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Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

On Not Paying Attention to What “They Said”

In Art, Poems on 11 April 2016 at 4:30 pm

At the 4th annual conference of Swashikshan, the India Homescholers Association, children got the opportunity to work with the Space Theatre Ensemble from Goa, and all of us were treated to a show by the children, followed by performances by the teachers: Andrea Pereira, Heidi Pereira and Katheeja Talha, and the director, Hartmann D’Souza.  They were not so much drama as dramatic performance of poetry.   They vividly brought the poems to life.   One of the poems was “They Said” written by Uma Narayan who is a Philosophy Professor at Vassar College.  The Hindi version is called “Aisa Kaha Unhone.”

I tried to upload this earlier but with the internet speed in India it would have taken all day and slowed down all other internet activity till done, so I never got around to uploading it.  Now having at last uploaded it, I came across this article about a young girl named Hilde who perfectly embodies the spirit of the poem.  She writes and edits her own newspaper and recently faced criticism, very much along the lines of “They Said.”

More about Hilde later.  First, listen to the poem:  “Aisa Kaha Unhone.

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A String of Jasmine

In Why on 10 May 2013 at 7:56 pm
“Give J___ Auntie a string of flowers,” my mother-in-law told me.  Suddenly I grew tense with a sense of not knowing what to do. 
 
string-of-jasmine-768x499I had a long string of jasmines which I had cut into small pieces and was giving out to my daughter’s friends at her Sankranti party.  My mother-in-law and a couple of her friends were sitting on the sofa. 
 
I busied myself in the kitchen so as not to have to respond to her instruction right away.  Away from the crowd, I reflected, why had I become tense?  I realized that it was because I was not sure how I could give flowers to J___ Auntie, while K___ Auntie was sitting right next to her.  Then I realized that the solution was simple, give flowers to both J____ and K____ Auntie. 
 
Why had this obvious solution not struck me right away?  Why had there even been a “problem” requiring a solution? 
 
Let us go back to the instruction, “Give J___ Auntie a string of flowers.”  In giving this instruction, my mother-in-law had made an assumption.  Someone who had not made that assumption might have had two questions:
 
1) Why had she instructed me to give flowers to J___ but not also to K___ Auntie?
2) Why hadn’t she herself given out the flowers? 
 
For both questions, the reason stems from a distinction made between a married woman whose husband is alive and one whose husband is no longer alive.   My mother-in-law had instructed me to give flowers to J___ Auntie because both of us fell into the former category.  She did not give out the flowers, nor did she ask me to give flowers to K____ Auntie, because she and K___ Auntie fell into the latter category. 
 
Upon hearing her instruction, I felt the tension of being unwilling to follow it, but it took me some time to unpack all this to understand why.  Once I understood, I saw the way.  I picked up three strings of flowers and gave one to each – my mother-in-law, J____Auntie, and K_____ Auntie.  Taken by surprise, K___ Auntie immediately asked, “why me?”  I just smiled.  My mother-in-law explained, “she doesn’t believe that there should be that difference,” and put the flowers into her hair.  K___ Auntie replied, “Yes, these customs should change.”
 
(originally written for the monthly newsletter of Association for India’s Development)
 
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