Saturday 21 May 2022
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Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Women

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ncreasingly, a strange sense of achievement seems to be associated with all kinds of celebrations. Why do we forget to celebrate the ordinary? This is a question I have asked myself often. It is as if there remains precious little to celebrate in the ordinariness of everyday life. Taking a look at those women who celebrate their ordinariness in everyday life is also what Women’s Day can be about.

woman 1I saw them somewhere near Hampi — municipality workers enjoying their lunch break. On a hot sunny afternoon, what can be more fun than a swing?

I was told that this was an everyday thing. The women take turns pushing each other. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon.

woman 2I sat at a table next to them one evening in a café. The first time I noticed them was when a loud laughter rang out from this table. Unknown women to me and yet it felt nice! Sometimes it is unimportant to hear a conversation; you just let it wash over you.

Happiness has a strange way of transcendence — the comfortable cotton kurta, little silver jhumkas, sharing food from each other’s plate — and yet one is unable to touch that happiness. I felt transported into one of Bikash Bhattacharjee’s paintings, curious, distant, not knowing whether a smile would break the delicate warmth.

woman 3A green petticoat, an orange sari and a blue blouse — loved all of it and her. Her fashion sense comes from being who she is. When I came across her, she was smoking a bidi. She sat amidst fallen buds from the huge tree near her. The bids were fragrant; I have a feeling she became one of them while there.

She asked to see the photograph after I had clicked. When she saw herself, she threw her head back and laughed the most beautiful laugh.

woman 4I saw her sitting on the banks of the Tungabhadra one evening. She sells flowers to those who offer Puja at the Virupaksha temple (built in the 7th century), one of the oldest surviving temples in the country. Apart from the little materials for puja, she held in her hand a small figurine of Balakrishna (baby Krishna), which had supposedly washed down the Tungabhadra. A figurine of Balakrishna in the predominantly Shaivite Hampi made me smile. But to feel the land and become one with it, one must listen to the stories other those one has learnt, and unlearn some.

She told me tales about the Tungabhadra, about stormy waters and the songs of the river. Together we had looked at history flow down.

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Maitreyee Chowdhury
Maitreyee Chowdhury
Poet and writer based in Bangalore

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