Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Breast stories of Kutti Revathi

This post supports every woman’s right to her own body, to speak about it or to do anything with it as she pleases. Her body is hers and hers only. On this post, any woman or man who wishes to take this right away from her, by shaming her, trying to hide her body or slandering her with vicious words and acts, because she dares to break away from the Silence, is requested to leave right now. No justifications, comments or voices will be accepted whose sole purpose is to help to keep the Silence surrounding a woman’s body alive.

- Kutti Revathi

Breasts are bubbles rising
in wet swamps

I wondrously watched and guarded,
Their gradual swell and blooming
At the edges of my youth’s season

Saying nothing to anyone else
They sing along
With me alone always;
Of heartbreak

To the nurseries of my turning seasons
They never once failed or forgot
To bring arousal

During my penance, they seem to want to break free
And in the fierce pull of lust, they rise
Engorged with memories of musical trance

Like two teardrops of an unfulfilled love
That cannot ever be wiped away
They brim, as in a still puddle
(English translation by N Kalyan Raman)

20th March, 2010. The winter chills are far away in Bhopal and the Cultural Bonanza is on. People are coming out of their homes every day, attending one or the other event happening around Bhopal. Bharat Bhavan, the Cultural capital, a la India Habitat Centre in Delhi, hosted a three day Kavi Sammelan, where Kutti Revathi stormed the auditorium with her bold poems.

Kutti Revathi has been often misunderstood as one who is trying to draw attention to herself by using shock value. When Mulaigal (Breasts) was first published in 2002, needless to say it drew a huge amount of flak from the conservative Tamil society. But Kutti Revathi, which is the pen name of Dr S Revathi, is unapologetic. “As we poke into a word and turn it over,” she writes in her essay, “the history buried in its innards rises up, along with images, memories . . . and poetry too.”

Breasts are central to a woman’s body. They are her obsession too. Needless to say, most men spend a lot of time thinking about them.

Every woman is in one way or the other involved with her body. It is her personal domain. What is problematic is that on their own, men have set “rights” over woman’s body by snatching away even a woman’s right to speak, share thoughts about her body or parts of it, with herself or with others. Men, have made both the woman’s body, especially her breasts, objects of desire by making it a taboo subject and grabbing a woman’s claim over her own body. By trying to “hide”, place shame and guilt over a woman’s body, they have tried for centuries to make women disown her own body and hand over the “power” to men.
Therefore, the more women speak about their bodies, the more she reclaims what is hers.

The demons that affect us – Kutti Revathi

Sister…. Like potters, lets fashion
Many more breasts now
When breasts brought life by stoning
And at knifepoint are being consumed.
There is no fences to protect these
Nor the world’s newest foodgrains.

Why do vultures indulge
In the plunder of grains?
The old woman’s breasts, alive through
Eating the sun and enjoying open spaces
Hang down, pushing against her heart
like demons that afflict her.

Those demons too, are but boundary maps
of dried up history. So sister
We shall not turn breasts that once were
Water ponds to quench our thirst
Into vessels of unending agony.
We’ll turn them into stone someday
And fling them away using slings,
We’ll wander, even with a lone breast
Bearing the weight of the sun.
(English translation by N Kalyan Raman)

Kutti Revathi is the pen name of Dr S. Revathi. A Chennai-based Tamil poet, her poetry seeks to evolve a subversive language to explore and reclaim a long-colonised realm of experience – “the map of a Tamil woman’s body”.

More on Kutti Revathi:

N Kalyan Raman took up translation in the mid 1990s. His translations of Tamil short stories have been included in several collections of Indian language fiction in translation. He has translated three volumes of Ashokamitran’s fiction into English: The Colours of Evil, Sand and other stories and Mole!, besides a novel by Vaasanthi, published as At the Cusp of Ages.

More on N Kalyan Raman


Durgasankar Mandal said...

Ahem! Well, it is indeed debatable contention that female breasts are central to men's psyche. Breasts belong in the groups secondary sexual organs. We are aware of the Tantric way that is kind of obsessed with the primary sexual organ of women. They wondered on the life giving capacity of women (which is of course still a mystery and secret of which is still unknown to this day)and thought women as goddesses. The fact that Kamarupa is considered as the holiest place is that Sati's genitals were dropped there during the Tandava of Shiva.

However, that apart, I liked the first poem - is so evocative. In the second one it kind of apparent that the poetess has a lot of anger against men. Art is about building stuff. When emotion dominates, one is more often that not able to surpass to something sublime. Reminds me very much of Taslima Nasreen and her writings. Her writings lack much of that creative splendour which she pretends to be able to make up with her fervour.

Julia Dutta said...

Hi Durga,
At last a bold and beautiful comment. I am happy it is from you Durga.
One, I am not sure if anger what makes a man or a woman write a verse can be called non-creative. I believe any emotion strong enough can give rise to an art - poetry, literature, music or whatever.

With reference to Taslima, much of her writings are unfortunately done for creating a noise around herself and creating opinions. I believe that when she was in Bangladesh, she used to write for a paper, where she regularly related the last night's happenings with her lover as a column....now, that is something that makes me wonder, why she could be using a public forum for a Diary.
As far as Tantra is concerned, I don't think that they are obsessed with the breasts of women. Suffice it to say, they are obsessed with mastering their sexual excitement at the touch or view of woman's parts, in order that they can overcome this and manage to transform the energy from moving downward to moving upward. There are much easier ways to do that, although it might take time.
As far as Kamakhya is concerned, of Kamarupa, I am not sure if the literature says that, if Scientists have studied the reason behind the "red" water secretion at kamakhya once a year, or is it just a set of beliefs from spiritual texts. I say this despite my having visited the spot many times myself, though many years ago.
Thanks Durga for your comment,

Amrita said...

Powerful post. Julia

Julia Dutta said...

Thanks Amrita,

I suppose I said it, LOL

Durgasankar Mandal said...

Hi Julia, where'd you comment go? I read it someday ago. Wanted to respond to the same.

Durgasankar Mandal said...

Ah, well ... here's your comment!

Julia, I am in agreement with your belief that strong emotion is the fountainhead of great art. Indeed it is necessary but it is not sufficient. It provides just the initial spark - thereafter a lot of painstaking, meticulous "building" is required. Tagore's adolescent writing "Sandhyasangeet and Prabhat sangeet" are luminous examples. They were written in only emotion and therefore failed as poems. You know who was the first merciless critic of that collection of poems much to the disappointment of the adolescent poet? Kadambari debi - his "bouthan". Later even the poet acknowledged their weakness and did not want to see that collection published. Still they were. The poet wrote, "The publisher is a historian, he does not discriminate between the good and the bad, he wants to publish them all".

Precisely that's what I stated in the last comment that Tantra does not focus on the breasts. Rather on the genital of woman. The secret of birth still remains a mystery, and the tantric always thought the women with their power to give life was ever more powerful than anyone else. Hence their obsession with the Yoni(which means origin). What I did not point out that in general population of males too there are the admirers of primary female sexual organ. As Desmond Morris asserts the rolling behind of females in the human specis is an evolutionary deveopment that alludes to the vulva. And hence there are plenty of males out there who are butt loving. My point: that breasts are central to the male psyche is not true. Butt loving men will outnumber them, since we are desgined to procreate. Nature entices, forces and does everything in its power to do so.

I searched for the web link to what what I stated about Kamakhya. Here you go. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakti_Peethas