A Soft Knock for a Deeper Awakening : Women’s Collective

This journal is
a soft knock at the door of a citadel. However jammed a door maybe, if left
ajar, it arouses expectations. All the great citadels of the world – Faith,
Feudalism, Patriarchy, Monarchy, Colonising power of the self-proclaimed Bosses,
Marxism, and Market Materialism have had something in them that arouses hope;
hope of redemption from miseries; hope also of human revolution of letting a
million flowers bloom in and around us.

At least two of
these ruling narratives: Faith and Marxism began on a very elegant, egalitarian
note― altruism and ego dissolution of the highest order, but then they too collapsed
under their own weight, and unfortunately, what ate them up can be summed up as
a strange streak of self-righteousness, that holier-than-thou attitude that
assumes that truth is unidimensional, and it can easily be cut down to size to
fit in the pocket of a Boss, like a quiet satin pocket-square.

Bosses in all these
citadels have mostly been men and one can only have to look around at the dying
trees, drying up ponds, a world crumbling down under the ominous threats of war
and terror, to comprehend what man has made of man (and also of women and
children and the animate and inanimate beings around him). We are all
surrounded by smothering fumes, smog, gloom and disaster, trying our best to
walk tall and step out towards vaster energy-fields.

To my mind,
Hypermasculinism, an overdose of the instinct to rule, dominate and grab the
lion’s share of the constantly diminishing common resources is the root cause
of this peril. For a more equitable distribution of resources, rights and
opportunities, for a fairer dose of justice ruled by compassion, shouldn’t we
try the fair sex then? They have waited for so long for their turn, working
hard, unseen, unnoticed?

Looming large
over the artificial, man-made divides of class-creed-caste and nation is only
one natural division, the division of gender, and also the intermingling of the
two into one as in the transgender. Men seem to have exhausted their chances,
and now is the time to try either women or the transgender. This particular
journal is aimed at examining the women’s perspective on the various problems
in the private and public arenas of life, and re-examine issues of war, riot,
terror, love, sexuality and crimes of the worst order that have reduced the
beautiful planet into an ugly world of public and private breakdowns.

Aiming to be
inclusive, open and pluralistic, it would offer three sections on
international, national and regional perspectives on the various debates in
art, literature, sociology, politics, ethics and aesthetics. We shall include discursive
articles, poems and short stories translated into English or Hindi, and the
main focus would be on South Asian literature. The winter issue will be devoted
only to book reviewing of Hindi/Urdu books into English and of other books in
regional languages into Hindi and English.

Because we have
not yet lost faith in the innate goodness of men, and also because we have seen
how sensitised men can be in the best of human company, we are open to
dialogue. We promise to publish fellow travellers among men from all sections
of society; old and young, black, white and brown, dalit and non-dalit, people
from all faiths (and atheists too), but our focus, of course, would be on the
deprived sections of society, the subaltern and the marginalised, the
unemployed and underemployed, who have not yet been fully heard.

We shall publish
them under the column: Fellow Travellers in English and humsafar in Hindi but the prime
contributors of the journal would be women from all sections of the society. Even
those who have not been sent to school will find space and the stories of the
inspirational among them will be told by women activists in the different
regions of the world under the column Shakti.

Please abide by
us! We count on you. We have not lost hope, walk along and see what a
difference it generates – samrasya
and madhurya of the kind seers have
talked about, samrasya and madhurya that realised silence would
lead up to by and by.

It goes without
saying that as a movement and a formalised discourse, both Marxism and Feminism
took roots in the West, but as a reflection process when it travelled far and
wide, especially to the seats of ancient civilisations like India, China,
Egypt, and Mesopotamia, almost like Shelley’s West Wind it titillated many
seeds sleeping in the deeper layers of their racial memory and Mao’s vision of
a hundred flowers blooming in their individual texture actually came true. Mao,
at least in the early years, appreciated the beauty of pluralistic adaptations
because he was the one who transplanted Marxism on the agrarian soils of China
and enlarged the scope of rebellion by including peasants in the frame of the
industrial markers on the other side of the world.

