By Aminah Sheikh
Born to Communist parents Amar Shaikh and Kusum Jaykar, Malika Amar Shaikh was raised in an inspiring environment at a time when history was being staged – Maharashtrian politics of the 1960s. Cushioned by her father, a legendary Marathi folk singer and trade union leader, Malika, who was an ailing child lived the world through books. And, her only outlet was her poetry.
Hirve, hirve gawat, phule bhovti jamat
Jaate mi, maaghaari yete mi…ramat, gamat
(In the green green foliage, the flowers dance
There will I follow, there will I prance.)
She had written her first poem at the age of seven. Riding on the loving shoulders of her father, a respectable man, Malika floated through the art, cultural and political circles as a school-going girl, observing and silently soaking in all that was on offer.
Published by Speaking Tiger, I Want to Destroy Myself: A Memoir by Malika Amar Shaikh, translated from Marathi by author, poet and translator Jerry Pinto, tells a tale of despair. The original autobiography Mala Udhhvasta Vhaychay was published in 1984. The book takes the reader on a journey of a girl, from being young, self-aware and with dreamy eyes, to a woman choking under the burden of her own choice. The choice of following her heart and loving a man who she believed would be her true companion.
When the man of her dreams Namdeo Dhasal, co-founder of the radical Dalit Panthers, is introduced to the reader, you are bound to fall in love just as she did. So honest is her memoir that it will jolt you and leave you wondering – how did she pull through!
I Want to Destroy Myself has been beautifully crafted by Malika as she shares some intense experiences in a matter-of-fact manner. From loving the rain as a girl, sitting with her family with a book in hand, to wading in almost waist-deep water with her husband during her menstrual cycle and ending up at a friend’s doorstep for shelter — one of the many moments when she swallows her self-respect — the book tells many stories. She arouses raging emotions in the reader that make the book a heavy read.