The Butterfly Effect

Urdu poet and activist Jameela Nishat talks about her latest book, ‘Butterfly Caresses’ and also shares why it is special to her

Published: 06th October 2015 06:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th October 2015 06:23 AM   |  A+A-

...Meri neeli ankhen

Mera jigar, mere phephdey

Apni qeemat laga rahe hain

Mere badan ka har azoo

Duniya bhar mein ghoom raha hain

Mujhko iska pata nahi


Itna janu

Meri haddiyan tooti-phooti

Gandi naal men bah rahi hain

Cheek rahi hain...


Butterfly.jpgThis is the voice of that 13-year-old, who wiped her mouth with a piece of her skirt and prepared her mouth to eat. Who was lured by the rich uncle, who first tempted her with free chocolate bars and then rides in big cars to his big bungalow. He then eventually tore her clothes, talking about her new salwar kameez, leaving her heart wonder why?

She, or rather her body parts were valued and sold to the highest bidder.

This is the story of that young girl caught in the web of prostitution.

This young girl is also activist and poet Jameela Nishat speaking to the world through what she knows best – poetry, in her new book ‘Butterfly Caresses’.

A collection of  40 poems, written mostly in free verse, Jameela has touched upon a number of burning issues – local to global. 

“The issues I have written are largely about violence on women and children – violence young girls face in Kashmir, Noida killings, child marriages, domestic violence and such. One of my poems also talks about the war between Bush and Iraq, the pain of the common man caught in the midst of the warring nations,” explains Jameela.

Bhopal tragedy, Babri Masjid demolition, the affects of globalisation also take a place in ‘Butterfly Caresses’.  

Jameela.jpgThe poems, originally written in Urdu have been translated by leading poet Hoshang Merchant, assistant professor, EFLU, Uma Damodar Sridhar and Kelly Jo Cigman, poet from the United States. Jameela who got her first poem published almost 45 years ago, also authored, ‘Lams Ki Sawghat’, ‘Lamhey Ki Ankh’ and ‘Lava’ among others that tell the stories of many women.

The founder and director of Shaheen Collective in Old City catering especially to Dalit, Muslim and other backward class women, enabling them to create a livelihood, Jameela is regarded as one of those few female Urdu poets who paved way for many other young women to become more expressive.

Over the years, Jameela admits, that her style of writing has changed greatly.

“That is one thing I have noticed about my writing in ‘Butterfly Caresses’ that was a lot more metaphorical earlier. But in this book, my writing is a lot bolder. There is a poem where people who died in the Bhopal gas leak speak to the reader from their grave. In case of the Noida killing, I became the girl who was raped. Objectivity became subjectivity,” explains Jameela.

Every poem is the voice of the victim. “I am speaking to the reader. I am the survivor. I am not Jameela, but the one affected,” elaborates the activist.

For Jameela poetry is more than just a form expression. “It is not in my heart. It is in my veins, in my nerves. It flows through me when I put a pen to paper. It comes to me effortlessly,” she says and adds with a hint of surprise, “That is why I don’t quite understand why I was metaphorical earlier and why I am so vocal and open now. The voice is a lot more strong and serious.”

‘Butterfly Caresses’ is also special to her she admits, because of the boldness in tone and the topical issues. “I felt that the message needs to spread,” she signs off.

Butterfly Caresses is available online at Rs 350. Kindle version is available at Rs 169.

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