Nirmala Putul is a Santhali tribal acclaimed author. She conveys her thoughts about the lives of Adivasi women through the poems she writes. In her poem, she cleverly brings attention to a wider issue through the stories she tells. Nirmala acts as a voice for the voiceless by chronicling the real-life stories of Adivasi women striving to achieve social standing by writing her writings in the form of poems.
In her poem, Tum Kaha ho Maya? as per the translation by Kanu Priya, she takes the example of Maya to represent how a lot of tribal women are unfortunately exploited and left to fend for themselves. Throughout this poem, the author wonders about where Maya had been, tracing the memories she had of her. Putul poses an initial paragraph of questions about the places and the occupation Maya could be pursuing. In addition to that, the author takes into account the potential options, including marketing and sales, participation in women's organizations, and so on. These, perhaps because they wouldn’t require any form of proper education, cognitive skills, or even higher pay, and tribal women would probably by then be used to working for such occupations.
There is a lot of apprehension behind solving this complex puzzle. The others talk about how 6 to 7 years ago, Maya had an emotional breakdown when she had to abort someone's child from her womb. There have been many such cases when people in good governmental positions and men who encounter tribal women, take advantage of them. Those seek pleasure in tribal women and leave them on their lonesome. Even the story of Talamai in ‘November is the Month of Migrations’ (The Adivasi will not dance 39) provides an instance of how for women to eat food and fulfil their basic needs had to get themselves raped. Talamai, in that, had become so used to offering herself that she had stopped feeling agonized in those situations and gave up on comfort for food.
“That did not let you escape,” as mentioned by the author, stimulates the idea of the world, as a maze, where you cannot find an escape. Maya trapped in the situation had no option but to fall into the abyss. The author also introduces the idea of being buried alive which entails the inability to make meaning of life. Even when she was alive, her experiences had been so brutal that there wasn’t any life left in her. Maya was alive, yet dead. Her parents didn’t know much about living in India. They were rather proud of her for she resided in Delhi, however, little did they know about the struggles she was facing there. The author compares it with the golden palace of Lanka, which was according to mythology made for Lord Shiva but was resided in and owned by Ravana. The intention of the place was pure, but it turned into a place of misdemeanour. Even when it was gold, there wasn’t any golden attribute attached to it, just like Delhi according to Nirmala. The bloom in the flowers she planted, withers off waiting every year, just the way Maya lost the youthfulness she had while planting the flower of kapurmurli for her bun.
Putul is also reminded of Lakhna who still reminisces and lives in the memory of Maya and plays the flute facing Delhi hoping that she would, one day, come back. Nirmala Putul calls her back to end the misery and seek the pleasure of her homecoming.
1. “Nirmala Putul.” The Johar Journal, https://joharjournal.org/nirmala-putul-vol-2/. Accessed 15 November 2022.
2. De, Debasree. A History of Adivasi Women in Post-Independence Eastern India: The Margins of the Marginals. SAGE Publications, 2018.
3. The Adivasi Will Not Dance: Stories, by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Speaking Tiger, 2015.
About the Author: Quanisha Saboo is an undergraduate student, at Ashoka University intending to major in psychology and minor in sociology. Her areas of interest include social issues, journalism, media studies, and social and organizational psychology.