Poetry By Indian Women…
Book: NINE INDIAN WOMEN POETS
Poets: Tara Patel, Eunice de Souza, Imtiaz Dharker, Kamala Das, Mamta Kalia, Melanie Silgardo, Charmayne D’Souza, Sujatha Bhatt, Sunita Agarwal
Reading a book of poems can be taxing for most of us especially when we just want to delve into a story, an emotion and then pack up. The common stereotype image of poetry is that the poet tends to use frivolous language with soaring similes and illusionary imagery to compose a poem. But, this particular collection of poems written by nine women poets puts this widely misunderstood notion to rest. I particularly chose this book to review for three reasons. Firstly, the poems are composed by nine ‘Indian women’ – a designation that at least I share (being a poet myself). Secondly, the emotions and issues dealt with in the poems in this collection come very close to what ordinary women go through. And thirdly, the language used to convey the thoughts, feelings and reflections is fairly simple, something that a person not very used or interested in reading poetry can understand and identify with.
Take for example Tara Patel’s poem ‘Woman,’ where the first few lines express the kind of situation that most women go through. She says:
A woman’s life is a reaction
to the crack of a whip.
She learns to dodge it as it whistles
but sometimes, it lands on the thick,
distorted welt of her memory….
She also talks about loneliness that many women experience due to an overrated or underrated life which is depicted simply and realistically in her poem, ‘Request.’
Sometimes for old times sake
you should look me up.
Have lunch with me, I’ll pay the bill…
All at once you feel like laughing at the thought expressed and also realize the irony hidden between the lines.
The poem, ‘The Road’ by Eunice De Souza reminds me of my mother when the lines speak:
I clutched Sister Flora’s skirt
and cried for my mother
who taught across the road.
Sister Flora is dead.
The school is still standing
I am still learning
to cross the road…
Ordinary issues like how to spend a Sunday comes up in one of these poems. Sundays can be boring if you are too bothered about how you are going to spend the holiday. Mamta Kalia describes Sunday emotions so well that you almost feel like soaking in the thoughts expressed.
I wonder at the emptiness
Of this Sunday and of all Sundays.
It was never like this
When you were here.
We’d rise late,
sip each other’s tea,
all in a few hours.
We’d go places, visit friends, eat bhelpuri.
We’d come back, make love again, call it a day…
Imtiaz Dharker talks about living the life of a minority. It needs guts, hope and more than anything else, a sense of self-respect to do this in a society that searches for an opportunity to put you down. The thoughts expressed in the poem are beautiful and painful. In ‘Minority’ Imtiaz says:
I don’t fit
like a clumsily translated poem,
like food cooked in milk of coconut
where you expected ghee or cream
the unexpected aftertaste
of cardamom or neem…
And so I scratch, scratch
through the night, at this
growing scab of black on white.
Everyone has the right
to infiltrate a piece of paper.
A page doesn’t fight back….
Finally, who can ignore Kamla Das? I remember reading her autobiography, ‘My Story’ and feeling so utterly depressed with humanity. All at once, her piece of writing aggravated me and also impressed me.
In ‘An Introduction’ she says:
…..Don’t write in English, they said,
English is not your mother tongue.
Why not leave Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queerness
All mine, mine alone. It is half English, half
Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest…
Even today, when I am distressed and find it difficult to express myself verbally or in prose, poetry comes to my rescue. I am sure if you read this collection of poems, you will end up wondering,
“How did the poet know this is how I felt?” :)