forgotten tales from pre-nirbhaya
But she found man resolved to go,
So she went out with him, deathwards tending;
And yet God she’d scarcely got to know.1
† † †
No, let me speak, and let me rail so high,
That the false housewife Fortune break her wheel,
Provoked by my offence.2
We are the fallen women
we are not the only women3
scattered amidst uneven spaces
staring at you through jagged surfaces
our still-heads tell of abandoned graces
coloured, rich, poor, ornamented-
We are the wandering omens of your hunger satiated.
Not GB Road, Kamathipura or Avignon4
Released from mortal flesh
Cut from everyday ties-
Everywhere we roam.
Where ever we may roam.5
Scattered around Time,
our lives are a hand full of dust.
remembered only as shameless shades of lust.
Our muffled screams from smiling pictures
and memories of sordid adventures
fail to swerve a splinter
in brains turning in their usual grooves6
Staring sans vision, smiling sans affection7
Our hearts are dried-
Dry limbs, dry mouth, dry souls,
Aridity is our deepest affliction.
Yet, we have seldom attempted to weep,
most certainly refrained for bleating like sheep –
So remember us not as –
A delirious mass of weeping women, but only as8
the fallen woman
the un-crying, undying woman.
† † † † †
At twenty three
my April eyes said to me,
‘Be your own person,
aim to be free.’
At forty, December skin
like dry stone in scorching sun
My lips have forsaken questioning those conditioned creeds.
So please, please do not lament my seemingly persistent deeds.9
I have been aware of this for sure.
As most of us
have rounded and matured.
But some refusing to ingratiate
have conveniently disappeared
between fatty folds of Time
that was not even theirs
I have forsaken questioning
the laws of disappearance
and those many creeds –
No! Do not lament my most persistent deeds.
Nor despair o’er them!
We are not the cardboard cut-outs
of the usual reign.
We are the fallen women
the silent, beautiful women.
† † † † †
Stands amongst us:
Gorgeously smiling G.10
Wearing a Face
adorned by much tapestry.
She served drinks on flights
over land and sea,
To charming men
given to subtle lechery;
Coaxed, cajoled bewitched her; one such lech
listlessly moaned, while she sensuously stretched.
To his wild mating calls,
promising successes, love
and much tomfoolery.
Slowly diluting ambitions with conceit,
he managed to pop her cherry!
In Love, they signed many-a bond
ran around trees
till She got bored,
yelling to be free-
Here, she gracefully stands, while
her ghost, wise, innocent and wild
sits chained in the dungeons of flawed memory.
† † † † †
She flew the skies
fell into lies.
Remember her, not as
the fallen women, but only –
As the fallen woman.
The soaring, roaring woman.
Beside G, sits B11
who ne’er flew-
Or went on wild shopping sprees.
Yet, She too had wanted to be free!
By indulging in twilight games
about dangling a cee-dee.
But the infirm Dog
who was to chase,
was given to much biting, rabid and crazed.
“Enough!” he barked, “I am done with such fun!”
so, Her Body still glistens
by the canal in the sun.
No! She hadn’t fallen in the canal
dreamily lost in lover’s games.
So remember her,
not as a frivolous, game-loving woman, but only –
As the fallen woman
The bloating, floating, dog-loving woman.
† † † † †
These words she would’ve scribbled
if she could-
do not read these as M’s words, if at all you should!12
Written Words, not Freedom
Was M’s real calling.
They could not prevent her from,
into an Hungry Abyss falling.
She emerged, sphinx like
with a bump in her body.
Patterns of poignant words
now made illegible and shoddy.
For six months we saw,
We saw and we whispered;
‘Boy-Girl-Girl-Boy’, the suspense of it lingered.
Alas! Mistimed concern
Doesn’t heal or embalm.
“aim at the stomach, so all evidence vanishes”
-a bloodstained wall
her greatest poem
reads back to us, in un-poetic charm!
Do not remember her, through
these tepid lines
Do not remember her.
do not! – But only avoid
reflecting on her, as upon the dead
And mis-assuming her heart to be buried here.13
† † † † †
So many have been our stories
that only some get told.
Even if quaintly mentioned
they’re swept into societal folds.
So whilst we stand outside this Gate.14
And restlessly await.
The black-and-white decisions of fate
Let me introduce you to A, 15
when found, she was neither scarlet,
nor adulterous 16
– two large, black eyes painted over a face
childlike, more innocent than Grace.
Look at her coming
look at her
look- there she comes
walking the gait of wooded-nymphs.17
Neither laughs, nor smiles, nor childishly grins
simply staring at those who begot her
nurtured her, destroyed her.
And now try to forget her.
wondering if the ones who love us most are also capable of hurting us the most
Remember her not –
as the fallen woman,
she is a girl
an eternal girl
[where is the good in that!]
with the eternal smile of girlhood
sitting over her
like Irony sits over Tragedy
softly, mockingly smiling to itself
She joins us awaiting
or just Kindness
In Life’s Other Kingdom-
the A, B, C, D, E…
the fallen women
the lovely, smiling, beautiful women.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡
- Quoted from Eve, New Poems, Rainer Maria Rilke (Penguin Books, 1964)
- Quoted from William Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra. Act 4 Scene 15, Cleopatra.
- Allusion to TS Eliot’s The Hollow Men (1925). Original lines:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpieces filled with straw. Alas!