Feminism in Asia
has seen many avatars: in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Korea,
Philippine, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. It has led many mass movements
struggling incessantly against both the local and the global challenges of war,
terror, jingoism, mass exodus and forced dislocation, ecological crisis, lack
of awareness and resources, denial of human right and distributive justice in
general, but in the Indian subcontinent, this West Wind has titillated seeds in
the deepest layer of Racial Memory from the pre-independence years of both
proto-feminist and feminist mould appearing in women’s periodicals like ‘Chand’,
‘Stree Darpan’, ‘Arya Mahila’, ‘Manorama’, ‘Khatoon,’ and many others.

Hindi was the
language of the Freedom Movement in India and most of the leaders had
consciously chosen to speak and write in it. This also goes without saying that
India is the land of multiple mother tongues and some kind of a link language,
other than the language of the colonial masters, was the need of the hour, and to
my mind, Hindi emerged as a link language basically because of its inherently
democratic structure which places words from all kinds of registers—tatsam, tadbhsv, deshaj and videshaj on the same pedestal. It is its
open hearted inclusiveness that helped it emerge also as a major tool of
translation. When Mahadevi Verma, the veteran Hindi Poet of the early years of
Chayavadi Modernism or Romantic/Gandhi Modernism in India, joined as the Editor
of Chand in 1932, she published many articles in Hindi which grounded a debate
on what was happening to the sisters in the West after the World War I. Most of
these articles were dialogic in nature and the most interesting feature of
these articles is the different shades of Hindi the articles are written in and
published without much tampering. When a Gujrati woman writes in Hindi, she
gives it a Gujrati flavour and thus emerge a spectrum of Urdu, Bengali,
Marathi, Tamil, Telegu, Hindies with proper seasoning of the local spices.

This is the time
when the Hindi-Urdu debate was at its peak but in women’s journals, both the
Persianized and the Sanskritized versions stage a free play and staging a
vibrant debate with the feminist writers in the West, they come dressed up in
all kinds of Hindies. It is interesting indeed to note how they tie up Hindi in
different styles, just as they tie up their saris, and an editor like Mahadevi
Verma makes no attempt at bulldozing the difference in the name of
standardizing it. Her own editorials are in chaste Hindi of the Allahabadi guava
flavour, but she is open to all kinds of Hindi and this is important.

At this point, I
shall bring a strange fact of history which adds an ironical note to the
politics of translation. Almost four years before Simone’s seminal text The Second Sex was published in France,
Mahadevi Verma’s Shrinkhala ki Kadiyan,
an independent collection of feminist articles originally published in early twenties,
saw the light of the day. Published earlier as editorials to the womanist
magazine ‘Chand’, Shrinkhala ki Kadiyan
is as revolutionary as The Second Sex,
but such is the politics of translation in the world, and such the politics of
reception, that no one bothered to translate or even review it in the
internationally acknowledged link language of the colonial master, despite its
brilliant reflections on issues like ‘Women and War’, the ‘Economic
Independence of Women’, ‘Women and the World’, etc.

Asian Mode of

Because it is
one of the primary objectives of Pashyantee to reach out to sister languages,
it goes without saying that translation artists would be the key players here,
and it is important that we talk a bit about the philosophy of translation that
we are going to adopt.

Marx had once
talked about the Asian mode of production. To my mind there is an Asian mode of
translation too which can be best summed up in these two lines borrowed from
Amir Khusrao:

Chap tilak sab cheeni re

Mose naina milai ke,

Apne hi rang rang lini re

Mose naina milai ke

(You looked straight in eyes and
snatched off vanities

You looked straight in eyes and I stood
translated into you)


two civilisations look deep into each other’s eyes, after a good round of preeti-kalah or affectionate tug of war,
they finally give in and colour each other’s perceptions. India definitely
coloured the Western perception of translation because of its long history of Bhashya and retellings. You must have
noticed that this is my rendering of Khusrao’s potent lines in the classically
Indian style that Anandawardhan refers to as padarthaharan and Rajshekhar as parpur
and anyanani wandhit. To
my mind what has gained currency as the thick text in the post-colonial
translation and as inter-textual dialogue or adaptation in the Western world is
actually a grand mix of what our Acharayas called Vivartan, Bhashya, Arthakriya, and Sanskara Karma at the different stages of handling older material
in the new texts. Anandwardhan refers to the dialogic texts as anyayoni. Texts which fail to be
dialogic are referred to as ayoni.
This yoni, I suppose, is some kind of
gravity centre or aporia which could manifest in the form of a khand (a segment), a tailvindu, drop of oil spread all over,
or in the form of a natenpata
(actor’s costume).


