<SiteLock

Thoughts on Tanya Singh's poetry collection from Panther's Paw: 'Blue is the Colour I Choose'

 

Chanchal Kumar

chanchal

The Hindi writer Ajay Navaria said in an interview, "We are not Dalits 24 hours a day". This statement may seem puzzling. Some may think, How can one escape one's identity at will? The signifier 'Dalit' isn't a uniform that a person can put on for some time and then change into another, right? Well, I struggled with interpreting the statement for some time too. If the reader goes through Tanya Singh's Blue is the Colour I Choose, it might offer some explanations.

Tanya Singh, similar to Navaria, has been a Professor at a reputed university. In her debut collection, she writes as a Dalit woman. Many of her poems are written through this perspective. But this is not the only reason why this collection is important. It assumes significance rather because in her poems, she also gives us a glimpse of her life as just another regular person going about her every day routine, without thinking incessantly about being Dalit.

In her poem Stares, she writes about a funny incident regarding her experience in a café, when she should have pushed the café door instead she pulls it, expecting it to open. She feels that people were staring at her. This is the entire poem. While it may seem like an inconsequential little verse, it proves a couple of important points. The first is concerning the humanity of Dalit people. In a charged political scenario where identity takes precedence over everything else, we sometimes forget that Dalits are also made of flesh and bones, just like any other person regardless of their caste.

                           panthers paw

In fact, had it not been for news on the media concerning yet another atrocity, we would be forgiven for believing in the caste system like something that exists only in one's imagination. But it is as real and fundamental as air in a closed room. The second point is that this poem which is about a café door is regarding the social location of the poet, her privilege vis-à-vis majority of Dalits around India. The poet is writing from a space which makes such an experience in a café possible. She accepts the privilege that she enjoys as a person brought up in a metro city, however fraught it may be. In the poem Rain, she writes;
 

"... Outside my car,
a beggar-kid carrying another beggar-kid;
perhaps his brother,
on the piss-water-filled road
my dry eyes soaking their wet bodies
they looked at me piercing through the thin glass window,
unfathomable thoughts dripping from their head.
I looked at them again
suddenly conscious of my fancy bag
and expensive underwear,
And then turned away
with my urban,
cultured indifference."


Other poems in the collection, similarly point to the guilt that she feels belonging to a class that is better off, but it is also true that her perspective as an articulate young female poet writing in English is significant. Her collection urges other young people from the community to publish their work and continue to work towards realizing their dream.

Blue is the Colour I Choose contains poems that have their origin in casual evening hangouts with savarna people, and draws content from conversations that take place in such settings. Poems like Circle give an insight into the lives of oppressors:

 
"I wrote letters to my grandfather in Sanskrit,
he always insisted so", said she.
"Learning classical dance and music is a part
of our childhood training, reiterated another.
They always have such stories to tell,
their incestual club of
heritage, culture, legacy,
the grand names of their predecessors;
Chaudharis, Chaturvedis, Chauhans,
their poojas, gods, gurus,
English-speaking grandmothers,
cotton and silk saris,
sweets and cooking recipes,
family heirlooms..."

It shifts the gaze back to savarnas and makes them know what the other side thinks of them. In the words of James Baldwin, 'The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.'

Poems of affirmation also abound in the collection, which are a pleasure to read. In New Day, Tanya Singh writes,

"Each Day
The savarnas make history
Each day
The Dalits make future"

 
It shows her belief in the idea that Dalits do not just live in the present, they also share a vision for the future. It is true that days in the future certainly hold a lot more hope for Dalits.We need more poets like Tanya Singh to show us the path where everyone is given the opportunity to speak their truth.

Tanya Singh should be read because of poems wherein she asserts her humanity in the face of violence and censure. Congratulations are due to Panther's Paw for giving a platform to Tanya and for making it a priority to support voices like hers.

~~~

 

Chanchal Kumar is from Jharkhand and currently lives in Delhi, India. His poems have previously appeared and awarded in The Sunflower Collective, Hamilton Stone Review, Welter Journal, Name and None, Young Poets Network, UK including others. Recently, his poems were translated to Bengali by Harakiri Journal. He is pursuing M.Phil at University of Delhi.

Other Related Articles

Menstrual Hygiene Management in Sarawasti, An Aspirational District of Uttar Pradesh
Saturday, 04 December 2021
   Shubhangi Rawat  Abstract Menstruation, a normal biological process in the female body, is often viewed as dirty and disgusting. Because of the negative perceptions and... Read More...
The making of the Indian Constitution- Excerpts from the Constituent Assembly debates
Wednesday, 01 December 2021
  Dr Jas Simran Kehal The constitution is apparently revered but it is not celebrated- Stephen M. Griffin. Constitution is not a mere lawyer's document, it is a vehicle of life, and its spirit... Read More...
Jayanti: The Roaring Story of Oppressed Unity and Transformation
Tuesday, 30 November 2021
   Vicky Nandgaye, Manoj Meshram Prelude: Central Theme and Cast of the Movie Recently a Marathi movie 'Jayanti' was released on the big screen in Maharashtra. Jayanti is a Marathi word... Read More...
Narratives of Dalit Cultural Politics in Telangana
Tuesday, 16 November 2021
   Bhangya Bhukya Vemula Yellaiah's Kakka which was published in Telugu, twenty years ago and now translated in English is a powerful narrative of dalit assertion in Telangana. It is the... Read More...
The myth of 'Departmental Politics'
Saturday, 13 November 2021
   Deepali Salve Ever since I got into university for higher education, one word that I have constantly heard is "politics". As I did not face casteism/exploitation till my graduation, I... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Conceiving a New Public: Ambedkar on Universities
Saturday, 26 June 2021
Asha Singh & Nidhin Donald Dr. B.R. Ambedkar conceptualizes education as a ‘vital need’ which helps us fight notions of ