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contemporary marathi poetry in translation


These are my selected translations of the contemporary Marathi poetry. Most of them appeared in Live Update: An Anthology of Recent Marathi Poetry edited and translated by me.





Mangesh Kale (b.1966) holds post graduate degrees in Hindi and Mass Communication and Journalism. He is into printing and publication. He assists in editing `Shabdavedh’. His collection of poems `Mangesh Narayanrao Kalechi kavita’ (2001) is brought out by Lokvangmay Gruh. The poems given here have appeared in Shabdavedh and Abhidha Nantar. His next collection will be published in the near future.


I)                   While Prompting an Actor stuck in a Soliloquy



After you grate a person,

he becomes a pumpkin

or if his skin is as hard as a bark of a tree

and that the pen leaks on the paper at any time

and spills profusely on the blank-paper-like life

 -khoon ke mafik


If one doesn’t have anything with him,

he properly intones Jana gana mana

and by letting out a jet of torrents of the colossal living

he wishes to relieve himself

even if one drives the nail of this possibility

deep down into this mediocre culture

even then he can’t escape his predicament

of painting the face or receiving claps .


An actor is a flimsy thing.

Even after knowing this the prompter does not wait for anyone.

He is ecstatic.

When the flimsy actor receives an applause

suppose if the tip of the sharpened pencil

turns out to be as thick as a man

the vortex of fantasy may whirr as much as it wants to

but an actor has to come back to man’s house


The actor reacts to himself in the four walls of the house

or the walls prompt him

with silence.

The actor is a thing

or an object `a’.

Physically he has some sort of existence.

Even if one accepts this fact

he needs a text :

the text that can’t survive without the chaos of characters on the stage

or the one which dissolves in human traffic.

The actor can’t go beyond the categories of humanness,

even then the actor manages to go beyond man

the actor is an ongoing diurnal   process .

If the audience can accept this principle,

how serenely can the actor live.


The actor is lost, lost in soliloquy.

Man is lost, lost in the actor.

The prompter’s existence thins out in these two entities

and the actor continues unruffled

to present himself as a human being.


The actors are thronging the stage.

With their paper arrows of words

they want to aim at each other.

This won’t of course hurt anyone

but it results in the audience moistening their eyes.

This is the trick which the director has taught the actors.

The director doesn’t come on the stage.

He stands on the invisible platform and plants words:

the words which don’t have any smell

or whose utterance doesn’t wake up the audience

even then with the quiver of paper arrows

slung on his shoulders

the actor continues to go before the audience.


II)                A Hymn of the Left-handed Way


A cattle flea breaks out of the word.

All the four Vedas concealed under ant’s armpits.

The poet looks for the phases of the fifth Veda

in the sodden crowd of general ward.

A kid born due to a vow to the god,

a midwife is lighten and eased by a pregnant woman

and wooden  biro catches hold of the poet by ear

and makes him write the alphabet,

 Now language will come into the poets’ naked magical snare,

Only the first letter has to be written,


The house is feeling icy.

So the man is getting warmer by becoming a heater.


Man’s ice is formed

in woman’s defroster.

The schoolchildren are taking the bottles of wines to the school

as if they are mineral water bottles .

The blackboard runs after the chalk

to get written on

and the god’s duster has turned useless .

One can’t wipe anything with this bloke



As he cant take

the line that have appeared in front of his glasses,

the poet is making confessions in the poetry book,


O dear Radha! It is difficult to become Krishna these days

and the music of flute doesn’t work in Gokul these days either.

How many ailing Kanhas are in a queue

standing staggered and misspelt?

The bid of wholesale milk has come down

from the Age of Silver to the Age of Market

available for a song.



Many of our generations

are gushing out of balloons.

The coat of everyone’s Image is being formed

on the pan of Imagination.

Man will enter the mammoth vulva of language

and reach right up to the sea

where language has turned salty and wet

without being uttered.


III)             From the Conjunctional Jungle of the Story of one’s Life


There is that one empty room.

There is that one empty man.

There is that one empty near him.

There is that one empty left empty

who is never full

who never overflows

who is never full up to the brim.

The one whose fullness is subtracted easily from emptiness.

One who’s constant desire to be full

Creeps through the empty




Once you accept the fact that he is a biography

the pages of present past and future

have to be read.

