Guest poem sent in by Arun Simha This is an interesting poem from the 6th century BC. It was written in Pali, an ancient Indian language.
(Poem #1265) A Woman Well Set Free! How Free I Am
A woman well set free! How free I am, How wonderfully free, from kitchen drudgery. Free from the harsh grip of hunger, And from empty cooking pots, Free too of that unscrupulous man, The weaver of sunshades. Calm now, and serene I am, All lust and hatred purged. To the shade of the spreading trees I go And contemplate my happiness.
(Pali - 6th Century (600) B.C Translated by Uma Chakravarti and Kumkum Roy) The poem is from "Women Writing In India" edited by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita. It was published in by The Feminist Press, City Univ of New York, New York (1991). Susie Tharu teaches in the Dept of English Literature at the Central Inst. of Eng. and Foreign Languages in Hyderabad, K. Lalitha is a political scientist and co-ordinator of Anveshi, Centre for Women's Studies, Hyderabad. My first impression upon reading this poem was the timelessness of its theme. The imagery created by the poet is striking. The seamless movement from the bondage of the interior (kitchen) to the comfort of the exterior (garden) is mere explanation for the loud proclamation that precedes it. You can almost hear the sigh of relief - nay - joy, of the woman who, having spent the previous few hours satisying others needs, now goes out to seek her own. And she does it in solitude. The poet seems to suggest spiritual contemplation as the culmination of a day's drudgery. Or does she really suggest that? What else could she have endevaoured to do after her cooking was done? Could she have hoped to have a meaningful role in society which was disassociated from the kitchen and with religion? Was this the only freedom that she could hope to achieve? A Marathi poem by Janabai (from the same book) written a few centuries later, may provide some answers to those questions. Here too the woman casts off her "place in society" to achieve religious ecstasy and therefore, freedom. Janabai (1298-1350), Marathi "Cast off All Shame" Cast off all shame, and sell yourself in the marketplace; then alone can you hope to reach the Lord. Cymbals in hand, a *veena* upon my shoulder, I go about; who dares to stop me? The *pallav* of my sari falls away (A Scandal!); yet will I enter the crowded marketplace without a thought. Jani says, My Lord, I have become a slut to reach Your home. -- Janabai (Translated by Vilas Sarang) Arun Simha