Poet and editor Manglesh Dabral passed away at the age of 72 at AIIMS Delhi due to Covid-19 related complications. In Hindi literature Manglesh Dabral is widely known as a poet of great sensitivity who gave voice to the main marginalized sections of society. He is also known for his well-written prose, his journalism, his invaluable work as an editor and editorial consultant.
He could never forget his roots in his native village of Kafalpani, in Tehri Garhwal district of Himalayan region. Some of his most memorable poems are about these roots. As someone who grew up in beautiful hill villages, in his poetry he wonders how anyone can leave this to come to the big city, and then wonders even more why he himself never went back! He was the village boy who won success in city ( he got the Sahitya Academy award for his poetry anthology titled Ham Jo Dekhte Hain) but wasn’t celebratory about this at all, getting lost in the memories of his earlier village life.
While any other poet may have liked to write about a celebrated singer giving a greater performance, Manglesh would instead look carefully at the neglected musician standing at the margins in the accompanying orchestra and write a poem about him!
Other collections of his poems include Pahar Par Lalten( Lantern in the Hills), Ghar ka Raasta ( The Way Back Home), Awaaz Bhi Ek Jagah Hai ( A Space for Voice ) and Naye Yug Ke Shatru ( Enemies of a New Era). All are widely cherished, much acclaimed books.
In Hindi you cannot earn a livelihood by writing poems, and Manglesh worked in various editorial positions in newspapers and journals for his livelihood. This included his earlier work in Hindi Patriot and his work as an editorial consultant in National Book Trust.
However he really came into his own in senior editorial positions in Jansatta. He had responsibility for Ravivari, the Sunday Magazine section, and later for the editorial page. He and his team encouraged a lot of creativity and young new writers as well experienced veterans took pride in contributing articles, short stories and poems to Jansatta in those days.
Manglesh Dabral had very deep commitment to a society based on equality and justice and to communal harmony. In particular he was very firmly committed to fighting communal and divisive forces. Amidst many difficulties he remained true to his convictions.
He was a simple man and a good friend, keen to encourage creativity and commitment. There are many young writers who owe a lot to his encouragement. He was also known for his great editing skills. His cabin in the Indian Express Building was a very friendly place where many writers ( including this one) would be sure of finding a pleasant welcome and the offer of a cup of tea.
I first came in touch with him as a contributor to Jansatta but over the years we also became good friends. In the course of several long years of writing for him, I do not remember a single occasion of any tension between us. Sometime when some controversial article could not be decided on for a long time, he would handle this too in a friendly tone. Let us look at what new article you have brought, while we deliberate about the earlier one a little longer, he would say with a disarming smile. When I started writing short stories and poems in Hindi, I got my first encouragement and acceptances from him.
When he was no longer in this editorial position, I rang him one day and we spoke for a long time . At the end of this conversation I said, I really miss you as an editor Manglesh Ji.
I will now miss you all my remaining life, Manglesh Ji.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives. His recent book on survival issues and people’s response titled Planet in Peril has been published by Vitasta, Delhi.