oncejadedtwicesnarked: Spivak is looking disgruntled and pissed. (Default)
The following is an edited and translated version of a paper I presented at a conference at the French Embassy in this city last week. This paper is around the interwebes in different forms, link back please if you’re quoting it.
 

*

I’ve been invited here to speak to you of representations today. I’m told this group is interested in culture and translation – in the realm of feminism and praxis – and I’ll be talking specifically about a few images that linger on, even when exercises that seem as benign as translation occur. I am not sure how many people in the audience are familiar with Mumbai of the Globalisation, Privatisation and Liberalisation era, and I am not entirely certain that any summary I could provide would come close to even scratching the surface of all that Bombay and later Mumbai experienced in the past two decades. So you will have to translate the circumstances I speak of.

Introductions have always been my weak spot — I never know how to quite answer the “where are you from” question. Not that I have a history of origins so complicated that I don’t know where I come from, it’s just that the moment I say I am from “Mumbai, India”, the conversation usually dies out. For people who’ve grown up in different parts of India dreaming of going to Mumbai (for some Bombay) and making their dreams come true — I don’t know how to talk of the Mumbai I know, of intense competition that you learn to lovingly call “survival”, of the brusque lifestyles, of the city where private spaces are now becoming extinct — to the effect that we’ve started creating the “private” everywhere we can — where you find spas and slum dwellings in the same street, where such clichés actually hold true, for the city they dream of has no room for such cracks. To people who don’t know India, much less Mumbai, all and everything Mumbai has come to symbolise is Slumdog Millionaire and any suggestion that Mumbai is more than someone’s Orientalist-wet-dream is met with condescension. This is usually the point in the conversation when I stop talking altogether or just walk away.

Since I moved to this city six months ago, introductions have become my least favourite exercise. Another conversation nightmare is, “What was your childhood like?” as people think I’m being creative with details when I say I grew up reading and re-reading works of Austen, the Brontes, Dickens, Enid Blyton and Wordsworth on one hand and am equally well versed with the worlds of Rabindranath Tagore, Ruskin Bond and Anant Pai. Another horrid question is, “What is your mother tongue”, for English doesn’t seem like a true enough answer, least of all to me. But it’s the only answer that fits the traditional definitions of a “mother tongue” – I have never really understood what mothers have to do with languages – it’s the language I think and dream in, can articulate myself but it still breathes foreign to me. Lately French has joined the rank too. Popular images that came through via texts and visuals are of the “Indian global citizen”, of the new middle class, upper-caste child that speaks impeccable English as well as knows the “traditional texts and scriptures” (translated in English will also do), a person who manages tradition – of a certain kind, accessible only to some people in the caste and class hierarchy – with modernity. Most of our middle class households imbibe the idea, consciously and otherwise, that our dream is the American dream. Of studying and working in the US, of internalising meritocracy – this is also why so many people study English and Spanish, with specific American pronunciations; you find the various “Learn Perfect American English” institutes littered all across India.

I am not suggesting that growing up anywhere in India in the 90’s was an uniform experience, rather that it meant something to be growing up in Mumbai, a city so many people think of as the cultural capital of India and being able to more-or-less set the norms for most other youngsters in other small towns and cities – I didn’t think it was true till many years ago a friend from Bengal pointed out the favourable change in people’s attitude towards me when I’d mention I am a Mumbaiite. There was a moment, somewhere in 2002 or 2003 where suddenly my friends and I discovered the power we wielded as residents of Mumbai, and we’d loudly make fun of participants of other cities whenever we went for Science fairs and competitions. We called them “vernacular trash”, forgetting that English too was a vernacular language to someone else in a different spot on the globe, or the way English had reached us, drunk on the status our city afforded us. We grew up soon after, learnt that it was politically incorrect to make such statements and started fraternising with the “under classes” in a wave of bourgeois guilt. Luckily for us, we met reality soon enough, figured out there was no “under class” and that the people we wanted to save so badly had more to give us than the other way around – in terms of practical advice and even as producers of theory and knowledge.

