Amidst all obstacles,
I work towards shaping my identity.
My identity is my authority
And I am shaping it for me.
Yes, I am selfish
Yes, I am in my world.
I owe my life the dignity:
Dignity of a woman, my identity as a human.
Dictions and predictions,
Are shaped by my intensity.
I will work towards building my identity.
My identity is my authority.
Desires oozed from within
when he touched my soul with his hands.
Love emerged from wounded sacrifices
which we made to be with each other.
I could feel his flesh, lusting for love
I melted like a candle in his arms.
We met after a long time,
ours a long distance relationship
began which, with instant friendship.
Our desires melted when we kissed
it was pleasurable to close our eyes
and feel the adrenaline rushing through our bodies.
We cuddled each other,
even though nights were weary.
Anupreeta Chatterjeeis a feminist poet from Korba, Chhattisgarh, India. She has pursued her post graduation in Gender studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad, India. Her poems have appeared in Ink Drift, Quillopia and elsewhere. Her poems appeared recently in an Anthology “From Spring to Autumn” by Turquoise Publication.
The Quiet Letter is proud to nominate Indian poets for a poetry anthology. These poets were published in TQL’s editions in 2017. The poets are :
Sneha Dewani and Anushka Pandit.
This is an essay explaining the reason behind selecting them and their poems for the nomination process as Indian Poets writing in Indian English.
Sneha Dewani‘s poem Female Genital Mutilation, and Anushka Pandit’s The Question Before Arrival published in The Quiet Letter are nominated for the Bettering American Poetry as Indian Poets.
The poems selected here by TQL reflects thematic issues which concern the publishing guidelines of the editorial section headed by Pawan N Hira, founder and editor-in-chief at The Quiet Letter.
Coming back to Sneha Dewani’s poem, Female Genital Mutilation is a poem that speaks to many. It opens up the narrative of women and sexuality while the message of a haunting procedure crosses boundaries to touch the matter of prejudice and perversion of male gaze in the patriarchal world who want to achieve at any cost the deliberate silences of women and to play with sexuality is one such act that is beautifully penned with a beat-like pulse to it by Sneha Dewani, the young poet writing from Raipur, India who is also pursuing architecture degree currently.
This mutilation process of genitals is rooted in the practice of gender inequality and like common problems that are seen today of unequal pay between men and women, sexual and devious power politics in the name of fame by powerful males of such a system like the recent case of Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood which led to the rise of #MeToo campaign and which also picked a momentum later in the Berlinale 2018 where movies concerning the themes on the lines of the campaign issue were met with a mixed reaction in Germany along with issues of refugees and migration shown through movies. This clearly shows how convoluted social media campaign can become where participation on Internet does not result in actual solidarity with the campaign on real ground where gender inequality is practiced in day to day lives of women. The power play of fame and entertainment is a dynamic process where compromise is a given thing that leads to harassment and victimization, and this is obviously seen in two different thought streams, where one side supports the women who are coming from entertainment business and the other who reject the claim saying the picture is not one sided.
There is also harassment and consistent stereotypes of women as mere actors of home-chores to clean and dust each and every thing as if she were a machine multi-tasking and such a gaze is thrown at them consistently by the males who move outside in the world with buddies and plans. The poem, Female Genital Mutilation in such time is a reflection of the threat made to female sexuality which should be celebrated rather than to suffocate it and distort it through power dynamics of societal games because according to UNICEF in 2016 alone 200 million women living today in 30 countries—27 African countries, Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen—have undergone the procedures. It is typically carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade, and FGM is conducted from days after birth to puberty and beyond. In half the countries for which national figures are available, most girls are cut before the age of five as per the UNICEF reports recorded on Wikipedia. The poem is shown here:
The poem equally speaks of the horror of revisiting such a crucial moment later in teenage years when the poetess opens up her mouth foaming with letters to describe it and reaffirm the haunting memory that was unleashed on her without her consent during her childhood. It clearly speaks how the scar remains ever because of the notion of purity against sexuality where the former is always a thought rooted in middle-ages while sexuality is ignored and seen as deviant force rather than liberating force for women. If the first statue of woman Venus of Willendorf depicts exaggerated form of female, a mother goddess of fertility and if the liberating chronicles of Kamasutra and archaeological sites in India with caves carved show sexuality of men and women in ancient heritage, then sexuality as a thought of emancipatory force to open men and women equally is shunned and the brunt of it is mostly faced by women who are subject to the perverse gaze of male patriarchal world of objectification. Female Genital Mutilation as a poem opens that thought and does justice to what women go through in their lives in India especially where women are subjugated in homes and offices.
