K Sharifa : K Sharifa was born in Gulbarga in Karnataka and works as a Senior Auditor in Bangalore. A poet, a literary critic and a feminist writer, she has been a part of women’s and human rights movements. She has more than seventeen books and has received several awards for her works.
Poems of K Sharifa
Kannada original: K Sharifa
English translation: Kamalakar Bhat
Be a Woman, Once, O Lord!
It is rancid kitchens for us.
It is slimy postnatal rooms for us.
No chance for throwing tantrums.
O Lord, shouldn’t you once visit
the sunless cells that is our lot?
who went to the town
died in a police encounter;
who went to war
came back as bloody rags;
And my daughter,
in unbearable shame,
hanged herself after being raped;
To know the depths of my pain,
O Lord, shouldn’t you be born a woman once?
If I step out to earn a meager meal
unseen holy hands push me behind the curtains
training the guns on me;
I shudder at the slightest sound,
go pale, become breathless, miss a heartbeat;
I am totally lost;
How shall I live, O lord?
To know my indescribable pain,
to know what it is,
O Lord, shouldn’t you become a woman once?
The man who has the world’s contract in his hands
has declared a war at the borders;
How shall I describe the nature of my pain,
my anxious moments;
So, shouldn’t you become a woman once?
Behind the Veil
On either side of the two stately minars of the darga
rows and rows of shacks.
Sackcloth curtains hanging at the door —
no colours, no frills, just the gray sackcloth —
speak of her life’s colours.
On feast days, Ma would drape the doors
with embroidered curtains, colourful and adorned
with many-hued beads at the edges.
I too had crocheted pretty curtains
with threads of many shades.
How would I know
one day the same curtains
would be the veil to keep my face hidden?
The first time I wore the veil
the heat irritated me till I felt dizzy
and, instinctively I had thrown it away.
My relatives prevailed upon me:
this is the sacred dress of our faith, they said;
God won’t like it otherwise.
And they pushed me behind the veil.
When the veil’s net covered my eyes
the whole world appeared dark.
Even my schoolmate Seeta
found me a stranger.
I felt all my companions falling away from me.
The veil had built a fence around me.
Under the protective gaze, dreams became
burnt walls blackening the universe.
In summer heat, I was drenched in sweat and felt stifled.
My face shrouded
inside the veil, I became only flesh.
Overhanging Swords of Talaak
The walls are like in a fort
built with massive stone slabs,
beyond the walls the free pigeon,
within the walls is my caged life
Life trots on rocky rough road
while I am the cool flow from the Himalayas
He is like the seething geysers
I have no firm foundation
in the dilapidated corners
With three wives and eyeing a fourth
If I even look out the window out of boredom
He screams at me, scared:
“Where is my hookah, Begum?
Are you nuts? Drop the curtains.”
Beware, don’t let your eyes wander
Don’t forget the overhanging sword of Talaak!
No milky moonlight for me
No spring ceremony
From within the prohibitive walls
Of the hopeless cage.
When the prisoner shakes off and asks
“Don’t’ frighten me with the sword of talaak”.
The stones of the walls begin to crumble
A new power in my tired hands
Breaking the fetters, my question rises up:
“It is I you are born of
Don’t frighten me with the sword of talaak
You are but an infant in my lap.
Upon the civilizations
She built lovingly
Appears your cruel imprint
Upon the cultures
Why not let her own imprint?
Why not let her erect her own mansions?
Why not let her reveal the dawn of a new day?
No more may her images
Peep through his-tory
Let her sing a new psalm
Let her fashion herstory
Since ages she has been
always walking beside you
How can your history be
Complete without her?
Put an end to your
his-stories accommodating her
Let the hands that write be hers
The mind that thinks be hers
And the heart that feels be hers
As she creates her own story