Feminism Through Poetry: Bringing A Change Through Words

What are we resisting? Who are we resisting and why do we need to resist? Often used interchangeably to protest, they are different forms of showing dissent. When done through art, resistance gets a multi-layered meaning. For long, women’s issues and rights have been at the helm of debate and yet very little has actually been done about it. Violence is ever increasing and the proverbial glass ceiling stays rock solid. Hence, the only way to keep the fire around the matter burning is through constant resistance.

Women’s safety, sexuality and liberation were the topics of discourse at a recent event organised by Apne Aap Women Worldwide in Delhi. The organisation works to spread awareness among women in prostitution and those who are at the risk of getting dragged into the flesh trade.

Reciting their work were Anju Sharma, Ashima Kumari, Ashok Pandey, Ngurang Reena, Sanjay Shepherd, Madhu, Aruna Lakshmi Ramu and Dr Sujata.

The event aimed at bringing together poets who talk about women; as a mother who is restricted in her own kitchen, but her voice overpowers all. Another poet talks about women, who are so sexually liberated that they can put an end to wars just by refusing to have sex with the army.

And yet another recites a piece about being under double subjugation, being a north-eastern and a woman in this country. Ngurang Reena’s words resonate with everyone who hails from that side of the country regardless of gender. However, what sets these women apart is the extreme sexualisation of their bodies and a pathetic idea that defines their sexual freedom as prostitution in the rest of the country.

The poems brought together a positive vibe that dreams of a future where more and more women will stand and speak up against discrimination and become the Chudails that we dream of. Because only a Chudail has the capacity to set all the wrongs right and make a better world for everyone

Poet Anju Sharma started the session by talking about her mother in a poem called “Meri Maa”. The poem talks about how her mother had a soulful voice, but she never heard her sing, because she was never given an opportunity to sing outside her kitchen. The suppression of the mother’s talent is depicted by the fact that only the teapots have heard her sing and probably a few people in her parental house. But in her husband’s home, her ghoonghat (head covering) never slipped and her identity remained wrapped behind it. In Indian culture, the ghoonghat stands as a cover for a women’s modesty, honour or shame, she needs to cover her head as a mark of respect for her elders.

अपनी माँ का नाम मैंने कभी नहीं सुना
लोग कहते हैं
फलाने की माँ, फलाने की पत्नी और
फलाने की बहू
एक नेक औरत थी,
किसी को नहीं पता
माँ की आवाज़ कैसी थी,
मेरे ननिहाल के कुछ लोग कहते हैं
माँ बहुत अच्छा गाती थी,
माँ की गुनगुनाहट ने कभी भी
नहीं लाँघी थी
रसोई की ड्योढ़ी,
बर्तन जानते थे माँ की आवाज़
चाय को कितना मीठा करती होगी,
माँ की दस्तकारियाँ आज भी अधूरी हैं,

ALSO READ: Ten Fiction Books which are Essential Feminist readings by Kiran Manral

Sharma’s poetry brought about the vitality of how a married woman performs in India and the implications of it. A contrasting image to Sharma’s mother was revealed by Ashima Kumar in her interpretation of a “Chudail” (Witch). Kumari, in her poetry, spoke about all those women the society debars their men get into a relationship with. She is the modern, liberated woman who has the power to intimidate the society and hence she is deemed a witch. She drinks, smokes, etc. like men do and is not afraid of who is going to talk what behind her back. She is unattainable and untamed.

ye ham gunahgār aurteñ haiñ

jo ahl-e-jubba kī tamkanat se na ro.ab khā.eñ

na jaan becheñ

na sar jhukā.eñ

na haath joḌeñ

ye ham gunahgār aurteñ haiñ

ki jin ke jismoñ kī fasl becheñ jo log

vo sarfarāz Thahreñ

niyābat-e-imtiyāz Thahreñ

vo dāvar-e-ahl-e-sāz Thahreñ 

-Kishwar Naheed (Recited by Madhu)

Many poets collectively talked about women’s position in society, which has been kept hidden all these years because it fears the power of a woman. It fears the infinite emotional and mental strength of a woman. The poems brought together a positive vibe that dreams of a future where more and more women will stand and speak up against discrimination and become the Chudails that we dream of. Because only a Chudail has the capacity to set all the wrongs right and make a better world for everyone.

The feminist movement has never been the one about aggression and war, it has always surfaced through forms of art. Poetry brings a magical strength to it and hence is a very powerful medium to show resistance.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta


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