To select her and her poem for Bettering American Poetry as an Indian Poet, TQL is proud to have selected her as one of the contenders for the award apart from Anushka Pandit. Sneha Dewani’s poems are upcoming further in TQL this year which explore themes similar to this and with an aggression of a woman exploring the darkness of dominance and oppression by men.
Our second nomination, Anushka Pandit
and her poem furthers our notion to publish voices which matter. Her poem, The Question Before Arrival published in our August edition 2017 reflects a meta poem concerning silences and as an Indian poet, Anushka provides a brief exposure to what it means to look for hope amid darkness and as such she opens up threads of burden which one has to carry in the face of darkness while looking for light to arrive. The poem reproduced below shows the questioning power of the poet who opens up psychological dimensions to ask in probabilities of “maybe” as an uncertain gesture to prod the phase of darkness while leaving us in the end with a haunting question as if even the arrival as a woman would not bring an easy clarity into the mirror of self like the poem, Love after Love of Derek Walcott which describes the elation after struggle to meet the stranger back in the mirror. The ending lines of her poem reads as:
Do I have to take more
Some more pain and fear
It is a question that the young poet is keen to observe while building up the courage to face anything that would arrive because somewhere the poem reflects the life of shades we have to move through now and then. TQL selected three of her poems and this one reflects an Indian poet to establish her point of view while asking the question of what it means to arrive as a person, a poet in the world.
As a writer from Udaipur, India, Anushka works as the Community Head at Kalaage, a global platform built for writers to come and write together on one platform while engaging publishers and writers of many kinds in one thread which is showing its result in India as of now to bring Indian writers on the forefront. Anushka also handles the unit of Social Media as a Head at Ink Drift, a magazine prominently publishing diverse voices. The Quiet Letter is equally proud to carry her poems and to nominate her and her poem, The Question Before Arrival for Bettering American Poetry.
Now, the nominations for the selected poems and their authors are for:
The Bettering American Poetryis an anthology based project which promotes writers and their craft while being keenly aware of contemporary world of arts and the practice of struggles that goes with it for voices which have a hard time to find a way in the mainstream locus of media arts. In their own words:
“The first Bettering American Poetry project was initiated by Amy King, who gathered together a group of poets with complementary yet distinct approaches to politics/poetics to serve as co-editors of the first anthology project. Bettering American Poetry 2015 was born out of both rage and hope, with an eye toward better publishing practices and the championing of vital artists. The three main curators of BAP are also connected in their individual capacity at Vida, women in literary arts, which is a non-profit feminist organization committed to creating transparency around the lack of gender parity in the literary landscape and to amplifying historically-marginalized voices, including people of color; writers with disabilities; and queer, trans and gender nonconforming individuals.”
What they have to say about the nomination process also exemplifies their commitment to support individual and institution when selecting their roles:
“The BAP Series and its publisher, Bettering Books, curated by Sarah Clark, Amy King, and Héctor Ramírez. As curators of the series, Sarah, Amy, and Héctor supplement the selections made by editors where and if necessary (for instance, in the event that one editor cannot fulfill their duties, or if we simply feel the need to bring more underrepresented voices in the room). However, it is ultimately the role of each anthology’s editorial team to take charge of the content, shape, direction, and aspirations of their project however they see fit, beyond the general mission of the Bettering American Poetry Series.”
