04 March, 2010

A Salute To You

 A guest post by Nalini Hebbar:


The art of survival
Of lying and of seduction.
An art learnt practiced to perfection
Six mouths waiting open and demanding
Screamed in her ear words of loathing
A life in the slums of death and starvation
Early lessons in survival

Lessons a plenty
With eager teachers ever lurking
Lusty old hands in the narrow lanes
Seize the tender body forever hurting
With a sinking heart she discovers
Hectors many, with favours in the asking
Vend and receive

A saviour in sight
Young man of thirty, double her age
On a horse, her escape came riding
Kick starts the art of coy and daring
Soon he was hers with tongue dangling
Done with the scum, the penny-pinching
Newfound wings of flight

Life in paradise
New home, food on the table
Bright dreams of future and babies
Life now happy, too happy and stable
But cruel fate has a way with destinies
The husband so fine and so able
Give her no money for sustenance
She with two children in renewed trouble
Forced back into the life of the streets
Harsh life-dance

Hardened heart
A shield of dispassion around the heart
To wear day and night in the arctic effort
Just a job to be done with no warmth
Just something to keep-on fire and hearth
Alive in death

Toughened mind
Scores of males with dissatisfied vices
All kinds of jobs and new learned skills
In and out, tried and tested
Bar dancer, hospital worker
Maid, juice vendor, singer
Ready to master anything offered
This fight in life forever challenged
Unscarred and strong

Tempered steel 
In the menacing jungle of life
Always positive with the head in charge
She is a creation of the modern world
Made by the world that’s a man’s world
Learned survival using him in his world
His debauchery her prized weapon
A double-edged sword
I respect your strength
I salute you.

(May, 2006, Nellore)

This poem is a tribute to one strong woman in Maharastra, India, and to millions of brave women all over the world, who are forced by circumstances to take up the world’s oldest profession. The woman I am talking about is Vaishali Haldankar, now writing her story in a book in Marathi, which will be out soon. She is a good singer and now earns a living singing with an orchestra after the Government enforced a ban on dance bars.

The author, Nalini Hebbar is an Aquaculture Consultant based in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. She blogs at Open Mind, a poetry blog and SayCheese, her photoblog.
Image by Hanadi Traifeh via Flickr

Do drop in your views about this thought-provoking and hard-hitting poem...