Suppose he has kicked a donkey hard

on one of the pages of past

or on the other page of present

the donkey has given him a resounding kick

on his ass,

then in the future  he is riding on the donkey’s back,

going with immaculate love

through the conjunctional jungle of  the story of his life.

One has also to read this way

while leafing through a biography.




He is tired of continuous walking.

The pages have turned brittle by continuous turning,

without putting a finger on the page.

The page is tired of continuous walking.

He has walked across the pages.

These descriptions are officially correct.

To verify these, what is the need of reading

A bania’s  biography?


Write briefly.

When hoping to find something from book’s barrack

a poet a writer or a similar biographer

or any official artist etc.,

always or sometimes

frenziedly flips through the pages

then what conclusions he has drawn:


e.g. behind a handful of Marathi writer’s novels

is one Western novel

or behind the fat and famous poetry collection

are many lyrics  the  poet writer painter artist etc.,

has read before

or the milkman’s bill or the newspaperman or similar creditors list


Biographies, calendar’s square-wise

keep spilling into the squares of national holidays

for days together.

Then the biography manages to stretch out its legs.

It is overwhelmed and breathes freely.

Then the biography has a face.

The face has a name,

then such and such address phone pin code and so on,

In short that face has a proper postal address,

One can’t reach any biography’s courtyard

directly by an auto rickshaw

where its breath is being choked in the squares of letters

even after the calendar’s page is overturned




Nitin Kulkarni (b.1960) is architect by profession. He got his B.Arch Degree from BKPS college of Architecture, Pune.  His collection, from which the poems selected here are taken, is `Sagla kasa agdi safeaina’ (2001) published by Lokvangmay Gruh, Mumbai.


I) As Tall As I am


A nail

as tall as I am

has been driven into me

right through the centre of my being.

It has gone in from my feet

and entered the palm of my mind.

One leg in the air

One has a buffer of helplessness even then.

I can see your face encompassing the entire sky

in the mirror of memory.


Just as the values collapse

words get more solid

and poetry gets walled in:

this is the rule, isn’t it?

Just like

in order to turn out finest doctors

it is necessary to turn out

finest of patients

and so on and so forth.


II)  I Open My Eyes in the Morning


I open my eyes in the morning.


 Step out of the bed.


Drink tea


Read paper.


Days open nights close.


Auspicious moments days holidays years leaves travels birth

Saved saved saved saved saved saved saved


III)              Hats Off


Hats off to my shoes waiting for my next orders.

Hats off to my city which bangs against my forehead in the evening.

One hears heavenly music one hears the world coughing.

Hats off to both the ears.

A bedridden person fights against death

A person not bedridden fights against life

Hats off to both the souls.

Exactly similar hair has come up

On both right and left cheek

Hats off to nature’s symmetry.

A person who can hear is mad, and the sane is stone deaf.

Hats off to nature’s lost balance

Hats off to natures missed beat




Varjesh Solanki works as with an engineering firm in Mumbai. His collection `Varjesh Ishwarlal Solankichya Kavita’ (2002) is published by Abhidha Nantar Publication the poems given here are from the said collection. Besides other prizes, he has won `Vasant Puraskar’ for his collection given by Vasant Sansthan., Savantwadi, Goa.  His mother tongue is Gujarati


I) Poems of Advertisements



About films: wanted boys and girls for a new TV serial,

smart, young, having a good command over language, contact us

with your photo for the screen test. Earn! Earn! Earn! Ten thousand a month.

 A golden opportunity for the unemployed. Education no bar. A company

 with American base wants sales boys and sales girls for door to door marketing.

Meet with your bio-data. Vasai: the second Konkan. Green heaven restaurant

just five minutes from the station. Recognized by Sidco. Twenty four water supply.

With ultra modern amenities. Loan facility available. Booking open. Are you depressed?

Take two pills of super deluxe before sleep and experience the power and strength

which you once had. Internet marriage: 45/55 Maratha caste

fill up online forms. Regarding the change of names: I, vithya dagdo gaitonde

 from today onwards will be called vikas dagdo gaitonde as per

Maharastra gazette no. xxxx dated xx/xx/xx. sanju, please come back

from wherever you are your mummy and papa are waiting for you. Entire Patil family.

solve the crossword no.514 please don’t send it to our office address or try to contact

our office regarding the same.


