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‘Words of Now, Words of Memory’ had Nighat Sahiba and Jacintha Kerketta discussing their poetry

By January 24, 2019No Comments

Source : The Hindu – LITERARYREVIEW

Two poets from the margins described how they had given themselves up to poetry, to deal with difficult emotions that would otherwise find no other expression


Two young poets came together at a session titled ‘Words of Now, Words of Memory: Poetry of Disappearing Landscapes,’ on the second day of The Hindu Lit for Life. Nighat Sahiba, a Kashmiri, and Jacintha Karketta, an adivasi from Jharkand, read out from their verse that reflected the pains of being less than equal. They hoped their poetry would keep their voices from disappearing altogether.

Saying that there is a 600-year-old legacy of recorded Kashmiri literature, Sahiba (winner of Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar 2017) rued that neither too many readers nor writers remained in the language today. “It is as if the language has been abandoned by its own people,” she said. Sahiba comes from a conservative family: she spoke of how often she had to hide her love poems from her brothers since they might think she was writing them for a man!

On a more serious note, she also said that there was no escaping patriarchy from where she came from. Praise for her work is reluctantly given. “I usually get, ‘If this is your poem, it is good,’” she said with a laugh. She read out from a translation of her poem, ‘Forward’, that describes what a poem is and is not. She writes, “Poem is not a damsel/That will accept/each of your decree/ unquestionably! I often feel that English is not made for poetry,” Sahiba said, before reading out the original poem in mellifluous Kashmiri that sounded like pure music.

For Kerketta, poetry has been an expression of her struggle for survival. She writes mostly in Hindi and has been translated into many languages. Born into the Oraon Adivasi community of West Singhbum district, Kerketta prefers to write in Hindi or English because she feels she can reach out to more people.

She became a journalist to give voice to the Adivasis as she felt that the reporting on them is biased and uninformed. She soon realised that ‘factual reporting’ had no space for deeper feelings. “Where will all the emotions go,” she asked and gave herself up to poetry.

Kerketta read her powerful poem ‘The River, the Mountain and the Bazaar’: “We’re here at the bazaar!/ What would you like to buy, the shopkeeper asked/ Brother, a little rain, a handful wet earth/ A bottle of river, and that mountain preserved/ There, hanging on the wall, a piece of nature as well/ And why is the rain so dear, pray tell?She said she would write now in her own language, if only to encourage women from her community to do the same.

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