Dr. Vijayasri Sabarad is a well known feminist writer and an activist. This poem written in 2005 still has the anger that characterized the feminist poetry of the 80’s. Again, we see the references to myths. The urge among the feminists writing from within Hindu communities to critique the injustice meted out to the mythical women is a double edged sword – critiquing the past as well as debunking their present value. This poem is much more open about the present prevalence of the value system that has constructed femininity as submissive in myths. The patriarchal exhortations that stealthily aim at imbibing servility of women through cultural symbols are frontally attacked here by pointing to its prevalence today.
The strategy of discursive engagement with the mythical symbols in feminist writings in Kannada is well established. The problem with this strategy, though this sounds like nit picking, is that there is a danger of these cultural symbols that are community (caste) specific to be seen as societal.
The present poem picks on many symbols of patriarchal brutality. What I liked about it is its outspoken anger and subversion. In
India today there is super sensitivity regarding certain cultural symbols, such as Ram. This poem does not hide behind indirectness but lambastes these figures for the unjust patriarchal value encoded in them.
It is however the last stanza that interests me. Here are references to symbols of equality in the same cultural field. Kudalasangama and Kalyana refer to the history of Basavanna, leader of an egalitarian movement in the 12th century. I don’t know
the reference to Madahavi (shame on me). Do let me know if anybody has any info on her.
About the translation: there is no point in repeating that I have taken liberties in a couple of places to retain the sense of the lines. I have also attempted to dare the English phraseology at times, so that some of the effects of intensification that the Kannada poem achieves through a mode of repetition are carried across. This however is a provisional translation.
They are still here
(Dr. Vijayashri Sabarad: ille iddaare)
nakedness all around
sightless eyes and blighted vision
in an endless night.
Where are they!
Those that spoke of stars,
those that beckoned
only to lead beyond the habitats
and vanish from sight;
Those who sold the honour,
cursed Ahalye and turning her into stone
became gods to lift the curse!
naked fields, naked space.
Why this darkness between the earth and the sky?
Where are they –
those who denuded us,
those who paraded our nudity,
those who disrobed in the court?
The Dushyasanas of the world
are mere mortals jeering the naked;
What of these great souls, the gods
who bid for disrobing
who begged for nakedness?
Lecherous eyes on the nude body!
Raring to see the body curves
didn’t make the triumvirate wait,
breastfed them and put them to sleep
in the cradle!
The ones who slept
the ones who disrobed
the ones who forced out of home
the ones who dragged in…
they haven’t disappeared
the ones who should be nowhere,
they are here
as father, as brother, as uncle, as in-law
as assorted figures of maleness,
dancing before our eyes
with the same conceit, same wrath!
Moon is bleached
stars are befogged
Kudalasangama has drowned
in the sacred pond of Kalyana
lotus blooms no more
Madhavi, Sky’s creeper is already dead.