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oncejadedtwicesnarked: An angry looking brown person, the text above reads "POC MEANIE". (Poc Meanie)


Last week, my friend and I drunkenly tried to count the number of billboards, shops, advertisements used the term “
modern” and we stopped at 36 as something shinier came by. For a country that wants to proclaim ‘modernity’ on every turn that it possibly can -- read “enter the ranks of the first worldregardless of who pays the price -- ‘modern’ is our buzzword. There are ‘modern’ supermarkets, ‘modern’ shopping malls, ‘modern’ hairdressers, ‘modern’ tailors and this list goes on ad nauseam.  It’s really funny that we don’t mind seeming this “modern” nation out on its way to progress -- without pausing to ask whose notion of progress anyway -- but the moment gender becomes a part of the equation, suddenly the rules change.  Anyone who’s been a feminist or an advocate of women’s rights in India, has heard at least once, that they are “spoiling the cultural fabric of the nation” because of feminism.  Even the Left considers feminism an “imperial curse”¹ and the "western/modern demon"; often feminists have to explain why we're not being seditious by believing and advocating for gender justice.


Selectively labeling something as "western" is to make it taboo in one of the quickest ways possible here -- and anything can be labeled "western" if it leads to policing feminine sexual autonomy and agency.  Speaking English is western, wearing jeans is western, dressing in anything but "traditional" clothes denotes one's corruption by western forces and this contempt is reserved mostly for anyone who is read as 'female' -- outright sexism that most of us encounter daily.  Marxism isn't "western", using avant garde technology isn't "western", when gender enters any equation it immediately becomes "western".  My grandmum complained about similar layperson sexism and I frankly don't see much change in our reception and understanding of feminism -- we usually hear the dismissal of the movement as "western" once we've pointed out some yet another misogynist attitude, a rebuttal that comes when there is nothing else to say. I'm quite used to right-wing-leaning acquaintances denounce how I single-handedly will shame everyone I know (and their ancestors) by talking and writing about gender all the time.  Less frequent are the rants from the people who call themselves "comrade" and (unalarmingly) they come to the same conclusion.  Imagine my surprise when I read the following quote:


Like any woman of color, I can’t simply give in to feminism completely. It is a Western ideology that does not mesh well with mine [...]


I imagine Mehreen's position comes from facing racism within the feminist movement, being the token nonwhite feminist in and outside academic feminism. I cannot imagine what an added layer of islamophobia feels to such routine tokenism. At many feminist meetings here too, there are the same few Muslim voices, the same women who are pigeonholed into being the Non Threatening Muslim voices who talk (yet again) of the Hudood ordinances, veils and polygamy, who do not question too hard the discrepance between what feminists say and do. I can completely sympathise about wanting to disengage with such a movement and will probably be the last person to ever disagree with any such claim given my relationship with the movement

(and to her credit, she doesn't dismiss feminism but instead calls for white feminists to look at flaws in their methods of working and engaging with women of colour). However, seeing feminism attributed to solely western ideologies raises all kinds of red flags, if we are to take India’s history of women’s movements as an example.  Unlike the popular belief that India doesn't have feminism because there were no "waves" here² the Indian women's movement has a long-sustained conversation vis-a-vis feminism being "western”.


 

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oncejadedtwicesnarked: An exploding dog comic. The text reads "look it's ok you are dead inside, we don't expect too much from you". (Dead Inside)

This week I'm flitting between three cities, attending conferences in two, making my way back in the third one -- moving in my old room again, while half of my boxes and things are stuck in another house eight hours away from where I grew up. Thinking about memories, what each place, room holds and means to me has become quite the routine for this time of the year. Memories of my family intertwine with national history -- partly because of my grandmum's participation in the freedom struggle and in part my great-grandfather's connections with Nehruvians -- so much so that writing anything about the nation would be futile without mentioning my family and the place I occupy and negotiate in both spaces. My sister and I usually clean grandmum's cupboard, pack up her photographs, clean her saris while her ghazals play on the tape -- it's something we do without discussion or planning, it's an annual chore of sorts. This year, mum invited two of our aunts along, all of us began with the cleaning and boxing. Somehow, they started talking about her little quirks, her way of cooking this sabzi or the other, quickly praising her poise ("Right to her last days, she has never been inconvenient to anyone") that dissolved to silence as my sister asked my aunts what was she like when they were growing up, if she was as radical as the stories assure us. These are not memories you want to remember her by, auntie huffed, think how great a grandmother she was to the two of you, the Swadeshi¹ thing is very old, what's the point of thinking of all that now? I find this extremely disorienting -- to specifically remember her as a defanged version of her older self, as a wife and grandmother but not as a woman in her own right who wanted to be more than just a housewife.


