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I Want to Destroy Myself

By Malika Amar Shaikh

Click here to buy I Want to Destroy Myself

And then came February 1974.

To get hot scoops for Ranangan, Anil-bhaiyya had to get around. And so he landed up at a meeting of a new political organization called the Dalit Panthers at Worli on February 6. The elections were fast approaching. These new young Dalit leaders were hot-heads, their ideas inflammatory. A new energy was moving among them. At base, the Dalit Panther movement was the brainchild of the fantastic Namdeo Dhasal.

He was a friend of Anil-bhaiyya. He would wear a necklace of big pearls and wander everywhere. He looked like a goat about to be offered to the gods or a bullock that had been decorated for Pola. His trousers were of many colours, patched together from various pieces of cloth, as a quilt might be.

At this time, a violent angry organization called the Black Panthers had been started in America. This was a movement to take by force the civil rights that White America had denied them. This was the basic idea on which Namdeo Dhasal based his Dalit Panthers. J. V. Pawar also helped. People were gathered by beating on thalis. In the next six months, a group of angry young men like Raja Dhale came together. Some sympathetic Socialist leaders also offered them support.

In general, the Left made much of the Dalit Panthers. Perhaps they hoped to take these useful young men under their wing. That was it. The Dalit Panthers became a political party. The newspapers wanted to destroy it and so they praised it to the skies.

They called their first public meeting around the elections. And of course, there was trouble at the meeting. The police were out in full force. Cases were filed against the party for the obscene and abusive speeches that were made—these were the abuses that they piled upon the ruling classes, their perverted behaviour and decadent ways.

A warrant was put out for Namdeo Dhasal. As usual, he had slipped away after making his speech. He made contact with Anil-bhaiyya. They came home with two or three other men.

Namdeo was extraordinarily good-looking compared to the men around him, a rough sort, tall, thin but with a strong body. He was dark but his features were chiselled, cruel, arrogant. As opposed to this, a pair of laughing eyes that seemed capable of love. His laugh rang out free, joyous, without guile. His behaviour showed self-confidence, arrogance, the commanding presence of a general.

I only saw him that day. We were not introduced. Anil-bhaiyya was in a hurry to file on this hot issue and they were both immersed in the interview. The interview was in full swing. He came over again a few days later. He didn’t say much and that made me angry.

Who did he think he was? Other young men fell all over themselves to talk to me, and this one? I knew he was a poet. I had read Golpitha. I hadn’t understood much of it but in the poems that I had understood, what came across clearly was his power. There was something enigmatic and terrible and magnetic all at once. The poems drew you in. It was as if some carnivorous animal was lurking inside them and its claws would reach out and score your body…

***

…Namdeo began to push for an early wedding. When Didi told him that I could not marry until I finished my BA, he began to calculate how many days there were in four years. Then one day, he got annoyed.

‘If you won’t marry me now,’ he threatened, ‘I’ll marry someone else.’

I got angry too. We began to argue. When I decided to break off with him, he appeared the next day and tried a different approach; this time he was all lovey-dovey and I melted. We fixed a date. He had been to prostitutes often in the past. And when he got the clap, he’d taken treatment as well. But he was still afraid to lay hands on me.

After the wedding date had been fixed, Didi went to Pune and Aai went to Boghegaon on some farm work. He told me, ‘It’s fun to do it before the wedding. Afterwards, it becomes a matter of routine.’

I said nothing. He kept talking. I tried to explain. I did not know much about what happened between a man and a woman. He became impatient. I was shy.

Didi’s brother-in-law Shirish was at home. We were all there. Latif-bhaiyya (Namdeo’s friend), Namdeo, me and Shirish. We went out for a film and a meal. That was the first time I tasted beer. I began to fly a little. We went home and were sitting together in the room when he asked:

‘Giving?’

‘What?’

‘Your womanhood.’

And before I could answer, he had his hand over my mouth.

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