- Refers to major red-light areas in Delhi (GB Road) and Mumbai (Kamathipura). Avignon is an allusion to Pablo Picasso’s 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon (Oil on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art, New York)or The Women of Avignon. In an essay on Picasso in 1920, Andre Salmon spoke of the painting as ‘the ever glowing crater from which the fire of contemporary art erupted (Roland Penrose, Phaidon, 1971). Five prostitutes confront the spectator as if he had just entered their midst. The following allusion attempts to communicate this fire of life reminiscent in the women who stare back at the reader through photographs. It is also suggestive of the fact that unlike the five women in the painting, the protagonists in the present context have not been circumscribed to a set canvas or space, nor do they, sadly, garner the awe and veneration of the five women in the painting.
- The line is inspired from rock-band Metallica’s song Wherever I May Roam(The Black Album, Elektra Records, 1991). Excerpts of the original lyrics are as follows:
And the road becomes my bride
I have stripped of all but pride
So in her I do confide
And she keeps me satisfied
Gives me all I need
And with dust in throat I crave
Only knowledge will I save
To the game you stay a slave
Call me what you will
But I’ll take my time anywhere
Free to speak my mind anywhere
And I’ll redefine anywhere
Anywhere I roam
Where I lay my head is home
- An allusion to Emily Dickenson’s poem #556, which reads:-
The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly-and true
But let a splinter swerve
T’was easier for you-
To put a current back- –
When Floods have slit the Hills- –
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves
And trodden out the Mills
The implied meaning of the lines is opposite of that in the original.
- Ibid. 3.
- Picasso’s Weeping Woman (1937, Oil on canvas. Tate Gallery, London) has been alluded to here. Having been painted after the Guernica, the Weeping Woman was intended to meditate upon the outrage of an event. In that case, the bombing of Guernica (Roland Penrose, Phaidon, 1971). The painting itself assumes grotesque proportions due to the jarring play of colours. However, in the present context, it has been placed at a counterpoint to suggest a refusal to be sympathized by the reader, and hence emphasizes on the mental strength vis-à-vis self-respecting egotism of the speaker, in the face of tumultuous misfortunes.
- Alludes to William Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra (Act 5, Scene 1)
Agriappa: And strange it is,
That nature must compel us to lament
Our most persistent deeds.
10. G: Geetika Sharma. An airhostess who rose to become a director of an aviation company owned by Gopal Kanda, Haryana’s sacked minister of home affairs. She later committed suicide on 04 Aug 12, leaving a note behind blaming Kanda and his associate Aruna Chadha for harassing her to death. (SugardaddyDunnit, August 27, 2012, Outlook. 05 August 2012, Indian Express)
11. B: Bhanwari Devi. A 36-year old scheduled caste, auxiliary nurse and midwife in Jodhpur, she went missing in September 2011. She was allegedly killed and her body dumped in a Rajasthan canal because she was blackmailing the state’s Congress minister Mahipal Maderna with a cd of her sexual encounters with him (SugardaddyDunnit, August 27, 2012, Outlook. June 14, 2012 India Today)
12. M: Madhumita Shukla. Fiery poetess was gunned down in Lucknow in 2003. Six months pregnant at the time of her death, a DNA test revealed the father to be Amarmani Tripathi. (SugardaddyDunnit, August 27, 2012, Outlook. 24 October, 2007,
13. Refer to Lines written in an Album, at Malta (Occasional Pieces, 1809-13) by Lord Byron. The original are as follows:
As o’er the cold sepulcher stone
Some name arrests the passer-by;
Thus, when thou view’st this page alone,
May mine attract thy pensive eye!
And when by thee that name is read,
Perchance in some succeeding year,
Reflect on me as on the dead,
And think my Heart is buried here.
There are two aspects to alluding to Lord Byron here. Firstly, it is to emphasize the fact that like Byron, the protagonist being referred to here was also a poetess. Secondly, in the present context, the lines aim at warding off any spongy sentimentalism which may arise on part of the reader.
14. Gate: The symbolism attempted at is two-fold. Firstly, they refer to the proverbial gates of heaven which have been shut to these protagonists. It has also been used to suggest the refusal of a normal life. On another plane, it refers to the judicial gates, which are still shut on some of the protagonists who await for ‘black-and-white’ justice. Consequently, the heavenly gates too are dependent on judicial verdicts for admittance in public perception.
15. A: ArushiTalwar. 16-year old girl and only child of a successful dentist couple, was found dead with her throat slit in her parent’s home. Initially, their domestic help, Hemraj was the key accused whose body was found in the same house at a different spot. Later, suspicion fell upon her parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar who have now been charged and proven guilty with murder of their daughter Arushi and their domestic help, Hemraj (Arushi-Hemraj Murder case: Nupur, Rajesh Talwar charged with murder. 25 May, 2012 IBN Live). L.138-139 also shed light upon the unsavory tendencies of the Indian media such as sensationalism, a tendency to ‘overkill’ and carrying out a public trial-by-media.
16. Allusion to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850). Even though the key facet of the book is Adultery, committed by Hester Pyrnne who conceives a daughter through an adulterous affair, arguments about sin, guilt and most importantly legalism run throughout. L.136-137 attempt to draw parallels between Hester’s struggle to preserve her innocence, in the face of insurmountable societal recriminations.
17. Wood-nymph: Picasso’s The Dryad (1908, Oil on canvas. Hermitage Musuem, St. Petersburg) has been alluded to here. The painting carries a primitivist theme. The mask and body of the mythic creature are hewn from the very materials she inhabits (Roland Penrose, Phaidon, 1971). In the present context, it signifies a complete loss of innocence. The allusion is also stresses and enriches the imagism of dry hearts, limbs, mouth and souls in the previous lines.