----


A friend asked this question a few days ago and I am still grappling with what it implies, what it can unfold. She asked me to write one day about South Asian feminisms² and its legacy of violence, to the extent that to speak of South Asian feminisms is to speak of violence -- and what does it mean for us today, what responsibility do we have to various women's movements across South Asia. The conference I went to yesterday, before starting on her paper on Urdu poetry, the speaker stood up and apologised to all the Bangladeshi feminists present -- she said the Pakistani government would never state this, but as a feminist she feels responsible for her compliance and silence in the Bangladeshi war of 1971 -- a conference that addresses South Asian feminism was a good platform, she said, to make new memories out of national histories. While those were terse and moving moments -- sadly, they will not exist out of spaces made by academia and institutional discussions of feminism. Grandmum and her friend -- who I only know as Fatimabibi -- tried to keep in touch after her family migrated to Bangladesh after the Partition as many Muslim households in Bengal and Orissa did, but both were young mothers with families that didn't want to accommodate their ideologies, eventually they stopped writing to each other, my grandmum wouldn't ever speak of her -- I only found their letters while doing a project on family this semester. And even then, I felt like I was intruding on words and memories that I wasn't meant to be a part of -- grandmum mentioned burning a few letters on Fatimabibi's request in her journals; all she said was, "Those were important but not happy words". I don't know what was that in reference to -- I could speculate, but I won't. These are not my memories to play with. It's one thing to claim responsibility as a political move, as an extension of your beliefs, quite another to destroy history, to remain *that* firm on your belief of what comes under responsibility³.


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oncejadedtwicesnarked: An exploding dog comic. The text reads "look it's ok you are dead inside, we don't expect too much from you". (Dead Inside)


Note: This is a dialogue that has taken months to articulate, Numa and I have been talking about allyhood, groups and new modes of organising -- important to remember this dialogue has no end -- we are just certain about one thing, if any speculation around solidarity is not a dialogue, a mutual engagement then it holds no value.

---

Numa: When you suggested that we start discussing Islam, I wasn’t entirely sure where you wanted to go with this discussion/talk. Talking about Islam certainly hasn’t figured much in our conversations, so I was like, huh?, where did that suggestion come from? But thinking about it now, I recall what you said when you first introduced this idea of this series to me. The assumption made by many is that because we are South Asian women, we will be natural allies.
 

Well, to be fair, I think because of our melanin count we DO have some shared experiences/ similar experiences that made it possible as individuals to identify with each other. Of course, that’s just on an individual level and it wouldn’t necessarily be the same for myself and another person who looks like me (my mother for example).
 

Yes, there are differences, like religion. I was going to say, it is interesting that this is clearly a big signifier of difference in your geo-political location, where everyone is more or less the same race, but for me, it wasn’t the first difference that occurred to me. Growing up in a majority white space, and having been raised in a family that while Muslim, is not outwardly read as Muslim by most white people (I don’t wear a headscarf, my father doesn’t have a massive beard etc.), our main signifier is our clearly South Asian looks.
 

The other day, my father approached a traffic warden to ask about parking in the neighbourhood we were in and the traffic warden put his hands together in greeting (Namaskar), and asked my father whether he knew Shah Rukh Khan. Anyway, my point is that I think this kind of lumping all South Asians into one homogeneous mass, kind of rubbed off on me.
 

When I meet South Asian people here, we are kind of immediately connected by this bond of shared racism that we face, and intra-group tensions due to religious/regional differences, at least to me, are not something that I think about actively. It’s not like when I meet somebody white, and I immediately think, how will the fact that I am different to them influence the way they behave towards me.
 

In fact, I kind of feel like, whenever I meet anyone who is foreign/POC, there is this immediate connection that is forged because when you live somewhere where everyone else is nothing like you, anyone who is a little bit like you becomes a friend/ally.
 

