This post supports every woman’s right to her own body, to speak about it or to do anything with it as she pleases. Her body is hers and hers only. On this post, any woman or man who wishes to take this right away from her, by shaming her, trying to hide her body or slandering her with vicious words and acts, because she dares to break away from the Silence, is requested to leave right now. No justifications, comments or voices will be accepted whose sole purpose is to help to keep the Silence surrounding a woman’s body alive.
Breasts - Kutti Revathi
Breasts are bubbles rising
in wet swamps
I wondrously watched and guarded,
Their gradual swell and blooming
At the edges of my youth’s season
Saying nothing to anyone else
They sing along
With me alone always;
To the nurseries of my turning seasons
They never once failed or forgot
To bring arousal
During my penance, they seem to want to break free
And in the fierce pull of lust, they rise
Engorged with memories of musical trance
Like two teardrops of an unfulfilled love
That cannot ever be wiped away
They brim, as in a still puddle
(English translation by N Kalyan Raman)
20th March, 2010. The winter chills are far away in Bhopal and the Cultural Bonanza is on. People are coming out of their homes every day, attending one or the other event happening around Bhopal. Bharat Bhavan, the Cultural capital, a la India Habitat Centre in Delhi, hosted a three day Kavi Sammelan, where Kutti Revathi stormed the auditorium with her bold poems.
Kutti Revathi has been often misunderstood as one who is trying to draw attention to herself by using shock value. When Mulaigal (Breasts) was first published in 2002, needless to say it drew a huge amount of flak from the conservative Tamil society. But Kutti Revathi, which is the pen name of Dr S Revathi, is unapologetic. “As we poke into a word and turn it over,” she writes in her essay, “the history buried in its innards rises up, along with images, memories . . . and poetry too.”
Breasts are central to a woman’s body. They are her obsession too. Needless to say, most men spend a lot of time thinking about them.
Every woman is in one way or the other involved with her body. It is her personal domain. What is problematic is that on their own, men have set “rights” over woman’s body by snatching away even a woman’s right to speak, share thoughts about her body or parts of it, with herself or with others. Men, have made both the woman’s body, especially her breasts, objects of desire by making it a taboo subject and grabbing a woman’s claim over her own body. By trying to “hide”, place shame and guilt over a woman’s body, they have tried for centuries to make women disown her own body and hand over the “power” to men.
Therefore, the more women speak about their bodies, the more she reclaims what is hers.
The demons that affect us – Kutti Revathi
Sister…. Like potters, lets fashion
Many more breasts now
When breasts brought life by stoning
And at knifepoint are being consumed.
There is no fences to protect these
Nor the world’s newest foodgrains.
Why do vultures indulge
In the plunder of grains?
The old woman’s breasts, alive through
Eating the sun and enjoying open spaces
Hang down, pushing against her heart
like demons that afflict her.
Those demons too, are but boundary maps
of dried up history. So sister
We shall not turn breasts that once were
Water ponds to quench our thirst
Into vessels of unending agony.
We’ll turn them into stone someday
And fling them away using slings,
We’ll wander, even with a lone breast
Bearing the weight of the sun.
(English translation by N Kalyan Raman)
Kutti Revathi is the pen name of Dr S. Revathi. A Chennai-based Tamil poet, her poetry seeks to evolve a subversive language to explore and reclaim a long-colonised realm of experience – “the map of a Tamil woman’s body”.
More on Kutti Revathi:
N Kalyan Raman took up translation in the mid 1990s. His translations of Tamil short stories have been included in several collections of Indian language fiction in translation. He has translated three volumes of Ashokamitran’s fiction into English: The Colours of Evil, Sand and other stories and Mole!, besides a novel by Vaasanthi, published as At the Cusp of Ages.
More on N Kalyan Raman
I had covered Lal Ded in this post:
She was enlightened. I can hardly believe that having seen a man she would have gone into a burning tandoor to hide her nakedness. She might have done so for other reasons - maybe she recognised in him a man who sees a naked woman as naked, and not an enlightened woman....who knows what was in her mind, if the tale is true. Thanks for the story though,
There is a story in Kashmir about a saint and poetess Lal Ded. It is said that she was roaming around in her naked state here and there. One fine morning when she was straying like that she saw another famous saint coming in her direction...she immediately jumped in a nearby burning tandoor of a bakery. People were shocked. She came out after the saint passed. People asked her" Why she jumped to see him? She replied that no matter how I roam around around in my naked state, but this was the first time I saw a real man and I was shy and embarrassed of my nakedness."
Somehow I remembered this story after reading Kutti Revathi's poems.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for that wonderful quotation, which has rendered this post a million times worthy to have written about.
2000 years ago, India was shining with a heritage of free, liberated and artistic people, poets, sculptors, painters, writers, Kings and wise men. The South was India's pride and the womb of enormous creative expressions.
Alas! herenow, we must bear with regressive thinking and orthodox mindsets. What to do, age has its hassles too - the older you grow, in terms of age, the worse can be your rigid mindset :( Forgive them!
