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To express is to empower

The life of a woman is far from easy. Restrictive patriarchal norms dictate her choices at every step of the way and many a time, rebellion comes at a heavy price she cannot afford. With education come empowerment and the determination to break free from the shackles of oppression. This is where the work of writers like Dr Savita Singh becomes crucial; their words can sow the seeds of revolution in the hearts of oppressed women. A feminist poet and professor of Gender Studies, Dr Singh writes to make women aware of their power and potential. In an interview with Soulveda, ahead of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival 2017, she talks about the role of writers in emancipating women, and the ways in which she hopes to contribute as a poet.

You are a feminist poet whose words are aimed at awakening a woman’s soul. Where do you find the inspiration for your poems?

It is difficult to say precisely where my poems come from. As we are born, we are thrown into this world to figure it out to the best of our abilities. Along the way, we realise the world is not perfect. It is constituted by a series of human prejudices that affect the vulnerable. Women find that most of these prejudices are piled up against them. So, most of my poems are an attempt to address this skewed life that women end up living as a result of patriarchal oppression.

What language do you predominantly write in?

Growing up, given the kind of schools I went to, I mostly wrote in English. At one point, I even thought that it was the language of my poetic expression. Today, most of my literary works are in Hindi. The language into which you are born is your home. The comfort that emanates from this sort of familiarity makes one think in their mother tongue. Hindi has always been my language, as intimate to me as myself. And poetry grows in this kind of intimacy.

What does it mean to be a poetess in a patriarchal society?

To be a poetess in a patriarchal society means to understand this world more acutely and to live within it defiantly as well as poetically. Violence against our gender violates our souls and bodies in a rather acute manner. Poetry is our chance to address this unfair situation through clear expression. Expression addresses and, to some extent, provides us our humanity. And if that can be attained by way of poetry, it is surely a way of finding freedom from the stacked up prejudices that constrain us.

“Violence against our gender violates our souls and bodies in a rather acute manner. Poetry is our chance to address this unfair situation through clear expression.”


As a professor of Gender Studies and a feminist poet, what do you think are the major issues that are holding back women today?

All of us have the capacity to make the world better, brighter and more beautiful. But women are restricted from coming into their being. Their dreams are manipulated, their sexuality controlled by others. While women’s capabilities are infinite, the gender roles assigned to them are limiting. The patriarchal system, which protects the interests of the masculine at the cost of the feminine, needs to be unravelled, addressed and rectified.

How important is the role of writers in enabling women’s empowerment?

I would say writers impart wisdom very generously to those who seek to be enriched. They change your imagination and bring about both inner and outer transformation. They invoke your sense of being and help you express yourself better. It is only in expression that a woman’s self comes into play in an authentic and powerful manner.

What kind of positive changes do you hope your poetry can bring about?

We are meant to be better than what we have been so far, and I hope to bring this out in my poetry. I wish to make people aware of the irrationality of our patriarchal society. That it is depraving to oppress and violate someone because they are female or transgender. We should move towards a society where composite human capacity becomes a repository for everyone–irrespective of gender–to tap into and benefit from.

Do you think events such as the Bengaluru Poetry Festival can be instrumental in bringing artistes’ voices to the spotlight?

That is what the event promises. I hope to meet a lot of interesting writers, artists and creative beings at the festival. I am sure I will take back a lot of friendship, camaraderie and imaginations of fellow writers from the event.

  • Dr Savita Singh, a poet and political theorist, has published four collections of poetry. She writes in English and Hindi, and her works have been translated into many Indian and foreign languages. She is a recipient of the Kavya Samman Award from the Hindi Academy and the prestigious Raza Award for poetry. She is currently a professor at the School of Gender and Development Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi.

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