Me: Yes don’t you know? We brown women are all alike! We have the same needs and if you squint really hard, we’ll look the same from a distance too! As you suggested one time, maybe we all come from the secret clone factories. But I digress. It’s fascinating you said “people of the same race” -- while it is true -- what is strange is, we don’t see ourselves as “races” rather as castes and communities, most of which are almost always on opposite ends. When I think back about my childhood ideas around caste and communities, they are so strongly influenced with the dominant Hindu nationalism, even though I don’t remember ever really believing in God or a religion. Hindu nationalism learnt firsthand from my immediate family who’d wish Pakistan would lose every time there was an India vs Pakistan match, watching the whole neighbourhood taking immense amount of pride when we’d hear the Pakistani soldiers shot during the Kargil war, seeing most people I know fly into a rage whenever Kashmir’s “integrity” into the Indian nation-state was mentioned, having people I looked up to in my family believe that the Godhra riots were “provoked”, having teachers constantly talk about “dignity in all labour” but saying that certain jobs like scavenging and garbage collecting are not for “people like us” in the same breath, being punished for playing with children from slums, being punished for publicly declaring my family as casteist -- these are memories that I carry with my body. So while you may feel some sort of connection based on “shared oppression” -- however you and the other person define that -- or you may start organising, forming alliances based on some similar marginalisations, here, more often than not, even the people we’d categorise under “WOC” or “third world women” have such diverse ideologies, needs, histories and geographies of exclusion (which go both ways), that sometimes I see people allying themselves with [x] community in some far off country, rather than the person sitting next to them in the bus*.
 

Going to the example you gave, whenever I meet anyone who I think I can potentially work or associate with, usually I have to make sure our ideas of feminism(s), communalism and casteism are somewhat similar -- otherwise I’d get stuck in the rut of Hindu nationalist feminism(s), where the imagined community and emancipation is only for the select few. As is customary, I have no answers, I’m just wondering how can we translate our friendship beyond just an individual level, when and if we want to organise around lines of race, nationality and/or ethnicity?
 

*Whether this alliance is problematic or not, isn’t my place to judge.

 

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oncejadedtwicesnarked: Spivak is looking disgruntled and pissed. (Default)

I haven't written here for more than a month, because honestly I didn't trust myself to write without exploding into particles of dust, or if I did manage to write somehow it would only be selective expletives repeated over and over -- I've been more than just a little angry. Warning to readers, I'm not writing this to cater to your sensibilities, nor is this the moment to profess how you belong to [x] group but don't do any [abc] I talk about. I am exhausted with keeping my anger inside, and it's coming out in all insidious ways today.

---

When I repeat out of frustration to western feminists -- yes western feminists get clubbed in the same indistinguishable a bubble as "South Asian feminist" feels to me -- that abortion wars here are different, we face different demons, we use different strategies, all they seem to hear is "India doesn't consider abortion is illegal! They don't have anything to complain about!". Yes, factually, the Indian nation-state hasn't outlawed abortion, that can hardly be cited as evidence to prove that there aren't any problems. Or on the flip-side, almost every feminist (or not) publication from the Global North talks about the problem of female feticide India -- additionally India and China are used interchangeably for some reason, as if any place that is Not the Global North must be a homogeneous mass of cultures  -- to the extent that "feminism in India" means "sex-selective abortion". There is a problem with using and perpetuating such a model, where you start equating a region's "gender problems" to its feminism is probably the preliminary layer of fail; I've talked about  it long enough. What you leave out when you stick to the primitive equation of "Indian feminism = sex-selective abortion" are the many methods that the State designs to keep contraception from people who want to access it, to forcibly sterilise groups which the State thinks need to be curbed and even erased. It infuriates me that whenever one speaks of "sex-selective abortions" and its evils -- yes fetuses are being aborted because they're perceived to be 'useless' as they're female, and it is evil, it needs to end, no disputing this fact. But there's more to just a "culture thinking females are unworthy" that people don't want to engage with -- what western feminists don't even consider is the way discourse around contraception figures here; mainly because they're too busy presuming that it's the same as it is in their native countries, but I digress.

Contraception, as introduced by the State was started in the light of the UN deciding "India's problem" was "over-population", and it's not surprising that a neo-liberal capitalist socialist state that India supposedly was then didn't contest this accusation, or didn't argue that the real problem was unequal resource-allocation. Contraception, for a long time didn't mean sexual autonomy of bodies, instead it was (and is), "we must control the numbers", as if these "numbers" cannot ever be wanted bodies. Forced sterilsations of men and (mostly) women during Emergency years are no secret, nor are the sterilisations of some "backward" castes and tribes that are carried out regularly. More recently, the State has changed its face when it comes to contraception, now it's under the Right To Information, the citizen -- or at least people who are read as citizens -- that we get "a choice" in what form of contraception we can avail of; there are enough ads everywhere that address this nice married Hindi and English speaking Hindu lady who has two (or three) children and is thinking of contraception. Even within this incredibly narrow range of people nice Hindu ladies addressed, they don't get access to contraception -- there are abortion practitioners who will look at your financial and social status and decide that you can raise a baby and refuse to give you an abortion, or not give you information about UID's even if you can afford it, the concern to protect your Right To Conceive one day is apparently more important than your informed choice -- and people who are not women, who are not Hindu, not English (or Hindi) speaking, according to the State don't need to avail of contraception, going by the demographic they address in their ads and propaganda.