hi rang lini re


the course of civilisational dialogue promoted by translational ventures across
borders, India seems to have actually coloured the western perception of
translation. Finally, the West also has come to acknowledge the translator as
an efficient director who believes in equipoise or samyak drishti. Like an efficient director, an able translator does
not overpower, nor does she let the actors (words, phrase and sentence) run
wild, disrupting cohesion, coherence, situationality, informativity, salience
and all that is expected of a decent translation.

order words, the West also has finally come to the realisation that a
non-exploitative recognition of deference is a must in any relationship—be it a
relationship among different layers of texts/human hearts/ cultures. All these
layers of rhetoric, logic, and silence are linked through translation. Thanks
to Venuti and others, translation today in the West too is a way of enhancing
the limit of inner boundaries, a way of breathing the music of otherness into
each other.


West also has come to the realisation that there are two paradigms involved in
translation: the linguistic and the ontological. The linguistic paradigm
ponders on the basic question of how words relate to their meaning, and Vak to the different dimensions of
meaning, while the ontological paradigm on the larger question of how diverse
cultures and human hearts relate to one another. To my mind, Indian philosophy
visualises linguistic meaning as a shy bride gradually unfolding herself at the
different levels of Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Baikhari.


an offshoot of this linguistic paradigm, an ontological paradigm can be
visualised as a meditation on a more complex question of human hearts and
diverse cultures, electrifying and flowing into one another in a divine, sexual
congress, looking into each other’s eyes in the appreciative wonder of a Soofi
looking into the eyes of the divine Mehboob.
So intense is the flow of divine energies latent in different dimensions of the
interacting beings and also in the different dimensions of the human culture
that all hierarchies collapse Chheeni
or snatching away is a playfully tilted expression here, not at all a violent
imposition. Translation is virtually a labour of love where all rigidities
between the self and the other get de-established. It is a subliminal space of non
ending dialogue between the translator’s naina
and the ‘actors’.  This dialogue starts
with a Preeti-kalah, a leela, a playful tug of war but
ultimately both the source and the target language are folded into each other, tenderly
highlighting each other’s essence. In translation both the source language and
the target language seek peace in wearing each other’s rang and even each other’s attires as in Jaidev’s Geetagovind where towards the end of the
‘Raas’, Radha stands dressed as Krishna and Krishna as Radha, deepening each
other’s consciousness, expanding each other in 990 ways.


least in the translational politics of our times even in the West has started
dreaming about the world as a circuit of 990 tongues reaching out to each
other, fighting linguistic feudalism, letting everyone have a fair play,
conserve the essence of even dying languages through techniques of retentions,
footnoting and inter-textual take offs.


to the constant efforts of people like Homi Bhabha, Talat Asad, Gayatri Spivak
and Harish Trivedi, translation both in the East and the West today is a rich
interdisciplinary venture with portfolios of fields that have individually
developed quasi technical expertise in various modes and media: adaptation,
film studies, studies of musical renditions, dance, drama, operas, etc.


should also mention the debt of German Romantics like Goethe, Humboldt, and the
Schleal brothers in elevating the status of translators in the Western world.
The way every sensible human being today is dreaming of something like a world
religion to come up in the canon, these German scholars and translators had
visualised the importance of world literature in the late nineteenth century.
Originating in Marlin Zulhew’s theory of gestalt and deep flowing through
Benjamin and Rosenzweig, this German tradition of translation seems to be
deeply immersed in the sophisticated traditions of Hegelian dialectics as it
tries out a pluralistic spectrum of methods, remaining polite and open-ended to
the core:


as our soil itself has no doubt become richer and more fertile and our climate
milder and more pleasant only after much transplantation of foreign flora, just
so we sense that our language…can thrive in all freshness…only through the
most many sided contacts with the foreign.”


to the constant efforts of translators both in the East and the West, people
have started hailing the Aesthetics of cultural pluralism. Post-colonial
translators have played a magnificent double role in bridging linguistic and
cultural gaps through the native wisdom of ‘parpurapravesh’ , ‘fan yi’ or
turning over of the embriodary (as in the Chinese tradition) lapia or story
telling (as in Nigerian tradition or cannibalisation (as in Brazilian tradition).


Khetan and the Feminist Translators in India


goes without saying that Modernism was a great movement in arts and aesthetics
because it created many East-Wests encounters and resulted in instressing and
in escapingof all kinds. By the end of the two world wars, the need for a
spirited dialogue made a clear mark and cultural activities all the world over
translated as much as they could to reach out to the larger world, breathe the
music of otherness in their own beings and enhance the limits of inner
boundaries. Not only philosophers like Marx and psychologists like Freud, Jung
and Adler but also poets from different colonies and nations, old and new. This
was the time that Existential philosophers like Sartre and Simone also made their
inroads with different languages in South Asia and India they made inroads
through the translation of feminists like Prabha Khetan. During her stay in the
west, she not only published a book on the reception of Sartre in India but
also translated the seminal work of Simone, The Second Sex, into Hindi and here
she did adopt the Asian technique of translation which Anandwardhan refers to
as “Padarthaharan” in the heightened state of spiritual identification, in pen
forms a leela, lumps down the text and reshapes it to open it up to new
interpretations. This whole process of mystical union sums to be saying: out of
the many bonds that we share, we can choose to take a fancy flight on one out
of the many meanings that an Ananyayoni, complete text generates, let’s play
with at least one.

is through such a translation that civilisation look up deep into each others’
eyes. It is through such a translation that marriage of minds take place. Such
a translation plays a great role in knowing each other in essence. Knowing each
other in essence is a mystical process basically because it dissolves all
boundaries and takes us to the moment of deep identification where one can’t
help falling in love with each other. In the womanist sense of the world is the
heightened awareness of the sisterhood of souls where you drop down social
constructs like class, caste and creed like a soul dropping body behind like

too talked of the essence. It did talk of the essential choices to drop down
the base and embrace the essence that is why Lefebure called it “new mysticism”
and Camus endured it as an offshoot of surrealism. At offering an
anthropological interpretation of her phenomenology of spirits, Kojeve also had
read existentialism as the course of human consciousness throughout history.


I suppose, was the first to realise that Husserlian phenomenology ought not to
content itself with being just another ideal that moves sufferings, hunger and
war. Both Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir had aligned themselves at the end of
the war as closely as possible with Marxism, though without communist party in
order to preserve their freedom of manoeuvre.

de Beauvoir the classic example of this new formed freedom: a freedom of tone,
tool and style. Though she was an agregee in philosophy, she did not pursue an
academic career. She preferred to read, write and travel – in a word, to live.
Her very first book became the Bible of French Feminism where in the
mechanising of alienation ( a concept that went back beyond Marx’s early
writings, to Hegel) in women, in retracting how women have wound up
internalising the conditions of being subordinate to men.

literally illustrated through so many examples how one is not born a woman but
becomes a woman. This argument was to all more warmly received and by a vast
public, since Beauvoir , far from claiming it to adopt a scientific stance knew
how to speak for herself and how to strike the right tone to press the simplest
thing—the things of everyday life.

in India received French ethics as the new civic religion of a non coercive
society that democracy proposes. The relative continuity of the roles of male
and female was elevated in context- body, love, seduction, work and political
power. At least this is how Prabha reads it in her brilliant translation of the
text and in her own feminism treatise published after globalisation, she took
the debate to the next level, concluding that the democratic dynamism at the
centre of the movement in the post globalisation years has failed to reach its
full potential at least in South Asia.
Advanced democratic ideas were instrumental in bridging the gap between
the genders but they fail to deliver the full interchangibility of the roles.

conflict between egalitarian logic and the social logic of altercrity did not
end, so both co-exist and the differences persist. Both genders have acquired
the components needed for autonomy at least in the educated middle class and
the self-employed women of the higher income group, but among the South Asian
women the postmodern social preference for the complete autonomy of the subject
has not achieved an all-encompassing rupture with the past.


