In the meditative quiet of the early dawn what speaks to you is the restful silence. Silence they say has ‘a quality and a dimension’ all of its own.Sometimes it can convey meanings more powerful than any action or words can. At times it also becomes the refuge of the coward, a sign of weakness on the part of those who can never find the right words to articulate their point of view aggressively, or even an avoiding of a confrontation that deep down they know they can never win…a silence that supposedly protects and keeps them safe. Or does it? This poem is about the silence of the vulnerable…
Too many women in too many countries
speak the same language of silence.
My grandmother was always silent, always aggrieved
Only her husband had the cosmic right (or so it was said)
to speak and be heard.
They say it is different now.
(After all, I am always vocal and my grandmother
thinks I talk too much)
But sometimes I wonder.
When a woman shares her thoughts, as some women do,
graciously, it is allowed.
When a woman fights for power, as all women would like
to, quietly or loudly, it is questioned.
And yet, there must be freedom—if we are to speak
And yes there must be power— if we are to be heard.
And when we have both (freedom and power) let us now be
We seek only to give words to those who cannot speak
(too many women in too many countries)
I seek to forget the sorrows of my grandmother’s silence.
(Just as an aside this poem was composed by a Delhi University student for Hillary Clinton when she was on a South-East Asia visit in the mid nineties. A senior colleague who had taught Anasuya in school had shared those haunting words “too many women in too many countries speak the same language of silence.”
Hillary Clinton made them famous by using them in her speeches as also her memoirs. For me personally it’s a poem about a truth you come across so often in life…words that remain etched in an indelible ink on the quotes wall of your inner universe.)