Friday, January 06, 2006

Mother: The Idea of A Poem

The poem generated much discussion at a writers' forum Caferati. Finally, I thought the debate merits a response from me - the poet: the original mischief-maker. I am posting my response here for your perusal. Thanks & best regards.

The Idea of A Poem

I think I had some inkling that this poem will generate much discussion. And I also knew that the reactions would be varied.

I am not into lengthy post-creation discussions. They bore me to death. I think they’re best confined to classrooms. But often there is a widening gap between the instinctive gut-felt acts of an artist and the informed nitpicking of a critic. And I guess for sake of fostering understanding (I am not sure what ‘understanding’ I refer to here!) it’s best that the artist speaks for his or her act.

The Genesis of ‘Mother’

Yesterday, I had some time at hand before I had to leave for my play’s rehearsal. So, I picked up Amitava Kumar’s book ‘Passport Photos’ and continued reading from where I had left last. The book is an insightful peek into post-colonial literature, the travails of immigrants, and language and the idiom that it acquires for people across social, national, economic, psychological, religious, racial, gender, et al barriers. The book is innovatively structured. Each chapter reads as an entry in a Passport.

I was at the chapter titled ‘Sex’ when I stumbled upon a discussion on the Dalit (I hate this categorization here but I think it is relevant in the context of the point that I wish to make) Marathi Poet Namdeo Dhasal and his collection of poems called Golpitha. Amitava was talking about how Dhasal brings forth a whole host of issues in his poetry – brahmanical hegemony, patriarchal family structures, gender repression, violence, etc. He intends to shock and at the same time throw it in his readers’ faces and disconcert their smug social superiority and indifference.

The poem that particularly hit me is Dhasal’s “What Grade Are You in, What Grade?” In Amitava’s words, “In this poem, almost in a ritual manner Dhasal very powerfully details what the Brahmanic Hindus consider defiling: a menstruating woman, a dead cow, meat, sex.” I quote the translated poem for you.

“Fucked a menstruating woman? Fucked her?
Dragged around the dead cattle? The dead cow?
Rubbed the grindstone? The grindstone?
Known what hayale is? Cow gut?
Saved stale bread? Ate it?
Sucked the marrow? The marrow?
Fried the giblets? The giblets?”

It also serves “to document what had been the duty of the Dalits, the pariah castes condemned to the outskirts of Hindu life, performing the tasks of traditional scavengers.”

While all this was having its effect on me, my thoughts kept hovering around the violence against women in recent times that few of you have mentioned here. Strangely, the poem also reminded me of a line from a dialogue from my current play “Where did this come from? I thought we had guzzled every drop of alcohol in the house!” And also about the Ummayyid Caliph, Yazid, who allegedly raped his mother in an inebriated state and about the movie ‘Gladiator’ where Nero is making advances towards his sister. The violence of these thoughts erupted inside me and everything strung together as a poem.

The Post-creation Blues

There is again a lengthy discussion as to how the original version got transformed into its current form. I do not wish to get into that as this apologia of mine has already run into two pages.

Nevertheless, at times art is a conduit for importing larger issues from inaccessible, often intellectual and elitist, spheres into more knowable territories of mass cultures. I guess I was attempting to weave in a grave issue like gender violation into something as perfunctory as an act of reading newspaper and sipping our morning tea. And shock ourselves in seeing that apathetic face of ourselves where we feel by maintaining a steely veneer or an ostrich like attitude we’d get the better off the situation.

But the last I am looking here is poetic brilliance or an attempt to resort to sensationalism to promote my poetry.

I am only experimenting with ideas, issues, forms and see how wider perspectives, that may serve some purpose, be incorporated into my poetry.

Thanks for bearing with me.

Best regards,

Dan Husain

PS: Oh! One last thing. Poets and Actors don’t have any morals or speak from a moral hierarchy. We can’t burden ourselves with such weighty things. :-)


Blue Athena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
darkness said...

I read your poem and it reminded me of a discussion i had with my friends.It was one of those days when we were talking about rape.... unfortunately this happens very rarely.... and some one just came up with this statistic (maybe in reality its more or less. I dont know ..) that some.... 85% or rapists are known to the victim. The reactions were... (i know, shit yaar, that's sad, how sick.) We all are aware of the reality but thats how our conversations end. Your poem made me think.......

darkness said...

I forgot to add....
I would love to watch and participate in your plays. Infact, I have watched one of your play. "Premchand's stories"

Φ said...

Well written as a poet (the original draft) and explained it as an actor. Well said. Could see how the thought gyrated, under what strong influences..


zigzackly said...

I am not into lengthy post-creation discussions. They bore me to death.