Didi, they named me after you
‘Dopdi’. They say, you had five husbands!
That must have been a lot of care
and food. I harvest grains at sunset
my hands hard- baked like charred bamboos.
They say, your husbands were great warriors
I learned to use my own scythe and hatchet
my own knife and arrow and bow , learned to strike
like a panther in the dark, hunger, two fires
quivered in my eyes. They say, you lived a year
in hiding after some twelve years of exile
I have lived incognito all my life
careful not to respond to my own name
my days a barefoot walk on dry leaves
echoed like the sounds of breaking bones
My struggles began like water ,
dousing fire. I reigned like a queen
in my hideouts , in the uninhabited forests
crafting my own language
of assurance ,
the black soil of Champabhumi running in my thick blood.
When I ululated, throwing my arms up to the sky
it shook the world
deeper than the conch calls of your land.
They say, you could not be disrobed
that god supplied you with countless sarees
to cover your shame
more than your five husbands could-
it is a craft of storytelling is it not ?
We’ve told many such stories to our comrades
to lift their spirits up.
When I stared up at the sky with my raw bitten breasts
my torn nipples - the clouds tore apart
and the silent moon only stared back
then hid itself.
I did what you did not.
I vomited out their robe under the sun.
Didi, can you tell me how many raped me in our land?
Based on Mahashweta Devi’s story with the same title
Zinia Mitra is an Associate Professor and Director of Centre for Women’s Studies, University of North Bengal. Her poems have been published in National and International journals including Contemporary Literary Review, Kavya Bharati, East Lit. Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi) , Asian Signature, Teesta Review, Setu, Poetry Potion. Her translations have been published in books and journals including Indian Literature, Sahitya Akademi. Her books include Indian Poetry in English : Critical Essays, Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra: Imagery and Experiential Identity, Twentieth Century British Literature: Reconstructing Literary Sensibility (co-edited), Interact (co-edited), The Concept of Motherhood in India: Myths, Theories and Realities , Fourth Wave Feminism, Social Media and (Sl)Activism.
Her poetry volume Some Words Never Sleep has been published by Indie Blu(e).
Her translations have been published in books and journals including Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi). She is on the editorial board of Teesta Review.
Zinia Mitra writes from Siliguri, Darjeeling.