from the perspective of a rural woman. Although Bollywood films like
‘Chandani Bar’ introduced the people to the stark reality of Mumbai’s
nightlife, Vishnu’s poem – ‘Dance Bar’ vividly captures the hidden
dimensions of this industry with all its’ urban and material nuances. The
23 poems in the last part of the collection are dedicated to the poet’s
revealing impressions of Mumbai’s red light area. This part would come as
a “culture shock” to the unsuspecting Marathi readers in Goa because this
face of Mumbai’s underbelly has been unknown in urbanized Goa. These poems
offer a hyperspatial window to a world virtually unknown to the civil
society and having seen it from close quarters Vishnu has been successful
in painting his impressions in dark, bold colours. He meets and listens to
street singers-the young Ranno and the older Jahan-aara.

When he patronises Ranno and attempts to dismiss Jahan-aara - she says -
“I may be old but the Ghazal never ages…”. Bacchubhai’s wadi would
transform any sensitive and compassionate Goan reader in search of
something novel, different and exceptional. It’s sublime but rebellious
poetry surpasses revolutionary tomes on feminism and touches our hearts.
Vishnu has unburdened himself in this collection with all his creative and
stylistic skills and therefore for years to come this collection would be
seen as a modern and progressive benchmark for the blooming field of Goa’s
enriching Marathi poetry.

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