'Only economics changes society'
Seated in their room at one of the better hotels in Chandrapur, Vasant Dahake, a poet, critic, teacher and a novelist looks back at his time spent in the tribal district nostalgically, along with his wife Prabha Ganorkar, also a writer. They emphasise the need for festivals in small towns rather than metros and rue the lack of depth in Marathi literature.
Known for his collection of poems such as Yogabhrashta (1972) (translation - , Shubha-vartaman (1987) and Shunah-shepa (1996), Dahake also wrote novels and co-edited a school-level Marathi lexicon, Shaleya Marathi Shabdakosh (1997), and jointly compiled an encyclopaedia of Marathi literature, Sankshipta Marathi Vangmayakosh (1998).
“The youth in Mumbai are already disconnected. But the engineering students, who are volunteering for the sammelan, will take away something from this meet,” said Ganorkar.
“The literary atmosphere and availability of books during the sammelan attracts people from nearby areas,” added Dahake, a Sahitya Akademi awardee.
While speaking of issues plaguing the region, such as naxalism and environmental degradation, he said the festival would provide a platform for them to go beyond the “local” level. “These platforms allow the people to be heard at state level,” said Dahake.
When asked if he misses the influence of life in Chandrapur in his writing, he said, “Roots play an important part in creativity but it is psychological. Now even these villages have been turned into small cities and no longer have the peace that they used to,” said Dahake.
He added it was unlikely writers could initiate a change. “Our literature or popular culture neither goes to the bottom of the problem nor represents stark reality because they want to please masses,” said Ganorkar.
“Changing the society is a long and a slow process,” sighed Dahake as Ganorkar added rather matter-of-factly. “History has shown that society changes for economic reasons and nothing else really.”