Prayer can change your life. Meet Baba Roshan Bangali. You will get

Any job you want please contact at xxxxx a choice in your hands.

Security in your hands. Swadeshi apnao! Desh bachao! Lost: a brown coloured

resin bag along with mark sheets and leaving certificates. If found please return to

the address mentioned below. You will be suitably rewarded. Get rid of alcohol addiction

without bringing the drunkard here or informing him. Restore the peace in the house.

`Vada Pav' a drama about the contemporary political situation. Actors: the usual ones.

date xx/xx/xx  evening 6.30 pm Azad Maidan. Abortion in just Rs.90/- you will be

back by evening.  Virar. Akkalkot Maharaj Bhajani Mandal at 7.45 . Jai hind.



You will get fresh sugarcane juice here. As this wall belongs to the railways

Don’t spew on it or urinate or soil it. If anyone is found doing the same

that person will be liable for punishment under the railways law. Opening

shortly xx coaching classes. Success guaranteed. Vada Pav 3.50/- airtime 1.49/-

filter water avoid grub.  jo cahe ho jaye coca cola enjoy.  Use nirodh with maids

prevent aids. Don’t park the vehicles in front of this gate. Hawkers prohibited.

no stick bills.

We will accept old newspapers, brass, copper, aluminum waste and torn notes here.

xx road was paved with tar due to the efforts of our indefatigable leader

of our party shri.xxxx.

the appreciative citizens are requested to regard this.

yeh davakhana ees jagah pay tees saal say chaloo hai.

Wanted boys and girls for packing in a plastic company. No conditions

About education or experience. Meet us in working hours. Ground floor

Alley no.6

Stove/ burner repairer Raju has gone to his village

so this shop will remain closed for a month.


II) About the bolt on the door of public lavatory which doesn’t work from inside


About the bolt on the door of public lavatory

which doesn't  work from inside,

you cannot complain anywhere

instead what one experiences

is intimidation in its noises.

One sees

an incomprehensible collage

hanging from the wall of an art gallery

in the engraving on

the walls of lavatory


as if it were a signature campaign

started by the local activists in order to obtain

or reject some official regulation.

One sees the zigzag spew paintings

of  paan or tobacco spray on the tiles


one sees all of a sudden

an excellent couplet of Ghalib

in true  bambaiya Hindi

as if by forced religious conversion.


When people start stirring or there is flurry outside

then you should understand

that this is the bell tolling for your exit.


III)  A poem included for typesetting by oversight


 When a poem was just about to germinate in me,

on my door landed

a letter from Mr. Editor

“Read the poems you sent me.

Your poems are very raw and crude.

You need to read more deeply and

you need to have wider experience of life

in order to be able to express yourself.

Can't publish you poems. Sorry."


I smack away

the poem like a cockroach

from my body

and step out .

Even here

it seems that even here

you can’t achieve anything without advertisement.




Vasai, Virar : suburbs of Mumbai

Swadeshi apnao! Desh bachao: `use indigenous goods and save the nation’, a slogan

Konkan: south western part of Maharastra known for its greenery.

jo cahe ho ... enjoy : slogan for Coca Cola, enjoy Coca Cola whatever happens.

akkalkot maharaj bhajani mandal : Akkalkot Maharaj, a famous saint. Bhajani Mandal, a troupe of people for singing bhajans or devotional songs

yeh davakhana ... chaloo hai: This hospital runs here from past twenty years

nirodh: condom, a cheap brand by that name.

Vada Pav: a common fast food item

bambaiya Hindi :slang Hindi used in Mumbai





Hemant Divate (b.1967) is the president of a reputed marketing firm in the field of advertising. He brought out critically acclaimed `Abhidha Nantar’ a quarterly devoted to poetry from more than twelve years. His collections are `Chautishi Paryent chya kavita’( Prabhat Prakashan, Mumbai, 2001) and `Thambtaach Yet Nahi’. The collection is also available in English translation entitled `Virus Alert’. It is translated by the famous poet and translator Dilip Chitre. Abhidha Nantar is also into publishing collections of poetry. He has won many prestigious awards like Bharat Bhasha Puraskar, Vishakha Puraskar. email: The translations offered here are mine.


