Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home |  Volume 6, Issue 10, Tuesday, March 08, 2011

 

 

COVER STORY

The charms of women

'A woman feels interest in her fellow-beings because they are living creatures, because they are human, not because of some particular purpose which they can serve, or some power which they possess and for which she has a special admiration. And because woman has this power, she exercises such charm over our minds; her exuberance of vital interest is so attractive that it makes her speech, her laughter, her movement, everything graceful; for the note of gracefulness is in this harmony with all our surrounding interests.'

Exploring the vastness of Tagore's work -- his prose, poetry, music or even paintings -- one finds womanhood explored in all its forms, strengths and weaknesses. Even though based on fiction, his work spread an inherent truth - truth about the times, truth about women and truth about human beings.

Zeroing in on the dance dramas of this great wizard of words and music, one is faced with a situation where the characters present layers, each equally thought provoking. He presents each of his female characters depicting human behaviour through forms that transcend fiction and touch reality.

However, to many, these dance dramas appear as depictions of undying love between two individuals or the journey of a girl becoming a woman. With an open mind one can reap the joy of analysing the characters and discovering new dimensions every time they see them being performed.

However, the most humbling experience is possibly acting the part. Being the characters, a dancer feels the passion that these characters are meant to evoke, the passion that Tagore himself felt while writing.

It makes one respect their identity as women and more so as human beings. In the best way possible it influences one to be who she is. Once the hidden allegories behind the stories are exposed and understood, the characters show the individuality of a woman.

Hiding behind walls to be accepted, being in fear of the past, not taking the best chances in love are just some of the situations woven by Tagore in his attempt to emancipate women. These women have come to life through our acts, our thoughts and our words. These women have come to life...inside us.

Come May 2011, a hundred and fifty years will pass since the birth of our Rabindranath Tagore, and still his character shows coming generations the respect he showed to women, through his stories, poems and songs. Let us all take this day to celebrate who Robi Thakur celebrated everyday with his literature. Let us celebrate women.

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Chitrangada

'I am Chitra, the daughter of the kingly house of Manipur. With godlike grace Lord Shiva promised to my royal grandsire an unbroken line of male descent. Nevertheless, the divine word proved powerless to change the spark of life in my mother's womb --so invincible was my nature, woman though I be'

Chitra is the perfect example of beauty within. She had the confidence of a warrior but none when it came to winning over the heart of her beloved. Kuropa was what she was known as when she was a fighter. She had a heart of gold and the bravery of a hunting lion. She knew no boundaries when it came to being a saviour.

Chitra never cared for looks or being adorned with jewellery or the finest clothes even though she was the princess of Manipur. But meeting Arjuna, finest of the warrior clan, changed all that. She was ready to give up her aggression inside to be able to reach to his heart.

Lord Madana had changed her into what she wanted to be for Arjuna. And with all secrecy, she presented herself to him as Shuropa- the girl with Goddess like beauty. He, undoubtedly, had never seen such pristine beauty and felt an instantaneous attraction. But Arjuna could not forget who he saw the first time in the forest -- a young maiden in a warrior's attire ready to fight whoever was willing to.

Arjuna builds his courage to tell Shuropa about the other woman in his mind. Shuropa challenges him to find the dark eyes and lustrous hair that she possesses as the ordinary warrior-girl. She tells him that Kuropa cannot offer Arjuna everything that she has. And he, then, shows no interest in her words as he is already willing to find her. He wants to see her again. He wants to talk to her again and he cannot fight the urge.

Chitra then confesses.

'I am Chitra. No goddess to be worshipped, nor yet the object of common pity to be brushed aside like a moth with indifference. If you deign to keep me by your side in the path of danger and daring, if you allow me to share the great duties

of your life, then you will know my true self. If your babe, whom I am nourishing in my womb be born a son, I shall myself teach him to be a second Arjuna, and send him to you when the time comes, and then at last you will truly know me. Today I can only offer you Chitra, the daughter of a king.'

