Updated: Jul 21
The poem Indian Women by Shiv K Kumar i s from the collection of poetry Cobwebs in the Sun published in 1974. The poet describes the lifestyle of the typical Indian women in the villages. How they live in the patriarchal Indian society, their character, practices, and activities of their daily life. He culturally defines these women and their nature in this poem. This poem can be considered an embodiment of describing an Indian woman.
Often he takes a simple fact or incident and develops it into a point where it acquires a new meaning. The poem projects Kumar’s response to a situation: the impoverishment of the human spirit. Images of vainness and despair highlight the structure of the poem.
In this triple-baked continent
women don’t etch angry eyebrows
on mud walls.
Patiently they sit
like empty pitchers
on the mouth of the village well
pleating hope in each braid of their mississippi-long hair
looking deep into the water’s mirror
for the moisture in their eyes.
With zodiac doodlings on the sands
they guard their tattooed thighs
Waiting for their men’s return
till even the shadows
roll up their contours and are gone beyond the hills.
POEM SUMMARY: Indian Women Poem Summary
The poet describes India as a triple-baked continent. By triple-baked he means that Indian women are under three circumstances of the country- sun, sex, and poverty. It’s a hot country that has a patriarchal society and the poverty is at its peak. In such a place a woman does not ‘etch angry eyebrows On the mud walls', because she is not allowed to do so, he means that the head of the family is male and he is the only person allowed to show anger at anything inside the mud walls.
‘Patiently they sit’, Indian women are known for their patience and it is their quality. In rural villages, women cook with mud pots and live in mud houses. They tend to keep those pots and vessels clean, neat, and not damaged for years together this shows their patience level. Though men are the head of the family, they tend to take only decisions. Women are the ones who have to take care of their respective families when the men are out there working. There is water scarcity and so the women wait to fetch water with patience near the village common well.
‘Pleating hope in each braid of their Mississippi long hair’, Indian women normally have long hair which he compares to the Mississippi River. The hope is for the water. They look deep inside the well in search of water with tears overwhelmed in their eyes. The poet says this action is, ‘looking deep into the water’s mirror for the moisture in their eyes’.
Indian women are known for their coyness. Out of shyness, they tend to make doodles in the sand. This is a cultural way of showing positive affection towards the partner or topics related to their partners. ‘They guard their tattooed thighs’. This is again connected with culture. Women have their husbands’ names tattooed on their thighs; this means the woman belongs only to that man (as if she is a property)00. She is supposed to take care of it, in the sense she has to be careful not to get indulged with any other man because that would bring shame to her husband.
Women wait for their respective men to come back home safe till the night comes (who have gone to work beyond the hills for the family as there is poverty). This is the daily routine of culturally bound Indian women.
Ten twentieth-century Indian poets by Parthasarathy, R., 1934-
~ Literpretation Team for Education