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Daya Pawar

A Marathi author who shocks the reader to the core with his frank exposition of horrific reality

Birth: 15th September 1935

Dagadu Maruti Pawar also known as Daya Pawar was a leading Dalit (belonging to lowest social class in India) litterateur. He handled various form of literature such as poetry, prose, autobiographical writing and light prose.

Daya Pawar was born in Dhamangav, a village in Ahmednagar district. He grew up and made his way into literature fighting the odds created by extreme poverty and the harshness of the oppressive caste system. After associating with the Maharashtra Bouddha Sahitya Sabha and the Pragat Sahitya Sabha since 1968, he became an active member of the Dalit movement in literature. He completed his education whilst working as a laboratory assistant in a veterinary college in Parel, Mumbai. He started his literary career through contributing articles to the periodical Asmitadarsha.

Although he earned fame through his autobiographical prose work Baluta that talks about the harsh realities of the caste system in India, poetry was his forte. He gave expression to the oppression of the Dalits through his verse.

Shilekhali haat hota, tari nahi phodla hambarda,
Kiti janmachi kaid, kuni nirmila ha kondvada

(the hand was crushed under a stone, yet no outcry was heard
How many generations of imprisonment? Who created this prison?)

With controlled yet effective verses like the above from his first collection of poems Kondvada, he voiced the atrocities and oppression faced by generations of the Dalit. Published in 1974, Kondvada earned him a literary award from the State.

Baluta published in 1978 created ripples in the literature circles and earned him many awards at all levels, including one from the Ford Foundation. It got translated into several languages. Baluta is a story by Dagdu Pawar as narrated to the more literate Daya Pawar, both of who are personas of the author. The novel recounts the experiences of an untouchable struggling for a peaceful existence, mentally tormented but incapable of retaliation in word and deed. The strengths of the book are the simple, straightforward and to-the-point portrayal and a transparent realistic illustration of the ethos around him. The book shook Marathi society and was a critical success in both Marathi and in its Hindi translation, but received considerable anti-Dalit blowback for its frank exposition. This book created a new genre in Marathi literature. Many autobiographical books talking about harsh experiences hard realities were written after Baluta.

What is special about Daya Pawar is his use of language which is not merely that of revolt but of a deeply introspecting analytical intellectual.

Among his other famous works are Chavdi and Dalit Jaanivaa which are two of his compilation of articles, and Vittal a collection of short stories. He wrote the screenplay for Jabbar Patel’s film Dr. Ambedkar. He was appointed with the National Film Development Corporation. Pawar won the prestigious Padmashri award from the Government of India.

Pawar’s writing’s reflect his active participation in the social, cultural and literary movements on the national level, his avid following of foreign literature, analytical and contemplative thinking, unwavering stance, deep understanding and empathy towards social happenings and issues. His work was highly effective. He received some amount of recognition by way of awards. But due to oppressive circumstances, he suffered mentally and physically in his personal life. It is this perennial suffering that comes through sharply in his writings. One of his poems gives us a feel for his suffering –

Dukhaana gadgadtaanaa he zhaad me paahilela
Tashi yaachi mule kholvar boudhivrukshaasaarkhi
Boudhivrukshaalaa phula tari aali
He zhaad saaryaa rutut kolpun gelela
Dhamani dhamanit phutu paahnaaryaa yaatanaa
Mahaarogyaachyaa botsanssarkhi zadleli paane
He khod kasla? Phandiphandila jakhadleli kubdi
Maran yet naahi mhanun marankalaa sosnaara
Dukhaana gadgadtaanaa he zhaad me paahila

(I have seen this tree tremble in pain
Albeit the tree has deep roots like the Bodhi tree
The Bodhi tree atleast bore flowers
This tree though is withered in all seasons
Pain trying to burst through its every pore
Leaves withered like those of a leper’s fingers
What is this disease? Crutches hung on every branch
Death does not befall and so bearing the pains of death
I have seen this tree tremble in pain…)

The great litterateur P. L. Deshpande has this to say about BalutOn reading this book the cataract of blind traditions stuck to out eyes that makes us unaware of facts will melt away and in the tears that fill our eyes on seeing this horrifying reality will emerge new rays of hope. Reader will then seek to be more humane henceforth in life. What else is the intent of all good literature? Creating new kinship among mankind and free the society from artificial and vexing bonds, right? The same can be said for all of Pawar’s literature.

Daya Pawar, a sensitive writer who effectively lent his readers an insight into his experiences through his writings, passed away in September 1996.

Death: 20 September 1996



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