I)       Anxiety

(For Dhullu)


Head overcrowded

with thoughts.

How much can you accommodate

in such a tiny hard-disk?

A worm finds its way

from here to there.

A dread


toward the entire body.

The brain within the brain

listens to

the sound

of palpitations.

From the face however

stares a screensaver.


Within me the data

has gone corrupt.

I am a leaf scraped

from a tree


a book shredded

or am I neglected painting `Myself 2000'

in the contemporary art exhibition in the Jahangir

or am I my own kid

waiting for the balloon

tossed from the sixth floor

to land.


I have crept

into our child

through you.

How exactly

he curses `bhanchod'

or how exactly can he rattle off

the names of the medicines

when he falls ill

-he who had never fallen ill.

Don’t whack him

under the ears.

I m scared

I won't pamper myself.

Just let me think for a while.

Just let me listen to my own voice



his voice on the phone saying `Babaaaaa...'


II)  And even here he gets fucked



You gave me the password

for laughing weeping

living dying

using and getting used

and I became human.




I now live in an e-world

breathing e-air

whose naturalness I no longer trust.

When I take air in

and throw it out,

I hardly realize

when it becomes breath,

Likewise, when I trickle from space

into cyber space

along with the sound of the cursor

and try to reach the given address

I don't find you there.


One more relationship is dragged away

into the junk mail.




You are my e-language.

You are my e.

I exist because you exist.

If you did not exist, I would not have existed.

Because of you now

I have culture.

If you were not there

I would never have got





Your cultural gown

is lifted due to global gust of wind

as I put my finger in your navel

I don't smell of sweat

I get a cultural shock

and I dance enthralled

to your tune.


Now even my gown if blown

and my placenta

all entangled

in e.




I used to fetch from katodya tribal's dwellings

tamarind mango cashew nuts berries

target birds with my sling

and with my school bag abandoned on the bank of river

dive myself happily .

How alive I was then!

or am I debarred as if I never have germinated?

Now I get into this computer software

and grope for the world.

Grope for my culture within the dot coms

and voice my appreciation from a racing car

for the hoarding on the fly-over .

Even today people in moth eaten underwear

and damaged slippers with tin tumblers

in their hands

squat on the public railway tracks

yeh hai India.


The 30 by 20 advertisement of my culture

is really great.




I gape

run into e's:

e mail internet e commerce e banking,


khujli. com, and so on.

This global marketplace


right into our homes.

One for two one for two

sell the old mobile phone at the cost of new

buy maruti at your price

visit the site and be rich.

Cultural convergence of the black and white on

e services free for life time.

Your free address in 10 MB.

You can lay anything in 10MB.

Forward this email to ten more people and be happy!

If you don't you will be unhappy.

No more this fucking business no more.

Mumbai closed, work stopped.

Latest news.

For tomorrow's news today

Log on.


e address e culture e virus e corruption

e illness e here e there

Everywhere e e e e e.

and Hemant Dayanad Divate

no longer belongs to anyone

he belongs only to this e world

only here he has a place.

When he is taken to a nook

and fucked he doesn't say `e..e...e...e..e'

He says ` mommeeee...'



 bhanchod: a common curse, literally sister fucker

Dayawan: a popular film, here reference to a steamy kissing scene between the actors Madhuri Dixit and Vinod Khanna

Jahangir: a prestigious art gallery in Mumbai

Khujli :  itch , Gandmasti : literally `anal fun’

katodya: a tribal community

Samadhi: the ultimate ecstasy during the consciousness of  absolute Truth

Vishkanya: a mythical Poison woman, nourished on poison, believed to be used for royal assassinations in the ancient times.

Yeh hai India: Hindi , this is   India




I)  Before embarking on my autobiography


I futilely wandered all over

looking for all the signs of my being.

I went around collecting all the evidences

of intimacy and distances.


I actually hung a magnifying lens around my neck,

and examined as I passed

each footprint on the road.

I scrutinized every thing that I could lay my hands on

and investigated minutely for fingerprints.


In test tubes, I collected samples

of the air from various places

seeking out the signs of sighs.


I flashed powerful torch lights

to search for the multicolored bits of my dreams

in the dense darkness of hundreds of nights

of my previous births.


