The day? Saturday 27th, November. the time: 630 pm The venue? Full Circle book shop.The event? Not silence, but verse, a poetry reading by four women poets. The occasion? Prajnya’s 16 day campaign against gender violence.
Full circle was full and that’s just the beginning. As the evening progressed, the full house was spell bound as they heard Kutti Revathi, Sharanya Manivannan, Salma and Srilata, their voices rising and falling with the emotions that echoed some universal experiences of women.
Vazhvin soonyangal and nammai piditha pisugal sharply brought out the burdens women carry around them in physical and intellectual terms and the fact that women are pilloried for their choices and actions even in their use of words. The ‘politics of the word’ demonstrated this with clarity as Kutti Revathi brought life to the words.
Sharnaya Manivannan, poet and columnist recited her sensuous and visually rich poems on abusive relationships, prejudices, the voids and women's deepest darkest desires and the pride of female lineage. The recurring motifs of fire and astronomical symbolism abound in her writing and reading.
“Men need onlt and paper to pen their poems; we women require courage, determination and fortitude to express ourselves”. When Salma began her recital with these words, the audience would have understood the enormous task these women have taken upon themselves. Salma went on to read thought-provoking poems on female identity, communal identity, menopause, inadequacy of one’s body as one’s identity and the courage displayed by women in extreme situations especially “The contract” that showed woman need to have some semblance of control and dominion over the men and remain “a placid lake” amidst all the turmoil, abuse and negativity they faces.
Srilata, poet, winner of several literary prizes and fellowships and professor at the humanities department of IIT, Madras began her reading with “not reaching out” on the casual encounters that never fructify in our lives, and on war victims evoking the horror faced by women in war and conflicts zones and the free flow of ideas one experiences. Finally, a bio note on the woman from Madras that resonated with references to a typical Madras upbringing and its contentment against all odds.
The conversation that followed the verse centred on the anger, anguish, suffering, courage, challenges and universality of themes in women’s literary writing and the need to also look into ways of translating the collective and personal experiences of women from the regional to the global language. Many comments, questions and suggestions were made along with the observation that opposition to feminist writing stemmed from both within and without.
As for those who oppose feminist writing and counter it with abuse and vehement criticism, Anita Ratnam from the audience quoted from Paulo Coelho
“Those who are jealous are confused admirers who cannot understand why we are popular”