During a panel discussion titled When Words Sing: Women’s Journey Through Verses, at the Hyderabad Women Writers Fest, panelists talked about what it means to be a “woman poet” in India and their personal journeys that veered them toward poetry. Moderated by Saima Afreen, the panel included poets Shajahana, Janani Rao, Nabina Das, Jhilum Chattaraj and Shikhandin.
Somewhere between clarity and blur, from a student, I became a teacher. Somewhere, between clarity and blur, from an angry soul, I became a lover. That’s the impact Hyderabad has had on me. – Saima Afreen
The Role Of The City
Saima Afreen questioned the panelists on how each of the poets has made Hyderabad their home and how it influenced their writing. In response to this, Jhilum Chattaraj said that the city had definitely influenced her writing. “The city has evolved, and so have I. If I could summarize it in four lines- Somewhere between clarity and blur, from a student, I became a teacher. Somewhere, between clarity and blur, from an angry soul, I became a lover. That’s the impact Hyderabad has had on me.”
Chattaraj read out one of her poems called ‘An Edible Stain’ which was about the politics of beauty corporations and women.
A Poet’s Journey
Janani Rao, a young 21-year-old poet, talked about her journey as well as her struggles. “I started writing five years ago, which was several years after my father walked out of our house. It took me that long to put what I was feeling into words. Poetry helped me overcome what I was feeling. I was afraid to talk about it, but the moment I wrote it down, I realized I didn’t have to be afraid. And that’s what helped me deal with it. So that’s when I started writing and that’s where poetry fit in with me.”
— Manju Latha Kalanidhi (@mkalanidhi) December 7, 2019
The young poet read out a heartwrenching poem about her childhood, and the abuse she faced at the hands of her father.
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The Restrictions On A Woman
Poet Shajahana writes in several languages. She is a student as well as a lecturer in Telegu literature. Speaking of the ingrained patriarchy in society, she spoke on her personal experiences which have shaped her writing as a poet. She also read out a poem in Telegu.
“When I was a child, I used to sleep until late in the morning. My mother would wake me up saying that all my brothers have gotten dressed and don’t I feel ashamed to be asleep still, as a woman? And it made me think that there’s a difference in men and women even when it comes to sleeping. When I grew up and went to college, I loved science. But I was not allowed to apply for science. I was forced to take arts. Later, when my friend got married, I saw her being taken away in a burqa and we lost all touch. I thought the same will happen to me, so I refused to get married. All of these incidents have shaped me as a Muslim woman poet. Whatever I cannot do in the real world, I can do through my writing.”
The Poet’s Childhood
Shikhandin talked about her childhood which she describes as strange. “I was a third child and I was a girl. Nobody wanted that. Back in the 60s, abortion was illegal but the doctor was afraid of my father, who was a well-known man in the city. So he agreed to do the abortion, but he didn’t do it. And later, I came out even though everyone had been hoping for a boy. I was a cheerful, charming child and I didn’t realize how unwanted I was. My mother would get expensive things for my siblings while I would get hand-me-downs.”
She also read out one of her poems about her love for nature.
Nabina Das is a revolutionary writer and poet. “I’m a child of Partition-generation parents so I’ve had loads of Partition stories handed down to me which have shaped my writing.” She believes that as poets, they must talk about and have conversations about social issues. Nabina Das also read out a poem about love.
Prapti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV