Poems for Lenin. That was the title of a collection of poems written by Satish Kalsekar, noted Marathi poet, in 1977. His passing way on July 24 is a great loss for the Left movement and literature at the national level because he built bridges with writers from other languages.
His death was widely mourned with tributes flowing in from different quarters in the last four days. The programme began with a lecture by Prof Aizaj Ahmed, noted Marxist thinker and political commentator, on the theme I can’t breathe to reflect the current ethos.
Uday Prakash, noted Hindi writer, recalled his first book Nai Sadi Ke Liye, for a new epoch, was released by Satish Kalsekar at the world book fair in New Delhi in 2008 and his latest book too in 2020 in Kalsekar’s house built in Pen town . Kalsekar built it specially to store his books. Uday Prakash said the house was full of books from basement to the upper floor.
He said Kalsekar’s writing provided a ray of light in these dark times and he also said we need to have a dream, a vision.
Among others joining in paying tributes were Jitenddra Bhatia, Ratnakar Pandey , Rajesh Joshi and Vijay Kumar, noted Hindi writers, Dr Bhalchandra Kango, general secretary of the Communist party of India’s Maharashtra unit, Dr Sudhir Patwardhan, renowned painter, Daulat Hawaldar, a bureaucrat and book lover, Pradnya Pawar, dalit poet, Kumar Ketkar, Rajya Sabha member of the Congress party and noted journalist, Sambhaji Bhagat, noted left wing folk singer, and Marathi writers Bhalchandra Nemade, Jnanpith award winner, Ranganath Pathare, Arjun Dangle, Chandrakant Patil, Nitin Rindhe, Prakash Burte,Ganesh Visputay, Jayaprakash Sawant, Shripad Joshi. Uday Narkar, a member of the editorial board of Maharashtra CPM’s publication Jeevan Marg, said Kalsekar was in a way a Gandhian Marxist, known for his simplicity and frugal habits, he would not even waste a bus ticket, he would use it for writing messages.
Joining in the kavi sammelan, poetry recital, were Hindi poets Arun Kamal, who even recited a poem in Marathi and Kumar Ambuj along with Marathi poets Mallika Amar Shaikh, Varjesh Solanki, Vasant Gurjar, Vasant Abaji Dahake, Prabha Ganorkar
A remarkable aspect of Kalsekar was that he was so friendly, warm and selfless, he forged a bond with numerous people from all strata.
His wife Vidya is now worried about the fate of his vast collectin of books, many of these rare. He was a frugal man but when it came to books he would spend any amount of money. This is a good opportunity for the Left. Such good book collections should be converted into an excellent public library. So much expense on book buying can be saved. The Maharashtra government can also acquire some books for its Central library which it needs to resurrect from godowns where many volumes are dumped.
Kalsekar also played a major role in publishing good books on behalf of Lok Vangmay Griha, a left-wing publishing house and made its book shop at Flora Fountain , now Hutatma Chowk, a big draw for all thinking people.
He was one of the best read writers in the country, he read works from different states, languages, continents. It was an education to read him on books, some of his work is encapsulated in his book Wachanaryachi Rojnishi, diary of a reader , which won the Sahitya Akademi award. It has an excellent foreword by Arun Khopkar, noted film director and writer .
Decades ago when Kalsekar was ill and in hospital I met him there and gave him a copy of Arnold Wesker’s drama trilogy. In the play Chicken Soup with Barley, the character of the Communist mother speaks to her son words which always haunt me. ` All my life I worked with a party that meant glory and freedom and brotherhood. You want me to give it up now? You want me to move to Hendon and forget who I am? If the electrician who comes to mend my fuse blows it instead, so I should stop having electricity? I should cut off my light? Socialism is my light, can you understand that? A way of life. A man can be beautiful. I hate ugly people – I can’t bear meanness and fighting and jealousy – I’ve got to have light. I’m a simple person, Ronnie, and I’ve got to have light and love.”
Kalsekar imbibed the best values of the left wing movement, we will remember him for his light, warmth and love and insights
Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of the book Traffic in the era of climate change, a multidisciplinary work