ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Thinking of Surve

Narayan Surve was a "people's poet" who was a shade romantic about his faith in communist ideology. His romanticism carried within it the principle of Karuna. The pain of the exploited life and the exploitative society was there forever present in his writing.

It is very difficult to say what the contemporary Marathi poetry lost in Narayan Surve’s death. The state government’s 21-gun salute on his last journey in a way summed up the situation.

The ruling people were vaguely aware of the greatness of the man but were clearly uncertain what that greatness c onsisted in. In such a situation the gun salutes serve a purpose. It is all a matter of huge but undecipherable noise! When the legendary actor Niloo Phule died not so long ago, a village on the Satara-Kolhapur highway decided to have a huge placard with his picture and just two words. The words were beautiful in their utter simplicity, just two words. Motha Manus (“A great man”). You can see it even now as you leave Pune on the highway to Kolhapur. There are no admirers mentioned. We live in times when a placard announcing the 50th or 60th birthday of our leaders with a 100-odd signatures adorns the streets of Maharashtra towns. In contrast this placard mourning the death of Niloobhau is without a single signature. In a sense it is a voice of the people, that too of the unknown people. In the case of Surve the politicals decided to make sure that the common people do not appropriate the tribute-giving to a gen uinely people’s poet who stayed away all his life from things like gun salutes. And they succeeded. Surve could not escape official salutes. He had to take them in his death. The entire government leadership was there to say goodbye to him. In fact, the establishment made the farewell to Surve typically its job. Of course, one cannot complain. The only danger the establishment faced was the possibility that Surve might suddenly rise up and protest even louder than the guns against this honour he had not asked for. He would have probably said, “I am a communist and a working p eople’s poet. As such in today’s Maharashtra I am used to neglect, at times even c ontempt. So don’t try and make up for it.”

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