The Voice of the Last by Praveen Gadhvi, Delhi: Yash Publications, 1st edition, pages 72, price 175/- ISBN-81-89537-28-8

Dalit literature is a developing branch of Indian literature and especially in English that has represented a distinct level of pride and sophisticated creativity in literature and if we look the Gujrati  Dalit Literature Academy of today, we will find that it is developing each day and is unfolding its wings to reach to a wider circle of English readers by translating or motivating the translator some of its literature and the present volume is an additional venture in this stream. Dr. Rupalee Burke significantly remarks:

The book under review carries 50 poems by Gadhvi wherein the poet has attacked the chiefly evils of inequality of color and class and untouchability, advocated the philosophy of Buddha and Gandhi and by exhibiting the age-old predicament of Dalit community. The urge of poet is equality and eradication of these evil from the society and bring about a change in the entire social system and mentality of the people.

In the foreword of the book, Rupalee Burke has raised a very debatable topic by questioning:

Is literature written only by born Dalit writers truly authentic Dalit Literature?

And her own quoting Mohan Parmar’s observation is justifiable that the fourth category of Dalit Literatures comprises non Dalit writers like Praveen Gadhvi among others who do not write for the sake of it but do so after having been shaken to the roots by exposure of Dalit pains and agonies as well as atrocities and injustices suffered by them and her own adding remark completes the answer that ‘these writers cherish the experience of dealing with Dalit themes i.e. the Dalitization of their creativity.’ (VI) But the poet’s assertion is- ‘That He knows better where the shoe pinches.’ And says again to his friends in conversational poem-‘I do agree friends’ and with a sound logic asserts-

I cried for the morn in my childhood, / but never cried for slice of bread, Sahil. / I do agree friends that only he whose shoe pinches knows best. (37)

The book is divided into two sections; the first section has poems of mixed themes. Poems like ‘I Am the History of this Nation’, ‘Soliloquy of the Untouchable Shakuntala’, ‘Brainwash’, ‘The Untouchable Sita’, ‘Salutes’ and ‘Religious Scriptures’ are written on the background of ancient Biblical references and character in which the poet castigates those old age customs and traditions and our ancient scriptures even when he says:

I came to city from the village/ I entered the Church discarding the religion got by birth/I changed my name in the court of the registrar/ I changed caste in my working place. / Even though you recognized and ridiculed one. / You spat on me with hatred. / O you are really omniscient. / You are a scholar of sculptures of Vedas and Puranas.’ (34)

And his tone gets more poignant and sharp when he says in an autobiographical tone:

When we wanted to read, study and comprehend/ the religious sculptures, / They prevented us. / They cut off our thumbs. / They beheaded our ancestors, like Shambuk/ They snatched the armour and earring from Karna. / They cursed us to be in oblivion. (43)

The second section of the book deals with Gandhian feelings. The poet’s deep respect Gandhi and Gandhian is visible in most of the poems. He remembers Gandhi and tries to redefine his ideology in modern context. Gandhi who was an age and a thought of every Indian once, is now so deshaped, deformed and devastated by even Gandhian people i.e. the so called white robed leaders of the Nation as well as the people sitting under big statue of mahatma Gandhi, that they (people) need more Nadirshahs than saints like Gandhi and he sees aright when he says:

History had passed with distinction Lenin—Mao and Gandhi, but we reexamined them, and declared fail.” (63)

But Gadhvi’s poetic creativity is never pessimistic nor fully defected or dismayed. He has found a positive stream in Nelson Mandela (As the incarnation of Gandhi), so it can clearly be stated that Praveen Gadhvi in his poems in which most of the poems are in conversational tone has succeeded in revitalizing the Dalit sensibility of Gujarat as well as whole India and has successfully said what he wishes to. I wish him all the best for such creative endeavour.

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