By: Bhabani Bhuyan
Translated from the Odia by Pitambar Naik
After Four Girls Committed Suicide By Taking Poison
Not to collapse, learn how to live, woman whatever
you do, whether you sell pan or vegetables, sweat or
sweet, body or womb, learn to sustain, woman. Let them
call you prostitute, chippy or whore let them label you
as a harlot or arrogant, profane or witch, learn to ignore it.
If you’re humiliated or rapped, if you’re barren or
a widow, sold out or ostracized, learn to raise your head;
the crux of life is combating; there listening to the terrible
screaming of Ahalya, that’s inundated by the cursed
stone. Are you witnessing the compelling plea of
Draupadi being stripped naked in the packed royal court?
Are you figuring out a combating voice of the burning body
of Itishree? Are you able to listen to the heart-wrenching
voice of Chhabirani from the deserted visceral of the
Kuakhai River? Neither in shame nor covering the head
in humiliation nor killing oneself by poisoning but they lived
with a good fight. You will have to fight even in hunger and
honour, those who have snatched rice from your platter, throw
hunger into theirs in return those who played with your body,
slash their bodies to suffer and bleed using your teeth as knives.
Woman, learn to fly fluttering your wings, where your feet are
and from there the world originates, don’t quit, learn to live.
They are scared of your shadow
which is why they’ve kept you in panic
calling you untouchables, they’re scared
of your innocence that’s why
whatever leftover you gave them
they considered it sweet to eat
They’re panic-stricken seeing your
strong arms which is why they conspired
to take away chopping your mighty thumb
can’t you realize this much
the calamity of your shadow
and the right of your hungry stomach
the helplessness of your life
and the prowess of your hands.
Then that day is here now
like stopping the drum-beat, like refusing
from the legs being washed
barricade the waters, winds, ghats, ponds
village courtyards, lands and gardens
forest, roads and factories
be a war bugle, before being lost
in the alleyway of time sow the mustard
seeds of hope and happiness.
Bhabani Bhuyan is an activist and poet based in Puri, Odisha in India. Her work has appeared in various Odia journals.
Pitambar Naik is an advertising copywriter for a living. When he’s not creating ideas for brands, he writes poetry. His work appears or is forthcoming in The McNeese Review, The Notre Dame Review, Packingtown Review, Ghost City Review, Rise Up Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Indian Quarterly and elsewhere. He’s the author of the poetry collection, The Anatomy of Solitude (Hawakal). He grew up in Odisha and lives in Bangalore, India.