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oncejadedtwicesnarked: A cookie. The words read "meets minimum standards of basic. human" (Ally cookie)

I've been pretty busy moving and settling in a new city these past three weeks, I couldn't keep up with people, let alone the internet -- thus thankfully missing debates around whether Mumbai should have slutwalks or not. One of the organisers asked me whether I'd be willing to help organise as we've worked on a few things together before. She was quite taken aback when I declined her offer (given that Slutwalk Mumbai ends up taking place) as we usually agree on most things when it comes to activism and organising. She asked, "But don't you love your freedom? How can you pass up an opportunity such as this to see and know how far we can push boundaries?" and then I didn't have any answers for her as I was, and am still caught up in thinking how for her, and a lot of people Slutwalk™ has come to symbolise the sum of all feminist rioting considering  Delhi, Calcutta, Hyderabad and Mumbai (from time to time) have had walks and pickets by feminists and people involved in gender justice, for causes ranging from more college seats for women to raising awareness about sex-selective abortions -- each issue that emerges from our specific caste, gender, class conflicts in each specific city long before Slutwalk™ became an enterprise. Since this exchange, the rhetoric behind supporting slutwalks has become intertwined with "respecting and loving oneself" -- where love¹ (of the self, of the 'community') is continuously intertwined to the extent that any opposition to slutwalk today is to "hate" freedom -- and peculiarly, this 'freedom'  that SW represents has to move away from anything "recognisably" Indian -- whatever that means to people individually and collectively.

---------

In other parts of the country -- especially Delhi -- newspapers and news channels are all fixed on Anna Hazare's impending fast tomorrow, that has been a part of national rhetoric and vocabulary since late April. On the whole, Hazare demands for a new anti-corruption bill, asks people to fully and directly engage with the government and hold them accountable. When it comes to the news coverage of his speeches and his entire fast, the comparisons drawn to Gandhi are more than co-incidental -- tomorrow being Independence Day for India, the analogy becomes even thicker, Hazare is viewed as the "one man army" who is going to drive away corruption, going by Gandhi's views of freedom. While I don't necessarily agree that this protest is "peaceful" at all, that by specifically re-membering India's history of independence as one without critically admitting to ourselves and others that it meant freedom for only 'some' people, I do find such a 'nation-wide' movement fascinating -- as from time to time we see women also supporting Hazare's fast², it's been a while since women have been featured under the "national gaze" as more than just agency-less subjects. However, coming to the actual protest due on 15th August at Delhi, it seems women may not have a harassment-free space to march and protest. Can't say I'm particularly shocked if tomorrow there are mostly men broadcasted over the news -- as Hazare (like Gandhi) still see women's roles under traditional patriarchy of wifedom and motherdom. For instance, the Alcohol Prohibition Act reads like one that empowers women, to talk about their abusive alcoholic spouses -- it supposes that only men can be alcoholics, that one has to be an alcoholic to abuse people; there are many loopholes to this and quite a few of his other arguments too, one of the most troubling being -- does an anti-corruption movement erase/will attempt to smooth over India's history and geography of communal violence and casteism?

-------


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oncejadedtwicesnarked: Spivak is looking disgruntled and pissed. (Default)

[Trigger Warning for mention of sexual abuse]. 

As a person who works with survivors/victims sexual and domestic abuse, I’m quite used to getting calls from people all over the city, most times it’s when I’m at the center -- I talk to them and we assess the situation, whether the caller is in immediate danger or not – generally they want someone to listen to them. Very rarely do I get requests to meet up with people -- which can be dangerous for both of us -- but every time I’ve met someone, it’s only to have them rushing back in a maximum of twenty minutes, for the time-window their abusers leave them, where they have some amount of unaccounted time-slot is often very less. Last week I got a call from a woman living in South Bombay, in one of the most reputed neighbourhoods and she wanted to meet me to discuss long-term solutions (which the group I work with occasionally handles as well). She called me after midnight and I was set to meet her the next day, and she wanted to change the location for she wanted to remove all possible run-ins with anyone who may report back to her family -- and every place I came up with her was unacceptable for her. "Barista?" "It's too public", "[x] book store?” “that’s hardly the place for polite conversation”, "[x] place?" "We aren’t supposed to talk about these things there" and both of us eventually burst out laughing at how absurd this conversation was -- both knew what we were going to discuss and there wasn't even a single space we could discuss those things -- and then we both fell silent. We need silence now. Right? To keep peace? To keep the surface calm?