The co-editors of the previous Bettering anthology were contemporary poets who have solidified their voices as unique while allowing us to see the emergence of colored poets like a new renaissance slowly developing in our digital world of poetics and seeing them in the process earlier makes TQL happy to nominate Sneha Dewani and Anushka Pandit. The co-editors were:
Pawan NH, Editor in Chief @ The Quiet Letter
Poet and Novelist working with Gujarati
and English equally. His poems have appeared in
Kitaab, Parentheses Journal and elsewhere. His
two novels are in limbic space looking for a home
as he starts to work on another.
The flowers in my vase may bloom again
the rains may come back
the sun on my window might shine
and so would the stars in the night black
I can hear the tick of the clock
The voices in my head
Yes, I can hear them mock
Having been here for quite long in silences
Is that not enough to bear
Do I have to take more
Some more pain and fear
II. The Mist
Walking through those lanes
feeling the mist in the air
There was something about the trees
How we used to hide in their trunks together
Where no one could watch us
There was something about the chirping of the birds
How we used to put ears to them
There was something about the flowers
How you used to pick them for me
There is something about these thorns
How you used to bend down to ease me
There is something about this sky
with those stars shining bright
How you used to call me the moon
And I would say the moon has spots of all kinds
There is something about these walls
How they used to take us away into another world
There’s something about that house across the fence
Where Mr. Old Uncle used to sit in the balcony scolding us
I walk again through this lane today
The trunks of the trees peep at me
say we’ve been empty for a long time
The birds sing a different song today
The flowers don’t bloom anymore
The thorns stay on the path
pricking my sole and soul
The stars have lost their brightness
the moon actually looks dark with spots
The walls stand there stil and I at once say aloud
the world across is incomplete without you
Mr. Old Uncle still sits on his squeaking wooden chair
We exchange looks, the misery in his eyes and mine is same
We both understand how time has shattered us
how someone close has left us alone
I keep walking with this nostalgia
Trying to hold my broken parts
I’m walking with this nostalgia
The surroundings are crying with me
I’m walking with this nostalgia
With my soul falling apart.
I cry for you. I cry for you.
Can you hear me? Please come back
is all I say and feel lost.
III. The Young Love
All the other men
busy in competition
could not find anyone
who would combine with me as one
Then noticed one along me
saw I he never crossed me
Never had intentions to move ahead
All sense of competition through the way he shed
He was the one I looked for yes
My long search for the happiness door
finally complete and satisfied was I
to him then my life I tied
Now we went together and on
He mended my heart, badly torn
Becoming a part of me
My future with him I see
Maybe I don’t express well
Maybe I don’t know how to tell
But now all that I want to do
is to very tightly hold you
Hold you forever till I die
Forgive me if I am ever shy
You were are and will be mine
I were am and will be yours.
The Urban-Rural dynamics in India had been hardly studied and analysed when we hopped our way into urban studies as we did into ‘urban development’ without addressing our soul that rested with rurality. This non-fiction article tries to make us look towards the path we left behind a long time ago.
The fate of a nation lies in its constituents. The legacy of a democracy is found in its voices. India, being the largest democracy on Earth, with all its threads hanging beyond horizons, with diversities strangling from various centers, and a history of representation, aspires to transverse boundaries of human progress. The 21st century India breathes in a host of ideas coming from more than 1.25 billion humans and breathes out a system for their survival. The acknowledgment of the practices and aspirations of various inexplicably diverse groups is intrinsic to the overall development of the nation and its people. In this context, the process of urbanization, and the dichotomy between rurality and urbanity seems to bog the minds of the 21st-century planners and policy makers invariably. The process of urbanization with specific reference to India, over the past three decades, has been one of unprecedented pace in terms of quantity but lacks big time in quality. The creation of a whole class of ‘urban poor’ dealing with the disadvantageous by-products of the ‘urban way of life’ and the subsequent problems it faces is undoubtedly attracting concern. What lies overlooked is the fact that this process of out migration from rural to urban areas is built on the premise of ‘urbanity’ being the answer to all the woes of Rural India. The outcomes remain largely unattached to the hopes, though.
