By RINI BARMAN
There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through…
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31 Dec, 2013
You remember this poem? I was only sixteen when I began reading Sylvia, you would perhaps wonder how I lay my hands on her, in a household which was trained to read proprietous poems. You turn a year older today; the supernatural birds from the majestic Luit sing a harsh rhapsody into my ears. Set against the beam of light, the propensity to obey your orders has turned my voice into a flurry silhouette. My little heart too is sandwiched in-between the hills covered with clouds and the plains that bare your soul.
The newspapers are pregnant with witch-hunting (“Daayini hatya”) whereabouts all across the state. Women writing would also amount to witchcraft, says the normative scarecrows, for undoubtedly it is and gladly, powerfully, let it be so. The mystics call it Xaat-loga, echoing the same narrative of purity and pollution that has continued through the ages. Though many parents of the older generation have been schooled in western philosophy, the domestic space has remained arrogantly superstitious, in a predatory mode of making women’s lives claustrophobic. And I won’t even spare my “nimati koynas” an umbrella term for maahis, pehis, jethis and khuris, they too are equal participants in this monstrous game.
Ma has taught me to call you “Papaa”, so although I can write “Deutaa”, I cannot dream liberated in either of the two languages. Back then, I had no choice, when I was sent to a convent and they educated me to cover my legs and mortify my desires. While the men in the colony stared and stared as I rode my bicycle. And the day arrived when I fell down, none came for my rescue but the shopkeepers were trying hard to uncover what lay between my thighs under the birthday skirt Ma made for me. But the Bhokotinis nearby were no better, they asked me never to come in Skirts and jeans again inside the house of the equals, ironically, the house of Bhakti (Bhokti).
You too, Deutaa, were born of a Stri (born of the fire of consciousness) who also aspired to be free of your clutches but one wonders the sheer impossibility of changing the patriarchal structure because it is so deeply entrenched in culture. Aita told me some secrets for I was her favourite grand-child. She re-imagined the Burhi-Aair Xadhu and I was made to sleep in content after the tales did justice to Panesoi and Tejimola. Sadly she knew she is no better than the bed- time utopia that she’d secretly transported me into. For its in disbelief that folktales of childhood disappear, and women along with pepper-sprays, knives and weapons are trained to tame their dreams. The tragedy of the contemporary times is not that your daughter has to work late but the lack of street-lights and friendly pedestrians to walk down the lane towards home after a day’s exhausted routine.
I suppose many of my fellow-mates and their guardians will agree that we cannot hold on to the rootedness of a culture if that very ‘root’ becomes a baggage. Would you rather prefer a society where people are tied together by coercion and not passion? I am not deluded to not believe that the youth of Assam are easily swayed by a blind dependence on exotic elements. The news channels are jam-packed of paparazzi around the moral aspect of youth and sexuality. And they are no better than the ones yelling about the loss of culture in refrain without unlearning what is meant by the same.
For, be certain, that there still are and shall ever be young, passionate and wild women and men who would shock you with their equivalent mastery of Jyoti Prasad, Bishnu Rabha, Bhupen Hazarika, Loka Sangeet et al along with Pink Floyd, Porcupine tree and the like. Wasn’t it you who taught me to appreciate both folk and fiction? Even something as familiar as the ‘axomiya biya naam’ is replete with sexual politics if studied carefully. Who is however going to point out its embedded gender inequities? Ah! Well.
Perhaps you knew that fiction never meets reality and gradually would tell me that the naked women dancing beside the Pandu river bank were illusory. The new can never replace the grandeur of the old, weren’t you always stubborn about the timelessness of time? But my heart pains even more, to see you and your brothers as victims of a system that takes pride in male chauvinism of all kinds. No one, not even you spoke up in support of me when I brought up the topic of sexual hypocrisy in the dinner table where family elders were seated. Except me, who else prevented humiliation by the power of speech? If this doesn’t reflect the double standards of parenthood, I don’t know what does. When shall the private, the public and the political merge?
That was also the day I realised that the vacuum between what academicians teach in classes and what they preach is here to stay. In fact, our artists and their art have always been a free domain. It is precisely the educated privileged which has compartmentalised freedom to ensure that reality (read: real status quo) remains untouched.
In your prudish stern face, I see the corpse of the woman who narrated me stories of fairylands. I have often mated with the man in me in such places. You would know what it means to be a woman too if you would undo the storytelling process yet again.
Even till today, one of the queens from wonderland talks to me every night in a language I don’t really understand. She tries to tempt me about the joys of building a bird’s nest and of stitching baby socks. Recall the brilliant grilled chickens I loved cooking, the baby goats who sat with me all summer, but I wouldn’t have her tame me, I have seen the tyrant in her, and Grand pa was the same too. I am going to end this legacy.
Few days before I came across a post which said “Behind every successful woman is herself”
At the risk of sounding very ungrateful and selfish, I am beginning to agree.
That it is true.