I want to talk about this silence, this polite hospitable silence -- often used as a conscious or otherwise decision to mask, hide, distract or forget altogether about the rough friction, of intersecting differences, that de-stabilise us, that move together to move any 'safe' or 'home' space. This silence shows up everywhere we construct spaces to be "homelike" -- in  classrooms, in actual homes, in well-loved literature texts -- and we learn to nurture them. Last month a student came out to me as queer and she waited till our last “official” class was over and then did she decide to tell me -- and when I asked her why did she have to wait till it got over considering we’ve talked about just about everything, she explained that she didn’t want to “upset” the rhythm of the class. Alternatively, I should have asked her why was “keeping” the rhythm so important to her, but that time I was quiet, parsing what she’d just told me. In home spaces¹, it seems the general reaction is to secure and perpetuate a sense of a border or a territory, a line we must learn to never cross. Many times, between friends, in classes, whenever the talk goes to any "taboo" topic, immediately and inadvertently my voice softens itself and then I have to remember to revert back to my general tone and loudness -- and these are spaces I generally feel comfortable in, a performed home of sorts, and yet this silence is always around.

 

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oncejadedtwicesnarked: The text reads, "the sun never sets on the empire of fail". (Need bigger capslock)

Recently I came across Sara Ahmed’s fantastic essay ‘Feminist Killjoys (And other Willful Subjects)’ and have been re-reading several sections of the essay since. I identify with more parts of the essay than I can count, but one line that never leaves me is “[As a feminist killjoy] you become the problem you create” –- a single sentence that probably embodies the essence of my grandmum’s journals. Part of why I wanted to learn to read and think in my native tongue is because I want to read my grandmum’s journals, written in a pidgin many Gujurati’s. Apart from accounts of food items, daily expenditure and some chants dedicated to Krishna, there are extensive notes on translation and literary criticism of Oriya, Telugu and Bengali women’s literatures --- in a different tongue altogether¹ --- and her research of many texts banned in the British Empire. Most of the texts that are listed in her journals were banned because of “obscenity” under Section 292 of the Penal Code --- not that big a surprise that most of these banned and censored texts were written by women and especially by women of the “lower sections of the society”. I couldn’t find most texts she talks of, but luckily I found Radhika Santwanam written by the Telugu poet Muddupalani in a great aunt’s attic --- sadly, the text is in English but there were translator’s notes along with it, explaining their choice of words and consonants. Loosely translated, the text can be called “Enticing or Appeasing Radhika”, an epic erotic poem that talks of Radha and Krishna’s love affair --- a text that inverses the male literary tradition of supposing the “male” as a locale of power when speaking of sexual agency.

I spent most of the last month reading this poem, in its many parts and verses, simultaneously shocked and in awe of Muddupalani’s audacity to speak so explicitly about female sexuality, of Radha’s encouragement of Krishna and her niece’s love affair, of the various ways Krishna has to woo and appease to Radha, a text quite “queer” by today’s “re-readings”. While the text is beyond beautiful, with its many deviances and silences, sadly this text has always faced heavy censorship at the hands of the Raj --- interestingly when Muddupalani wrote it originally two centuries ago, her autobiographical prologue mentions no objections to the content or her context as a distinguished courtesan of the Thanjavur court². The Empire banned it for “obscenity” and “shamelessly filling poems with crude descriptions of sex” --- cannot thank K. Lalita and Susie Tharu enough for keeping a neat account of all the charges levied against Muddupalani, ranging from ridiculous to incinerating and everything else in between --- and for about 150 years after the ban Indian scholars maintained the same views about Muddupalani. In many instances, grandmum calls Muddupalani “adulteress” as this is the name she was known by. The more time I spend with grandmum’s journals, her accounts of the Raj’s censorship, read this exquisite poem, the more angry and fascinated --- where fascination is the new disgust --- I get.

 

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