I rummaged through thousands of files

for getting exact descriptions;

Bookmarked hundreds of tomes

for reference;

Inspected old photo albums

for a recent picture or a photograph from my childhood.


I even broke into cyberspace

with a hope of coming across a website or two.


I rummaged through all the cabinets of my brain,

 and dug up the heaps and heaps of seconds

slogging hard for the details

I completely squashed Time

I simply crushed my days and nights.


Now on the slow flame of language

I bake my bhakri  by turning it over

before commencing a comprehensive autobiography.







During the riots they looked at my ears

`Seems to be one of us' they said and let me go.


I remembered Karna from the talk about ears

from Karna, I remembered Varna..

I remembered the religious reasons behind the riots.

Houses had different colours

lament after lament .

The vigilant ears of the riots

were falling down here......



Sanjeev Khandekar is a well-known Marathi poet, writer, and visual artist.  His first book Sankalp (1982) was an edited collection of essays by social activists in Maharashtra.It was awarded the Marathi Sahitya Parishad award. His second book Ashant Parva (Season of Unrest) (1992) was novel that has come to be considered a milestone in Marathi literature: it deals with the struggle of constructing a politically sensitive self in post-industrial India. Kavita, a collection of his early poetry was published in 1990, followed by Granthali, the readers' initiative imprint, and have garnered praise from all quarters: Khandekar's idiolect and employment of imagery have inaugurated a new sub-genre, claim many reputed critics. All that I Wanna Do (2005).



Death of the Search Engine

(Error number not given)


Dark as a forest, a gigantic engine

Naked and sprawling

Gaping wide its mouth and

Vomited logic, dry was the slaver.

Search, search, how much I searched

This globe this sky this universe

Processing and information

In the waste bin, cultivating earthworms.

Thus came looking

My agony perpetual

The sky parted its lips

Molten were meanings of my words.

How many stairs have I descended

But forgot all my sums

How shall I turn back now

Someone erased memories of my village.

Where are the rootages, where are my ariel roots

Where are the branches, the flowers, and the fruits?

Nowhere now can I sink my pot,

Inadequate now is my receptacle.

Where is my address, my name too is come away

My village is underwater, to surface in my art

All my numbers and letters

Are a handful of bones and seashells.




He knew exactly where it would hurt the most

For instance, if one punches nose

Or under the eyes or smash the head.

Or you could give a terrific blow

On the neck or throat, like a knife.

Or batter the breast.

Or if one would jab the stomach

Or give a stabbing kick

On the lower abdomen

Even if one would just sharply flick the balls

The pain would surge right up to the head. 

So he punched and smashed to pulp

There and then itself. That’s that.

He made a list of such spots whole-heartedly,

He drew figures of these places.

He painted them

And hung them in the front.

His boss saw them and glared.

Then the boss whisked away the paper

Then the boss crumpled the paper

The boss scrunched up the paper repeatedly.

Then the boss turned it into pulp. And flung it away.

So he made a penis out of it

And put it on his nose like a clown.

The boss said, this is not a cock it is a horn.

People said yes yes it’s a horn.

Then an eye grew on the horn.

It turned 360 degrees and set before the very eyes

Like the setting sun.

‘Market is heartless’ everyone said.

He nodded and so the cock nodded too.

People said see see the horn is nodding.

The boss said, how rude of you to shake your horn at me!

The boss whisked away the cock

Made a ball out of it

And threw it away into the dustbin.

I picked it up in the evening.

I put into the shredder in the routine way.

The shredder ran all the night.

He too ran all the night.

It sliced in the way

It slices

It blew the shreds in air

As it usually does.

As if they were stars in the moon light.

I even gathered them.

Every day I flew each moonbeam like a kite.

The boss said ` Bravo! Bravo! Well done!

I said that’s the secret of promotion



Mohan Borse (1961) is a commerce graduate and works in the State Bank of India, Nashik. His collection of poems Shariravar Tanavgrast won him the prestigious Vishakha Puraskar and a prize from Sarvajanik Vachanalay, Nashik. His recent collection of poems is ` Recyling chi Vel Zhali Ahe’.


We are Introducing a New Concept in Market


We are introducing a new concept in market

Doctor, I have an unmanageable itch.

