Exquisite prose poetry

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What is wrong with us Kali women?

Author : Prose poems by Anita Nahal

Publication : Kelsay Books, $ 19

In her prose poems, What’s Wrong with Us Kali Women? Anita Nahal probes with the tenacity of a philosopher the existential questions of being and nothingness and of identity and subjectivity, writes Swati Pal

You open the title book and you’re hooked. In the first short passage, Anita Nahal brings together the oppositions that we live with, that we have internalized, that we resist, that we surrender to, against which we challenge and against which we rebel in our hearts. Whether it is the dark skin color that is hated although people ironically try to tan theirs, the greed of men against which there is no respite, the double talk of worshiping women as goddesses and then to take them down, all this and much more Anita with force, poignant and poetically put to the reader. And the haunting phrase she repeats, “Don’t think she’s not looking,” stays with you as you turn the page.

And when you turn the page, she portrays in words who truly is a goddess. Fiercely alone whether among strangers or with those she knows, fending for herself for her children, facing a world that would judge a divorcee, such is the human and Hindu goddess that Anita would like to show us. And be.

The next piece on “How easy it is for a black life to be taken” is a slice from real life. Real, living, non-white beings whose lives have died out. Just like that. Muffled. As a reader, your hair will stand on end and your eyes will sting with unshed tears, while your heart will burn with rage. Anita makes one think of the dead. And with them. In this writing as in the following where she wonders what happens to the clothes of those who have died. Especially now, from Covid. How quickly they are bundled up as their clothes hang in the closets, silent testimony to the existence of those who wear them.

Watching, seeing, observing, watching – the whole idea of ​​watching, voyeurism, takes on new meaning as Anita focuses on the jungle in Smooth Operators and wonders who is watching who? As a reader, I have often asked myself this question too. We create wildlife sanctuaries and zoos, what animals, caged or free, think of us humans. Do they see us in a cage or free? Do they know we are humans or do they see us in our hordes as two-legged animals? Anita invites you to think about this. His writings about animals make them so much more human than us humans. The beautiful story of consideration rather than sex, which the lazy male understands, is truly touching.

Anita probes with the tenacity of a philosopher the existential questions of being and nothingness, of identity and subjectivity. His words reveal a quest to really get to the heart of our “I”, almost particle by particle as we see in “Hard: Us, animals and the aliens” or in “Greatest Warrior is metamorphic Mother Earth”. She has a talent for self-analysis so deeply felt in certain poems such as “A sip of wine”. There is also the feeling of being bludgeoned by the world, of being trapped in a claustrophobic space that we find in many images including the one just mentioned and the next one entitled “Hunt the demons left behind. “. A characteristic poetic device that she uses so effectively is personification, as we see in the way she personifies the concept of patriarchy.

While most of the prose poems are dark and gloomy, there is a playful but serious look at how women deal with aging in the foamy play “A woman’s age is kicking and alive.”

Another poem that looks at the body, in age, in a brief reminder is “Mum’s Shoulders”. Anita can see the flip side, and her take on Corona’s situation where nature flourishes even as some foolish people continue to be oblivious to security measures, is an honest examination of a contemporary issue. While her engagement with the pandemic can be seen in many of her plays, she is also clear that concern for this abnormal weather can cause the eternal wheel of time to be overlooked with its larger questions as we see in ‘Know your wheel, Homosapiens’ or in a different sense, in ‘Breathe’ or ‘Inverted Triangle of Covid 19’ or ‘Reclaim your space’.

Anita’s individuality is clearly shaped by her situation as an Indian immigrant and she recognizes this in several of her plays such as “Spilled Milk in Indigenous and Foreign Lands” and “Sophie from an Immigrant Single Mother” . As she experiences, as immigrants are, the traumas of being one, and to repeat, we see that so brutally in “How easy it is for a black life to be taken”, we don’t gets no shade of self-pity or even of being desperate. In fact, one of her prose poems is “Pity, go for a hike” – she avoids pity altogether.

Anita is aware of the choices she has made and in her writings we see a kind of acculturation; she is aware of the multicultural and pluralistic world in which she lives and makes absolutely no apologies about any aspect that shapes her multidimensional self.

In fact, she points out quite assertively that we are all in a sense of immigrants in her article “You are also an immigrant”. There is a sense of acceptance of the cultures and therefore his calm assertion that his son would cremate him in America and scatter some ashes in the Ganges, like his repayment of the debt to the two lands, America and India that ‘she has been a part of. This is what we see in “Paying my debt to two lands”. She criticizes both, particularly the way women are treated in both countries, being seen as readily available if they are found in miniskirts and dancing or indignant at society for doing so, which we see in “Babylon, ma sinful dance music “.

Nothing escapes the eagle eye and the pen of Anita, including the discomfort women experience with their period cramps as seen in “Feeling depressed, being depressed”. The reader will find each word resonating. Betrayal is present in many of his writings, betrayal of democracy, betrayal by blood ties, and betrayal in relationships. Although this is the underlying motif in many poems, “Family Blood”, “Democracy in decline” and “Koala and Judases” echo the theme more. It is interesting to note, as with “Koala and the Judas”, that some of Anita’s writings are inspired by Australian art and culture. Without a doubt, his writing is meant to strike a chord in the hearts of people across the world.

The Kalis , the Durgas , the Sitas, indeed, all the Hindu goddesses that Anita invokes in her writings are none other than Anita, you and me – the modern Indian woman, an immigrant or a character in a multicultural world. She questions, she laughs, she laughs, she rages, she refuses to “do the trick”, she talks and will not be silenced or suffocated, she breathes, dances, sings, makes love, drinks and even when falling into the depths of despair, never lose hope. And reading Anita, we agree. There is nothing wrong with us Kali women.

The book is here to stay. You will find it timeless. It is powerful, poignant and of course exquisite prose poetry.

Examiner, Professor and Principal, Janki Devi Memorial College (DU), has been an educator for the past twenty-seven years


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