An endless saga of the womankind

An endless saga of the womankind
Highlights

From the Biography of an Unknown Woman’ by Indira Babbellapati, a well-known academic-poet-translator is a unique poetic creation in that it is not the biography of any particular woman by any name but is only a melange of untitled individual poems capturing the moods, aspirations, reflections, and ruminations of a number of individual un-named women she has come across in her life.

Indira Babbellapati Partridge India 195From the Biography of an Unknown Woman’ by Indira Babbellapati, a well-known academic-poet-translator is a unique poetic creation in that it is not the biography of any particular woman by any name but is only a melange of untitled individual poems capturing the moods, aspirations, reflections, and ruminations of a number of individual un-named women she has come across in her life.

Rather it is a continuing biography of a sea of intellections and emotions churning in the mind and heart of the poet who has made herself an abode of different types and classes of women, most of whom are embodiments of remarkable endurance, doughtiness, duty-mindedness, resoluteness and sangfroid. In short, this book of 257 pages is an ode of dedication to the entire world of women.

Notwithstanding the undying sense of optimism in which Indira steeps her women, she is not unconscious of the lurking precariousness and insecurity of their lives: “In the sandy castles |is her dwelling |in the house of cards|her dreams reside.”Yet her unknown woman is not known to giving up, for: “She gathers all the sand|she puts the cards together|to build another castle|another house of dreams.”

A woman is not only a procreator and carrier of life, she together with her life is also an essential teacher to her progeny. Whether a grandmother, mother or aunt, she teaches “how time can tickle… how time can laugh… how time can stare… how time can scare… how time can stand still… how time can stab!”

When a woman or for that matter even a man is inextricably caught in a cul de sac of shattered hopes and home, and when the agony hits hard, the poet, in a startling imagery, tells us what happens: “it’s then the body goes about|like a dangling empty sack down|the shoulders of a beggar, roaming in vain,|with a heart heavier, and belly and spirit emptier.”

Yet being herself the creation, herself the creator, she alone must reconcile this conundrum to herself; so she proclaims with aplomb, by sublimating her tears into smiles, which only a woman can do: “High tide and low tide she watches|and quickly sums up that|that’s what life is all about.|Sometimes she searches|the sands and the sea |if she could retrieve her tears|she would simply smile and say|‘O, it’s those sand particles, you see.’”

Except for the cosmetic changes in the tools of man/woman, the general saga of man and woman has essentially remained the same over millennia across every clime. Their struggles and successes, joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains have been recorded right from ancient epics down to the poetry of our contemporary times.

And their recapitulation and dispassionate study helps us no doubt. The epic characters, positive or negative, would serve as pointers to us and stand us in good stead, if only we care and act conscientiously: “Their destinies humble us|To infuse our frail beings|With equanimity humility and tolerance,” in an echo of what HW Longfellow puts it, “Lives of great men all remind us | We can make our lives sublime.”

Life is like the crest and trough of the waves of the sea. You can’t have either of them exclusively, so you have to learn to live on with the antinomies of life. Here is a woman who laments the “million insignificant fragments” into which she is “blown away by the merciless winds| blended in the sands,” but laments for only a while, before realising the blessing in disguise of anonymity: “The bliss of no identity|Dawned and there abounded|Peace in bounty!” And she steels her heart to assert: “I may not be a victor|but I won’t give up either.”

The book is adorned with a confetti of beautiful, effusive and vivid images. A woman looks beautiful even when she cries, for she is the muse herself: “In her sob-weary|eyes is seen the quiescent sky|after a gushing rain.”

Rain is life-giving and it creates a kaleidoscope of situations and possibilities. When it pours, birds huddle out of sight and turn silent;riders draw their car aside and listen to the rain rattling on the window pane; the bike-borne youths speed by clenching their fists and teeth; roads wear a deserted look; animals stand in meditation offering themselves to the rain; but what did the unknown woman do? Hear what she says: “In my fancy|I crawled like an infant|Towards the rattling sound|With my tongue|Ready to lick|A drop or two!” What a larky song of sweet innocence!

By:U Atreya Sarma

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