The luxury of time
- It is not surprising, if saddening, that so many women have abandoned their own want and need to write, to express, because they have had to put everyone else first
Apr 21, 2018-It is about seven in the evening and we’re wrapping up our five-day spoken word poetry workshop with a group of women from and around the Lumbini Sanskritik Municipality. The usual restlessness to get home without it being ‘too late’ in the evening has been stalled for tonight; it is our last session together and we are walking back from the evening’s workshop, discussing family, husbands, friendship, writing and the poetry performance that is lined up the day after.
“I’m not sure if people will like these poems I have written,” says Tika didi, “They are about sad stories. Is it okay if I perform them, or should I write something else?”
Tika didi, Asmita didi and I are walking together. I recognise my own doubts in hers as someone who also mostly writes about sad experiences and often has the same questions.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, didi,” Asmita didi reassures her. “You must share your stories. There are perhaps many people who feel the same way. When people listen to you, your poems will make them feel like they aren’t alone. Sometimes, in our suffering, we feel like we are the only ones but listening to each other will make us feel we are not alone.”
“Yes, don’t worry didi,” I add.
“Actually, I lost my friend to the Sunkoshi years ago; we used to be very good friends,” Tika didi continues. This is a story she’s mentioned to us in the past but one that we haven’t fully heard. We know it was one of her biggest losses, we had seen how she teared up on the first day of the workshop when she listed ‘friend’ under the things she has lost. But this is the first time that she reveals the story to us fully.
“We were coming back from our Dashain celebrations. My family and I were in one boat while my friend, her family, along with 40 other people, was in another. During the ferry, the second boat capsized, killing many who were onboard. We were able to save a few people, including my friend. But all her family members had drowned. I was relieved to see her saved. But the next thing we know, she jumped into the river as well. She was even dearer to me than my own parents.”
“There are so many things I’ve gone through. When I got married, the conditions in the house I was married to were very different from my own,” Tika didi continues.
“But anyway…We shall meet the day after,” she says. We’ve now reached her house.
In the past five days, fellow Word Warrior—a member of a collective of spoken word poets and enthusiasts—Kriti Adhikari and I have been working with 16 women from two women’s groups from Lumbini. In that time, I’d learnt that just because we’re working with adults, we didn’t have to tone down the silliness and playfulness that some of our activities demanded; that despite their demanding chores at home and at their enterprises, some could make time to write and come to the workshop with pages of poetry; that if we know that there are people willing to listen, we are unafraid to share our stories.
We keep walking, bidding goodbye to didis whose homes fall on the way.
“I used to fill entire diaries with my thoughts,” Asmita didi shares, “One day, my husband found one of my diaries and he read it! Well, I’d also written about him in it, so he came to talk to me about it. I was so angry. How could he read my diary? It was my personal belonging. Anyway, I used to write in my diary regularly when I was younger, even after I was married. But when my first child was born, I couldn’t continue. And from then on, I’d stopped writing until this workshop.”
“Eh, so you have been writing for quite some time! No wonder writing seems to come so naturally to you,” I tell Asmita didi. I’m happy to learn of her passion for writing but saddened by the fact that she had to stop. The luxury of time is something that women don’t seem to have.
Just the other day, Nirmala didi was telling me how there’s just so much to do at home that she doesn’t have the time to follow through with the workshop’s writing homework. Every time she showed up to our workshops, even when she was 45 minutes late, I smiled for I knew how difficult it must have been for her to make time. Some days, she came to the workshops with her one-year old. Most workshop times, she was barely able to participate because her baby was throwing tantrums. One day, even while her husband waited outside and was taking care of the baby, hearing the infant’s wails made Nirmala didi leave the class. The baby was only a small part of her responsibilities at home. Yet, she showed up three out of the five days for the workshop.
Making sure our workshop isn’t intruding with the daily lives of our didis and causing trouble at home has been one of the concerns I’ve had, especially since I have noticed how they get restless as soon as it starts getting dark. The window of time between 5 pm (after office hours or the afternoon’s snack-time chores are done) and before 7 pm (before darkness falls, in time to reach home and take care of dinner) is the only suitable time for us to get together for our workshops.
Tonight, we’ve stayed half an hour longer than we usually do.
“It’s a bit late today, no! I think we all got carried away because today is the last day,” I apologise.
“No, it’s alright,” Asmita didi reassures.
“But you must have so many things to take care of at home,” I feel guilty. All I have to go back to is a nicely made hotel bed and the restaurant’s daalbhat.
“It’s alright. My husband will take over. He understands,” Asmita didi tells me.
“Didi, I’m glad you’ve started writing again. You write really well, you should continue,” I tell her, thinking of all those women that have had to stop for one reason or another.
Apparently, my grandaunt once wrote poems and shared them on radio shows that took callers. This came up in a casual conversation and when I asked someone in my family, it was dismissed as something she liked to do sometimes, long ago. Kriti, my co-facilitator, also tells me her mother’s love for rhymes and creating songs was what got her into poetry. But her mother no longer writes. When asked why, there is no single answer but rather a list of duties attached to being a mother that demands her time.
It is not surprising, although saddening, that so many women have abandoned the pen and paper and most importantly, their own want and need to write, to express, because they have had to put everyone else first.
‘I stopped writing after my first child was born.’
‘I stopped writing after my marriage.’
‘I got married and had to stopstudying.’
‘I used to love writing.’
‘I used to write.’
As I walk back to my hotel room these voices follow me there.
Bajracharya is a founding member of Word Warriors and the Arts and Education Coordinator for the US Embassy’s Book Bus.
Published: 21-04-2018 08:35