By Sushma Shandilya
Shailja Pathak, one of the most sensitive poetess of Hindi poetry undoubtedly has the blessings of Goddess Saraswati, otherwise, she would not have been able to write such cruel truths with honesty. Shailja’s poems are a mirror of her mind, an attempt to save herself from getting lost in the huge crowd of Mumbai. She often listens to her heart’s voice while sitting on the quiet beaches of Mumbai. Here is one of her works that shows the undesirable interference by men on the soul, mind-heart, and body of women throughout their lives. She writes:
Now let me decide…
You always decided
My being or not being
My inside outside
My friends, my family too
Now let me decide
That what you
Should decide and what not…
Shailja’s poems are a true depiction of women’s sufferings, the results of tortures and atrocities of the unjust tyrants who do not care about humanity. Shailja’s poems touch on every aspect, issues related to women’s life softly but deeply, tenderly, showing tales of women’s woes. No doubt her fans are deeply connected with her poems. The many dimensions of life of familiar or unknown women around can be seen in her poems, often making the reader’s eyes moist or making them smile.
Shailja is a vocal, bold, outspoken poetess whose inner self is highly emotional and sensitive. Shailja born in Uttarakhand, was brought up in Varanasi, making her a proud Banarsi. She understands the deepest pain of women and puts feelings into words with expertise. In today’s rather selfish, artificial era, writers hesitate to speak the truth but Shailja considers it her religion to write fearlessly about the sufferings of women, the burning issues of female lives like adultery, oppression, exploitation, atrocities, etc.
While the so-called literary pioneers of the literary world, self-confessed in the conceit of pseudo-intellectuality, drenched in their malevolent egoism, pat themselves on their back and consider themselves far more superior to writing about women’s issues, Shailja never hesitates to give voice to the untold sufferings of women. She writes impeccably on topics related to women that are not considered important at all. Some readers accuse her of not penning untold pains of men, finding her writings one-sided and discriminating. But Shailja, unmoved by the fear of being disputed, effortlessly pens down and unveils the naked truths of the sickly-contaminated mindset prevailing in society for centuries. She is determined to make the world aware of the untold pain of women by illuminating the path of truth with her honest writings.
Shailja’s poems, like a mirror, reflect the latent feelings of those women who can never share anything with anyone or write poetry. Whether women are from towns, cities, or metros, they often don’t have a corner in the house to call their own space. In case they have a corner, it’s often the most neglected one occupied by the family. But in spite of living in a neglected corner, most women never ignore anyone and while doing so much for all, they keep neglecting themselves.
Shailja’s poems are sad songs about women living, walking, singing in groups, yet being alone with themselves. Those understanding this irony and paradox are able to read the woman inside Shailja, otherwise, the poems may seem strange. Readers who already have an image of modern women in their minds will find the women in her poems backward, conservative and old-fashioned. If the women depicted in Shailja’s poems are read with open eyes, only then the real woman can be seen, instead of women hidden under layers of make-up. Most women still never get an opportunity to talk and yet they are accused of being very talkative.
Shailja Pathak is a very popular poetess, a well-known name among the young writers of Hindi literature, and admired by her readers. She did her post-graduation in Hindi from Varanasi and after marriage, settled in Mumbai. Two of her poetry books, ‘Main Ek Deh Hoon Phir Dehri’ and ‘Jahan chuppi tootti hai’ (Where the Silence Breaks) have been published. Her poems are often published in literary magazines and blogs. Shailja has carved a niche for herself, making a strong presence in Hindi poetry in a short span of time. Infused with the feelings of the female mind, her poems directly communicate or question the evil characters.
Shailja’s poems are true stories serving bitter reality. Defining the disorders of the male mind, there is a call for compassion to warn them. Shailja has a unique style containing indigenous words, the reason she easily touches the hearts of the readers. Shailja’s ruthless, naked truths flow uninterruptedly and upheaval begins in the mind. After reading her, the ignorant readers are aware that there are so many forms and types of pains women suffer. Her poems, especially known for expressions and images, take the readers on a tour of the real world of women. The depiction of the frightening possibilities of girls and women being oppressed by emotional strangulation is well portrayed in these two short poems, defining the truth in a few words.
We were always
Cursed for our mistakes
We weren’t alone
Our mother was in this together..
Because of our status at our mother’s place,
We were supposed to only wash dishes in the house
She had written for us the fate of queens
But when were the queens asked about their agony?
Shailja’s themes of her poignant poems are often touching, always relevant, having painful cries of untold pains, buried deep in the minds of women. Her writing style forces the poems to stand in the discussion category. Like in Indian society, even today in some quarters, after the death of the husband, despite being innocent, the stamp of widowhood is affixed on the forehead, where the women are forced to lead a neglected life, in spite of serving their loved ones lifelong. Or be it girls who are full of life but suffering the brunt of feudal patriarchy, eventually become fearful, and often are forced to marry mismatched spouses. After sacrificing their dreams and happiness, their dreadful pain can only be imagined.
Shailja’s poems have a strange dispersion of emotions which is a permanent expression of highly emotional hearts. Shailja doesn’t care about the craft, the discipline of words, or images, nor does she believe in creating miracles for her readers. While expressing feelings, her words simply flow like mountain rivers, bouncing, scattering the experiences related to the moments. Instead of seeming composed in the world, the silence in her poems seems to be murmuring or humming. Her poems are an attempt to solve them by engaging themselves in the entangled times in the tangled mind. Her readers swear they open their hearts’ knots with her writings, and that’s why they admire her.
It is heartbreaking to read Shailja’s poignant poems because in her creations women hide their emotions, deeply buried in the innermost corners of their minds with lots of pain and anguish articulated. Her deep sensitivity, maturity and effort at a young age, putting all kinds of pains of females into words is highly commendable. Shailja’s poems depict poignancy arising out of insecurity along with sadness, frustration, and disappointment; but a little ray of hope too. Shailja is an expert in creating heartfelt sentiments with great ease in simple words. I wish that Shailja continues to write so that ardent admirers of her writings can get to read more touching truths that are rare in today’s gimmicky world. When Shailja pens female sorrows and joys, then many unknown lives start passing in front of the eyes, many an untold agony finds words, getting the mind drenched.
Shailja’s heart gets hurt deeply by women’s pains and sufferings, proving her to be one of the best poets of today’s era, who is very much appreciated for portraying the subtlest feelings of the female mind with amazing quality. On the birthday of this wonderful sensitive poetess Shailja Pathak, we hope that she continues to churn our hearts with her poetry and create more awareness about the deep pain of voiceless women.
Contributing Author: Sushma ‘Shandilya’ is a well-known Hindi poet and writer based in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Her short stories, articles and plays have been published in leading Indian publications. Sushma ‘Shandilya’ writes on various contemporary issues including themes around women empowerment. She is also a yoga teacher.
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