By Abhimanyu Singh:
The revolutionary poet Vidrohi is no more.
I first met him many years ago, in 2002 or 2003, soon after I became a JNU student. My centre, the School of Languages, Literature and Culture Studies, was close to the Library Canteen where Vidrohi, an ex-student of the Hindi centre, hung out often, seeking some spare change from students on a daily basis for a cup of tea or a small snack. Close to the Library Canteen was a ditch where he slept; he had a blanket for the winters. It is generally believed that Vidrohi was rusticated by the administration in 1983 for participating in a student movement; the other theory is that he could not complete his MA in Hindi and dropped out. I remember him telling me about the theories of Emmanuel Kant in our first meeting which was Greek to the ignorant me but I liked his spirit and we struck up a friendship. He wanted me to be active in student politics but I was soon disenchanted with it and I remember him expressing his regret when I told him that I was not cut out for it. However, he seemed to understand in his own gentle and intuitive way why I wanted out.
It never struck me then but it seems like a great cruelty now on the part of everyone involved to let him sleep in a ditch and beg for his meals and tea. While the rest of us had our warm rooms to retreat at nights and access to regular meals in the mess, Vidrohi’s lifestyle never seemed to be a matter of concern for anyone, least of all the student groups. I am informed that lately, he had the option to sleep in the office of the JNU Students Union and that he could eat regularly from a canteen in the campus but these measures seem like ways to make up for the years of neglect and disdain that came his way.
To make matters worse, Vidrohi was not an easy person. He hated being patronised, as I understood from my association with him – he once chided me for asking him loudly how much money he needed and accused me of publicising my charity – and he also had a very foul tongue when he was in the mood. He would sit at one of the dhabas or canteens and go on cursing everything and everybody around him. Maybe in this way he expressed his disenchantment at a campus that wanted to appropriate his revolutionary credentials without expending much in return. Those who knew him tell me that there were in fact several attempts to drive him out of the campus for his cantankerous ways but he managed to foil them somehow.
I am told by others who knew him that post the publication of his poetry collection, Nayi Kheti, he came into some money and his financial condition eased. Also, he himself told me some time back that his daughter had cleared a competitive exam and that must have helped the matters too.
I saw him the other day outside the UGC, the second last time that I saw him and the last time we spoke to each-other. I told him that I wanted to translate his poems into English and he was fine with that. We were supposed to meet and discuss more but the last time I saw him, I was in a rush and we could only exchange pleasantries.
I hope that following his death, a trust is formed in his name that can assure that his family does not suffer on any account. This is the least we, JNU’s alumni can do for the man whose words gave us the glory we still don’t truly deserve.
Rest In Peace.