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Her point of view

In her latest book, noted critic Rekha Sethi explores how various hues of feminine sensibility have been put into words by prominent Hindi poetesses

Since time immemorial, patriarchy-fed romantic love usually makes the female body a tantalising object of male erotic fantasy which centres around eyes, lips, hairs, and breasts. Alluring beauty seems to be the tell-tale sign of the women, and the withering of the body pronounces her inevitable doom. Romance is invariably reduced to not more than a burning desire for stunning looks and woman is perceived as the “Lolita” of every man.

The widespread acceptance of single-dimensional female existence that hardly goes beyond the act of matrimony prompted many sensitive women thinkers and poets to search for the new woman who is non-female. They are more than willing to part with their gorgeous appearance. Anne Saxton in her poem, “Consorting with Angels” aspires to abandon her female body at once, “I have no arms and legs/I am all one skin like a fish/I am no more a woman.”

It is a trenchant comment on social norms which noted feminist theorist Marry Carruthers describes as “gynecompiya”, a disease that severely afflicts the ability to recognise the socio-cultural wholeness of women. People tend to believe that women cannot cohere themselves and their lives have always been imagined in the framework of the relationship with men as the daughter, mother, beloved and women also provide emotional, spiritual and psychological solace in the form of the goddess and Sybil. The terrifying and inevitable predicament of women is central to the creative expression of women.

A discerning critic Rekha Sethi explores how it is mirrored in the poems and how various hues of feminine sensibility have been put into words by prominent Hindi poetesses. In her, astutely written book, “Istri Kavita: Pakshand Paripeksh" (Women’s poetry: Point of view and Perspective) that has been published by Rajkamal recently, Rekha tries to spell out the contours of the contemporary Hindi feminist poetry with a marked sense of critical acuity. Not infrequently the literacy practices and cultural traditions are tacitly used to perpetuate deprivation and dispossession of women, and the debate on feminist poetry betrays a kind of solipsism and upending of gender and cultural hierarchies. For many critics, feminist discourse draws its sustenance from a theory of victimisation.

Armed with a profound grounding in feminist poetics, the author seeks to raise questions about deep and ever-changing combinations of suppression, discrimination and inequality through the nuanced prism of seven prominent women poets Gagan Gill, Katyani, Anamika, Savita Singh, Nilesh Raghuvanshi, Nirmal Putul and Susheela Takbhore.Rekha is right to observe that all the poets mentioned above have a different experience of identities while facing the equally stifling cultural hierarchies.

She thought through their poems and meticulously located them in a broader theoretical framework of “Theory of Intersectionality” which Rekha considers quite compatible with the Indian context. The theory expounded by Kimberle Crenshaw(1989) candidly examines how race, gender and other individual traits intersect with another and overlap.

Explaining its relevance to us, the author plausibly argues, “Social study hardly makes gender the sole criterion of inequality. Various forms of violence implicitly constitute our socio-political dynamics: race, gender caste overrun each other with equal intensity. These overlapping trappings bring forth a new idiom of violence and suppression. Gender-fed incongruity provides proper perspective as all the women do not belong to the same class, but intersectionality acquaints with the frame of reference through which we can understand the anguish of inequality and can seek to resolve the social tensions. For Rekha, family leaves one in a quandary as it is the most effective tool of patriarchy, and it is also a testament to social prestige.

To understand how women creatively respond to their immediate and ultimate concerns of life and how they get better of all relationships and triumph over the tradition of romantic love, Rekha opts for close reading of the poems produced by seven poets.

The woman does enjoy polymorphous unity in her life which loses it vitality the moment a relationship is signed off. Much talked about security that relationship offers primarily conceals an embroidery of false promise and it irks a celebrated poet Savita Singh who thinks association produces fragmentation which leads to the diminution. The existence of new women owes to no one, and Savita forcefully asserts, “Mein Kisi Ki Aurat Nahi Hoon/Mein Apni Aurat Hoon/ Mein Kisiki Maar Nahi Saheti/ Aur Mera Parmeshwar Koi Nahi ( I am not someone else's woman/I belong to myself only/I don't tolerate thrashing by someone/ And no one is my God).

Delineating the thematic pattern of Savita’s above-discussed poem and Ananmika's poem “Bhamti Ki Betiyan" , Rekha remarks that here emerges a new woman who no longer seeks social acceptance through a male or family ."I" refers to the collective noun and its revolutionary precedent in the history of poetry.

Gagan Gil’s poems betray a new sensibility that seeks refuge in intellectual alienation, dreams and truth and the author wrote incisive and insightful articles on Katyani, Nilesh, Nirmala and Susheela. Perhaps, it is the first profound effort to explicate a credible feminist literary poetics in the Indian context with a marked sense of critical penetration and Rekha Sethi deserves accolades.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 5:54:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/her-point-of-view/article30817678.ece

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