'Beloved, my life is full', says Arjuna.

Through Chitrangada, Tagore has showed the importance of inner beauty - one of the many qualities that a woman possesses. Be it a princess or an ordinary woman, she has the same strength of a man, the same arrogance, the same aggression and yet, she's tender within. A woman is forever a sweet mystery.

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Chandalika

'Khoma koro probhu khoma koro more,
ami chandalir konna'

'I am the daughter of a Chandal, my lord. Forgive me for I cannot give you what you ask of. I am cursed and untouchable' said Prakriti.

Woman of a lower caste, Prakriti is treated like she is made of dust in her village. The words, “Oke chhuyo nah, chhuyo nah, chhi. O je Chandalinir jhi,' was heard at every corner that Prakriti would pass by.

But when Ananda, a Buddhist monk, needed help the most, it was Prakriti who quenched his thirst. The feelings that had blossomed inside her were ones she had never felt before. Knowing that attaining the love of Ananda was impossible, she turned to her witch mother and pleaded with her to bring him back to her.

After the rituals, the evil forces make Ananda helpless. After being worn and torn by the evil forces, he turns to her for water once again and she refuses claiming she's not worthy of helping him. Ananda blesses her and tells her that her tears of repentance have washed away her sins. Hearing his words, she is redeemed a second time. And she now knows that freeing herself from all worldly attachments will lead her to the road to nirvana. Ananda makes her a disciple as the two set off on a journey to the eternal truth.

Chandalika, being an inspiration to women, shows the level of understanding within a woman. Everybody makes mistakes and women are also entitled to do so, but if their minds are nurtured with love, they will not hesitate the least bit to understand and give anything they have to in return.

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Shyama

Bajrasen, a foreign merchant, had his hopes high as he set off on his journey to find his bride. Indramanir Haar was what he had wanted to adorn his lover with. The 'haar' (necklace) was from Suborno Dip (island) and was one of the most precious royal valuables. During his journey he realised that he was being chased by the royal guard. Running towards freedom, Bajrasen stumbled across Shyama.

'She was not quite fair
But she was bright
She wore a necklace of coral beads
In great astonishment I used to look at her
With her large black eyes
She looked straight
She was about my age
This adolescent maid.'

Strikingly beautiful Shyama was pursued by many, but her heart was set on Bajrasen at first sight.

To their dismay, Bajrasen was arrested by the royal guard. Shyama took it upon herself to free the love of her life. She quickly manipulated Uttiyo, one of her suitors, to take the blame for the crime committed by Bajra. Soon, he was free from imprisonment and took Shyama to a far away land where they were unknown and could live the secluded life they hoped to live together.

Eventually, Shyama confessed her deeds to Bajra about how she saved him. And he was appalled by her treachery that had cost an innocent young man his life. Unable to deal with the guilt he felt, Bajrasen rejected Shyama. Heartbroken, she left her lover with a broken heart.

Bajrasen was torn with the feelings of guilt and his undying love for Shyama. In the back of his mind, he was aware that Shyama did whatever she had to in order to save his life. She did whatever she could to be with her love. Her despicable act had given him a chance to live.

Bajra set out to go back to the woman who gave her all to be with the man she loved, who took care of him like no other, who ignored everything to be with him.

Shyama sacrificed all she had for love.

The things a woman can do for love is something Rabindranath had seen in them. Going to the end of the world and back for the ones they care about is in their nature. A woman will love, whether for a day or for a lifetime, with all her heart. And when she does, she knows no boundaries in being there for them.

The sacrifices made by a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister may not be visible to the naked eye. But if matters are dug into, the awe-inspiring acts of a woman will never go unnoticed.

By Naziba Basher
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Model: Sudeshna Swayampraha Tathoi
Make-up: Tofael Ahmed
Wardrobe and Styling: Sharmila Banerjee

 

 

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