The former Prime Minister of India, Charan Singh had said, “The true India resides in its villages.” The Philosophical manifestations of ‘trueness’ of India becoming more prominent by the virtue of its villages might be a matter of glee for the intellect-driven groups of people, but it seemingly holds less significance in the contemporary Indian society in a practical sense.
The state of affairs across Rural India continues to tarnish the image of rurality in our minds. Although we teach our kids to term ‘social connectedness’ and ‘simple lifestyle’ of rural areas as a blessing in opposition to the ‘isolated living’, and ‘complex lifestyle’ of the urban areas, we hardly ponder upon the reasons behind this. Isn’t it paradoxical that the preferred way of living is still engrossed in ‘urbanity’?
The unfortunate reality is that even the rural people prefer the urban way, for its practical outcomes look brighter from miles away. The addition of huge rural population to urban areas hardly ensures anything more than millions of people left to cope with the lack of basic amenities, polluted air, polluted water, social and economic insecurity for their whole lives.
The complex interplay of processes and activities in urban areas adds to their economic potential, and therefore urban areas end up attracting more attention despite lesser population percentage wise. Another reason is that most of the urban areas have conglomerated together after being joined by extended satellite cities, rural-urban fringe and exurbs. Various studies are coming up to facilitate policy-making for these new outgrowths.
The example of the rural-urban fringe can be talked about with respect to rurality. The fringe has both urban and rural land use patterns thereby giving birth to a distinct kind of space that is still not ‘developed’ but is certainly ahead of its nearby rural areas. In most of the cases, it has been seen that with time, the rural aspects of the fringe get shadowed by the urban ones. Even though the land in the fringe is mostly agricultural, the latest additions include mammoth-sized amusement parks, malls, private educational institutions etc., none of which are of much use for the rural population. The fringe, even after being geographically close to the rural area, is metaphorically miles apart from it. This is why urbanity is said to be engulfing the processes of rurality with time.
Former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s brainchild PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas) as discussed in his book Target 3 Billion was a wonderful step forward for Rural India. The concept was taken further by the government enthusiastically in order to create a liveable atmosphere in villages and to discourage mass rural to urban migration. The programme however lacked in preparation, and in implementation, just as many others and was gradually abandoned after much criticism.
In February 2016, the Union Government collected applaud for the launch of the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) aimed at making villages smart. This was largely in response to the criticism of the smart cities mission that it was biased towards the urban demography and ignored rural population. The vision of the SPMRM stated it as an ambitious attempt to transform rural areas into “economically, socially and physically sustainable spaces”, or smart villages “which would trigger overall development in the region”. The creation of rurban growth clusters in order to anchor development primarily in the rural areas is the main aim of the Mission. This is certainly a step ahead for the Rural-Urban debate as well as planning in India.
In order to ensure development for the rural population, it is important to take care of the balances that still don’t exist between the diversified spaces in the country. Unevenness of growth, and development has already done the country more harm than good. The concentration of economic power in some hands has brought up the problem of social power being non-existent for a majority of the population.
A magical wand for the problems talked about earlier might not exist, but we still can look at the intersection between urbanity and rurality. The spatial division of development is to be meticulously analyzed and the already formulated policies and programs need to be carefully implemented with decentralization of authoritarian power. The involvement of various stakeholders is equally important when it comes to building better villages and thus a better India.
Sanjana Kumariis a Post-Graduate Student of Geography at the Delhi School of Economics. She graduated in Geography from Miranda House at the University of Delhi.