Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of her scarred past, Saya’s poems haunt us out of our bourgeois sensibilities, paving the way for her return to her beloved homeland. Dithering on the edge of death Saya – the nom de plume she adopted for her creative outpourings - has now literally pushed herself from the shadows to the myriad hues of life anew.
Hailing from Bangladesh, this 34-year-old – married off at the tender age of 12 and mother of three – entered West Bengal sometime in early May this year, where she unknowingly got mired in a sex racket and found herself confined in an apartment at Eranjhipalam of the Kozhikode district in Kerala. Here she was brutally raped repeatedly by many men, but managed to escape. Now safely ensconced in the Nirbhaya shelter, she is eagerly looking forward to return to her native land. District collector N Prashant confirmed her repatriation on Monday.
Njan Enna Murivu (The Wound that I Am) is a collection of 18 poems – each with an illustration by her – and a short story. It has been translated from Bengali to Malayalam by Anupama and Anoop. Published by the Arm of Joy – an NGO dedicated to Giving with Joy – the proceeds from the sale of her book, as the cover page tells us, is to be used for Saya and others like her who have fallen prey to sexual crimes. The book is a gentle reminder to our callous selves that it is the perpetrator and not the victim who needs to be hunted down by society.
Excerpts from the foreword by activist Sunitha Krishnan
As I sit down to write this foreword, I am wondering what I should call this person. Like I call all the girls I have rescued from sexual slavery, I will call her “Aparajita”(the undefeatable). Because that is what she is to me, an undefeatable soul who has survived violations that none of us can ever imagine and yet nothing can defeat her zest to live and to be alive. Her creativity and her extraordinary ability to express are not destroyed by the scars of betrayal, pain and trauma but has become more powerful and impacting in a form that defies gravity.
But why should ‘Aparajita' hide her name and identity…If we are looking for reasons outside us, then I would say let’s change track and let’s look within ourselves.
What is it in our attitude, thoughts or action that forces a survivor of sex-crime to hide her face in fear and shame?
What is that we do and what is it that ‘we not do’ that create an ambience of hostility and rejection which compels a survivor to escape our presence?
What is it that we have failed to provide, that a survivor prefers to live of anonymity rather than celebrate her extraordinary talents and powers?
Having worked with survivors of human trafficking for the last two decades and more, I have been a direct witness to the apathy all around us…we may call it society…or the State. But whichever way we term it, all that we are talking about is our own selves…our attitude, our silence, our inaction and most importantly, our ability to subject a victim to secondary victimization with our own judgments.
I can’t…without you.
Lost, afar I wander alone.
Without you…I can’t.
Just like the first day,
let me love you from afar.
The shreds of love that I gather,
lead me closer to you,
away from this grief.
The shade of your love
Just me and this firefly
on the shores of your love.
The sleep of peace within me
pouring into my eyes.
Without you…I can’t.
Nothing at all can I…
With all this left behind,
When can I behold your face?
The Wound that I Am
Thirsty I wander,
In the cusp of your hand,
lie the glistening drops of love.
When for love I beg,
you are the King.
Out of my grasp
went countless days and nights,
you and I mere fools.
For every instance of betraying me,
God deemed us both guilty-
You a King,
Me a beggar.
In happy solitude
you lie on a bed of silk…
me searching in vain for you.
Why do I shed tears?
I see you nowhere.
Reality entwined in you…
yet a stranger you treat me,
stubbornly closeting life
within the confines of a room.
Every night adorned as a wedding boudoir
I dream of you.
But never once did I attain,
hopes vanquished lay.
From a quartet of eyes
flows forth a river.
Why is it so?
Does darkness isolate the impoverished heart?
Neither you nor I
can forcefully attain her love.
She has a glance brimming with grief;
her eyes securing within them,
tears enough to cause a storm.
The impoverished heart stood by the window,
a leafless tree, an inky night for company,
the wild wind a hint of solace provides.
Braved all with a lingering smile,
to each one her own liking.
A path differently trod
brands you with a deathly loss.
(All poems were translated from Bangla to Malayalam in the book. TNM’s Chintha Mary Anil has translated them into English). Buy the book here.