Debates on Existential Choices About How To Connect With The Past


is the point where we could bring in the recent debates in India and
existential choices about how to connect with the past. In Hindi this debate
took off way back 1992 when Prabha received by book, <hindi> in Itans. In
this long received article Prabha had basically underlined my womanist
deconstruction of Indian Devis and has focussed especially on my constructive
study of how they figure in scriptures and in the folklore but she had also
warned me against my tendency to read too much into tradition. Actually she was
arguing on the lines of Eagleton, problematizes all states of sublimity as
excessive and I kept wondering how to fit in the Buddhist notion of the middle
path, to join notion of the ‘Anekantmend’
the Hindu and the Sikh notion of Stithpragnata and the Sufi notion of praising
a Subzbah, an echoing green parallel to the dark woods of the oblivion into
this Western mindset of visualising universe as a pendulum shuttling between a
series of binaries—victory and failure, infinity and mortality, order and
anarchy, self-affirmation and self-dispossession.

basic argument was that the guiding principle of both Faith and Marxism were
the same—ego, dissolution, an Altruism of the highest order, and cause that
left both Faith and Marxism down was also the same—self righteousness, the
Holier than Thou attitude of the most vulgar kind which reduces truth to a
neatly folded hanky lying and cure in no man’s pocket.

real challenge of womanism in Asia today is to underline the pitfalls of their
central crisis of faith in life—be it the faith in oneself, the faith in others
or the faith in an integrated value system.

show that so many years of cosmic groundlessness have promoted important
markets as the new good market economy offers so many healthy packaged
therapies and counselling sessions too spiritual orphans, little realisation
that the best thing in life can’t be bought <word>, sex can be bought not
love, facilities can be bought but peace of mind at no cost. One has to invest
one’s whole being for achieving the higher order of love and peace the ultimate
that one can wish, comes only with faith in oneself, faith in others, and faith
also in the integrated value system metaphorised as god.

spectrum of spiritual values is also a spectrum of basic human values, but many
centuries of terror, partition and riots have made it obvious that spiritual
values institutionalised with religion could be as problematic as the idea of
love institutionalised into marriage. So the agenda should be to let literature
play the God.

was the argument I developed in my next few books and Prabha Khetan smiled with
the dignity of difference that we honour so much in Womanism.

the Gujrat riots, this whole debate took a different form, and the ethical
ambivalence of resistant violence came into question in the face of mounting
militarism not only in India but the whole of South Asia, womanists turned to
anti-state, liberating movements in the region that employ violence to achieve
their political aims. Scholars like Shrila Roy argued how some of the ethical
quandaries that arise from the embrace of such violence particularly for
feminist for whom practical violence and militarism is today a moot point. It
goes without saying that feminists’ response towards resistant political
violence has been less straightforward than towards violence of state
suggesting a more ambivalent ethical position towards the former. The nature of
this ambivalent ethical position can be located in a post colonial feminist
ethics than is conceptually committed to the use of political violence only in
exceptional circumstances on the basis of the ethical ends that this violence
serves (and opposed to other repressive violence.)

opening up this ethical ambivalence and ethics of ambiguity as Beauvoir says-
to interrogation and reflection, most of the feminists in south Asia today
underscores the difficulties involved in ethically discriminating between forms
of violence, especially when they consider the manner in which such
distinctions rely on and reproduce gendered modes of power. This raises
particular problems for current feminist appraisals of resistant political
violence as an expression of women’s empowerment and agency.

grants the movement a kind of existential crisis as in makes it impermeable for
feminists in South Asia to partake in the painfulness of an indefinite
questioning (de Beauvoir, 76, 135 in which morality and power may co-exist).


Why Pashyanti?

Of the four
layers of the linguistic subconscious that Bhartrihari talks about at length in
“Vaakyapadeeyam”, we have chosen the second layer of “Pashyanti” as the name of
this first womanist journal of its kind in the Hindi-Urdu pubic sphere
primarily because that is the stage in which almost with the onrush of the
ganga descending from the peaks of the Himalayas the primary vibration of
thought descends from the ideational plane ( para – stage) onto the
pre-linguistic stage of conceptual crystallization before descending down on
concrete earthly plains or green valleys of Madhya and Baikhari.


~ Anamika.

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