Warm regards, Bala,
Having followed the discourse on the subject with very knowlegeable persons (despite with varying views), I am provoked to come back here to point out that in Silapathikaram a tamil classic of Sangam age (B.C.), Kannagi the arche - type of tamil virtue, when enraged by the execution of her innocent husband by the Pandya king, excises her tender breast nipples and casts a spell on MADURAI situated on the banks of Vaigai and the whole city goes up in flames. I am sure( Dr.) Kutti Revathi mut have definitely seen the following passage which would be one of the causes for her inspiration.
" Mudhira Nahil Mugathu Ezhundha Theeyin,
Madhurai Moo-Dhur,Ma-Nagar Suttadhum,
Mikka Valar-Mamisai Koman,En Sengol Saindhadhu............ "
( Mudhira Nahil --- Tender Breast Nipples.)
I do not think there was any controversy when the Tamil poet Elangovadigal scripted the above lines to bring-out the divine ferocity of a chaste woman whose conscience was prickd by gross injustice ! We are offended for lesser reason after 2000 years ! I greatly appreciate your interest in the matter and I can not find any reason why a woman should not rightly express the majesty of her anatomy as she desires. It would be spine-less to feel estranged !
indeed a woman's body is her own and she has a right to explore it and take pleasure from it whether it is her breasts or her eyes or her shape.
hats off to Revathi
It is not that all men are fools like Tiger Woods. Or all women, who dispense their bodily charm to all and sundry for filthy lucre. There are humans unlike the Kutti Revathis, Salma and others who use the anatomical parts of their bodies to shock the finer sensibilities of their counterparts. In them I see a streak of narcissism, a sort of self love for their own bodies, without realising that the very purpose of creation, is to subjugate it at the altar of mutual love.
My reference to Leo, and the lLon as the King of the forest, with its own aristocratic traits, was in reply to Taurus, the Bull, with which I am tagged, because erroneously people think that those born in May should be a Taurean, little realising that between our Astrology and Western Astrology there is a lateral shift of 30 degrees.
And by its very nature Fool is a relative term. I can do no better than quote Albert Einstein : "Before God we are all equally wise - and equally foolish".
A great genius of the caliber of Enstein has left the choice to us.
I shall leave the choice to you to decide to whcih category you fall into.
A long discourse may be well left for readers to comment upon. I have only to say this, Kutti Revathi speaks of what is hers and every woman's right to her own body, or part of body.
Men are fools! For centuries they have been deluded as you yourself say by a part of a woman's body and fallen prey to it.
Even if it were a lion in the forest like you.
Thank you. To me, to day Kutti Revathi as a feminine poetess is passé. Yes when I wrote about her, in 2007, she was the epicenter of a monumental controversy, mostly engineered by men, in their intolerance and insolence. It required the will power, and mental sagacity of a person of the caliber of Revathi to slap them to understanding. Having said that, I must also state unequivocally, she used the only astram (weapon) she had, to promote her brand of feminism. And unlike in the Puranas, she, in her ignorance expended it once for all. The weapon did not come back to her arsenal, to be reused. The breasts of a woman, which in Tamil, we call Mulaigal (colloquial) a characteristic of informal spoken language or conversation, in place of Konghai (chaste Tamil) lost its sanctity, and became pedestrian. She went on to describe its topography, its undulations, and in short what ever it was expected to do, thus making it bare to one and all.
Like every male who is used to a surfeit of any thing, the breasts of a female were no more an obsession in the minds of males. It was nothing but a protuberance, meant for suckling the babies. Her topographic journey ended all illusions a man could have about the two perfect hemispheres of female anatomy, that used to lure the men from time immemorial. And to day it is just a remnant, an appendage that never evokes any other interest, than a passing glance. At least this is my reading of Kutti Revathi.
I don't think I called her Midget, because in Tamil Kutti can be translated into midget. It was an allusion. Perhaps, it was born out of my desire to compare and contrast her physical figure with her literary achievements.
Today, I am in no more awe of her. Perhaps, she has also mellowed and she has found good company in males?
My interest lies in Ambai's writings, a feminist writer par excellence, and Kutti Revathi, Salma and the few others who rose to prominence, by extolling the virtue or otherwise of the feminine body , its parts and the mind, do not excite me any more. Like they say water finds its own level these feminine writers once they find their interests gravitating to the pleasures of male company, lose their steam.
PS: I am NOT a Taurean. Sulekha is dead wrong because they follow Western Astrology. According to Vedic Astrology I am Leo, the Lion, and the King of all forests. If you observe me in action, some very prominent traits of Aristocracy are still visible in me. VP.
Having read your post ( which is somewhat taken from the site, I have also given a link to) I am not too sure whether you want to praise her or damn her. For one, she cares for none, for the other, I believe you are far more liberated in your mind having traveled to many parts of India, including living in Kolkata for many years, to be so entirely orthodox. I believe your reference and translation of Kutti Revathi as Midget Revathi too is an error of not having met or seen Revathi in person. Kutti Revathi is not a very tall woman, but very well built and trim. Perhaps the Kutti bears its beginnings there. I don't know when she was born, but I will be little surprised if she is a Taurian. I have seen many Kutti Taurians who reach great height in life. They are also head strong and willful, so they don't allow anything or any one to come between them and what they want out of their lives.
Yes, Revathi is researching on Siddha. In fact, she is almost at the end of her research work. Soon, she will have a Doctorate too.
Proud daughters of India!