I have red abrasions

Due to incessant scratching.

I don't know

What epidemic is this?

Everyone is scratching their head, back, hands, feet, loins.

Shopping centres are overflowing with medicines.

The newspapers are abound

With the advertisement of government schemes.

The atmosphere is smoggy

Due to the smoke from sacramental fires.

Can’t even see the person beside us.

All the flats are closing their doors, doctor.

One can only hear the screaming from MTV

One can only hear the slogan ‘Yeh dil mange more'.


The news about the starvation deaths

Is smothered in the corner of newspapers

Now I no longer feel


Of scratching my loins

In the midst of a crowded street




Nitin Arun Kulkarni, born 1967 is a painter and art critic. He has Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (Painting) from Sir JJ School of Arts, Mumbai (1988), and is presently pursuing his MA in Ancient Indian Culture from Mumbai Open University. He has won many awards for his paintings and held many exhibitions in Mumbai and elsewhere. His collection of poems Pahilya Kavita (2001) is brought out by Lokvangmay Gruh, Mumbai. Presently he is working as a full time faculty in National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Mumbai.


The colour of jockey shorts, the last appendage

The chin

Of my jockey shorts

Put out for drying.


Spongy double chin

Below the folds

The putrid fuzz

Of the thighs, holes

The muscles of elastic

Loose and tattered

The deep red colour


The slopes, the waves, the lines

Show the elevations, plains and dells of

The buttock and the member

From the planes to the heights

Just like a map

Of a continent

Folded and set up on the cords

To be dried.




Salil Wagh, born 1967. His collections of poems include Salil Waghchya Kavita and Sadhyachya Kavita. He has translated poems of Samsher Bahadur Singh into Marathi.


The Poem Number Zero


Don’t try to

read this or

make a sense of it

this is a dummy copy

don’t try to read this or ma

ke sense of it

this is a dummy copy don’t try

to read this or make a sense of

it this is a dummy copy don’t try to

read this or make a sense of it this is a dummy copy

don’t try to read or make

a sense of it


this is a dummy

copy don’t try to read this

or make a sense of

it this is a dummy copy

don’t try to read this or make

a sense

of it this is a dummy

copy don’t try to read this or make a sense of it

this is a dummy copy don’t try


ii) Untitled


An evening

Like a journey

From the yield point to the maximum stress

Charted on the graph

Showing the stress-strain relation

Of a loaded wire.


While crossing

all the boundaries of eveningness

There is this haste



Or else one digresses

Even before uttering a word,

Simple glances are interpreted as opinions.

State of spiritual absorption turned into a pond

It wakes up from exceptions.

In the evening when the Word of words sets,

The expanse of meanings open:

It is from here that my story gathers momentum

With all its ultimate material.

I always prefer

To write on a lined paper.

I cannot brace

The open void

Of the blank paper that rushes at me.

I draw the lines if there are none.

The reasons for this

are my fucking handwritings.

They can’t remain alone at equal distance

In a straight-line right from the beginning.

The first letter and the second hardly match.

The curves, the vectors of the strokes

Keep on changing like me even now.

If there is no gravitational pull

My basically itinerant handwriting

Runs at the brisk pace of my brain

Then cracks and disintegrates.

My loving touchy coquettish letters

Dart around madly

They forget to which word they belong.

They become uneasy and edgy

They can’t understand

What are they supposed to do?

They can’t understand their own rhythm of dissolution,

Their own ultimate liberation.

Therefore I always

Decide to write on a lined paper.




Malika Amar Sheikh is a reputed writer in Marathi. Her various collections, including Valucha Priyakar, Mahanagar and Deharutu, have met with wide critical acclaim. She is also well known for her highly controversial autobiography, Mala Udhvasta Vhaychai. A collection of her short fiction and poetry is due to be published later this year.




She doesn’t have arms


                                   Like me


Her vision utterly dead


She stands in a showcase


Frozen stiff


                                   Like me



With difficulty,


She manages to cling


To the rocky robes of culture


Between her legs


And stony lips


Closed tight

                                  Like me


Women in the cities melt


Turn into statues of Venus


A primeval woman


Lets out a stony scream


The city collapses


At her feet


Throwing the sky


In disarray