Saturday, December 4, 2010

Feminine aesthetics

The poem Feminine aesthetics is dedicated to Kamala Das(1934 - 2009) who has authored many autobiographical works and novels, several well-received collections of poetry in English, numerous volumes of short stories, and essays on a broad spectrum of subjects. Her poems are known for their unflinchingly honest explorations of the self and female sexuality, urban life, women's roles in traditional Indian society, issues of post colonial identity, and the political and personal struggles of marginalized people. 

An Introduction
Kamala Das

I don’t know politics but I know the names
Of those in power, and can repeat them like
Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru.
I am Indian, very brown, born inMalabar,
I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one.
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 queernesses
All mine, mine alone.
It is half English, half Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest,
It is as human as I am human, don’t
You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing
Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it
Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is
Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and
Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech
Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the
Incoherent mutterings of the blazing
Funeral pyre. I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair.
WhenI asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me
But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.
The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me.
I shrank Pitifully.
Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.
Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better
Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to
Choose a name, a role. Don’t play pretending games.
Don’t play at schizophrenia or be a
Nympho. Don’t cry embarrassingly loud when
Jilted in love … I met a man, loved him. Call
Him not by any name, he is every man
Who wants. a woman, just as I am every
Woman who seeks love. In him . . . the hungry haste
Of rivers, in me . . . the oceans’ tireless
Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone,
The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and,
Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I
In this world, he is tightly packed like the
Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely
Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns,
It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying
With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,
I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys that are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.

My Poem Feminine Aesthetics is a tribute to Kamala Das who was my inspiration behind this.

From any and every Indian woman’s desk; urban and rural;  yesterday’s and today’s, in the background of patriarchy .....
I was going through the theories of feminism and gynocriticism while writing an article on gender bias and a doubt suddenly occurred to me that the scenario and plight of women are so much the same even now! For so many of us 'modernism' got stuck to cutting the hair short or dancing at a pub or smoking publicly etc etc. How many of us are being able to really create a space of substance for ourselves; a space that's not just feminine but human!

I have come ahead of the 
pestle, mortar, cooking pan;
now my sky is vaster and
I have a storm beneath my feet.
I am a life, an essence, a child of God.
I am worn out perfecting myself straight,
I am weary of being ever careful 
with my dresses and my plaits.
Why do you ask me to fit in, always?
A role, a stereotype, a task suited only for me!
You feel odd at my inedible behavior,
you find it weird when I claim,
without a morsel of shame, that
I can’t embroider or knit or cook.
You get angry when I tend to defy
my womanliness and try to be a human!
You fail to understand
why I have so many opinions!

But let me convey that
I am no different
but an individual
just like you.
I too feel
angry when refused,
sad when deceived,
thrilled when praised,
fallen when ridiculed.
Just like you,
so much like you.
See, I too have limbs and hunger
I too have a mouth and tears;
I am
Just like you;
so much like you.
I too call myself a sage and a sinner
I too call myself a pious and a pervert
I too call myself a beloved and a betrayed
I too am virtue and vice
I too am a soul
I too am ‘I’
I am
Just like you.
so much like you.
A whore, a seductress,
a daughter, a wife, a mother;
a worker and an intellect,
a sister, a friend;
a human,
Just like you,
so much like you.


bhaskar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Unknowngnome said...

Oh, I am proud to call you friend. You nailed it, myself, ourselves.

bhaskar said...

I deleted my earlier comment as i thought there is another way of looking at it...

You have a point ..yes i agree, especially in our country we do find womenfolk not being given their rightful due,irrespective of their class or social economic structure ...yet instead of getting hard on themselves and trying to compete, women should try and give their best qualities to men - bring them softness, teach them how to cry.

Its the feminine quality in a women that makes them stand apart... a hope for mankind and for our society to realize that we need to learn a lot from women . And i hope they too realize their true potential, that they are way above mundane things like "gender bias " and " equality". A good write..i hope readers chip in their views beyond just the poetic expressions,which are no doubt beautifully expressed.

Celestial Dreamz said...

thank you so much The Unknowngnome :)

@bhaskar .... your views are ever candid and to be appreciated. I welcome them so much more because it provides me a fighting platform :) thank you so much for the read.