One of three women poets from classical Sanskrit literature from the current nation of India. We only have one short poem to pick from.
Good neighbor wife, I beg you
keep your eye upon my house a moment;
the baby’s father hates to drink,
the tasteless water from the well.
Better I go then, though alone, to the river bank
dark with tamāla trees and thick with canes,
which with their sharp and broken stems
may scratch my breast.
Sure they will vidyā! Are they gonna scratch up your butt too? I mean the nerve! just get a divorce! I’m kidding. Maybe divorce wasn’t part of the culture back then but clearly she’s worried about more than just the sharp can stems scratching her breasts. I mean, won’t they be covered up if she’s walking through the wilderness? Won’t it be like her legs or face that get scratched up?
That’s the whole point here. She isn’t going to get water, she is going to get sex. It’s funny how she puts it though. The water no longer tastes good to her husband anymore so she has decided to go to a different well, where the water is refreshing and rejuvenating. Water is not water, water is sex.
It’s wiley of her then to say that the water is no longer good enough for her husband. She is the one who is thirsty; not him. But sure, it’s his fault. I just can;t figure out why she would ask her friend to look after her house for her while she is gone. Maybe to protect the children? Maybe because that is an “in” to get the poem going, so as to say, listen up, more to the reader than to the neighbor she is asking to watch her house.
Vidyā, according to the Norton Anthology, made her poems set in the countryside, alluding to the fact that she may have been more familiar with love there than in village or city. I think this may be true for a lot of people. There is something free and natural about being outside, away from the city, and that’s also a feeling love tends to give; so it makes sense for many reasons then to make a love story in the wilderness. Love is a natural thing.
More power to the woman then; following her heart, through thick and thin (trees and cane) to get to her lover. Maybe her ex-lover at home isn’t treating her right. Maybe she is married in and has kids and can’t leave. What a nightmare that must be. No wonder this s such a gripping yet short love poem. The nerve she has to do what is wrong but what he heart and maybe her loins are telling her is right. It’s a betrayal on her part. I get falling out of love, so guys suck, but she makes no mention of kids, so why not just let the bloke know how you feel and split up instead of scampering around through the forest for some forbidden love.
Forbidden love is sweeter, though. There’s something in our evolving monkey brains that makes us want what we can’t have. It’s the reason diamonds are so expensive. The are extremely difficult to attain. That makes them valuable. Supply and demand; simply having less of something makes it more valuable to us. That goes beyond love into a more mathematical approach but I think the concept remains. When we aren’t allowed to do something, or it is taboo to us, it makes it more fun, especially for those that are into the adrenaline seeking forms of self gratification.
“Hey honey, about those scratches on your breast, why do I see teeth and nail marks?”
“You heard me lady”
“Oh, the neighbors dog bit and scratched my breast.”
“What a horny little animal. Did he hump your leg too?”
Back to the poem itself, it’s interesting that she specifically uses the phrase, “though alone” even though she is going from one lover to another. I mean, obviously she can’t travel with anybody for this rendevous but I think she means alone in a whole ‘nother kind of way. I think she means she feels alone. It’s on thing to be walking alone, it;s another thing to feel alone in the universe. She has to feel very alone. She is turning her back on someone she loved and I’m sure a community that loves the idea of them together and would reject her given the circumstances to a lover elsewhere that she will only be with for a short time, only to be left walking home alone again. It’s better for her to make this journey then not make the journey at all, in her eyes, maybe using this as a temporary ointment for her feelings of loneliness, but it is said she has to do all of this just to satisfy her heart. Why can’t love just be easy you know? Maybe it’s the difficulty that makes true love worthwhile. Maybe it’s that rarity, just in the case with the diamonds being valuable that somewhat ironically make true love of great value to us. How often do we really feel that? Maybe some more than others. But maybe love isn’t of the same value to someone that loves all the time.
The treacherous and scandalous nature of this poem makes me wonder how she published it. If it was posthumous, then that makes sense, but how could she publish, for lack of a better word, this poem with her current husband around.
“Hey Honey, I read that poem you wrote, is there something you want to tell me?”
“It’s just artistic license, Honey, I don’t mean any of it.”
“The how do you explain all those scratches on your breast?”
“You know how river banks get, Honey, with their sharp tamāla trees and think with canes.”
“Oh, okay. I think you mentioned using those as an excuse in your poem. So just a poem right?”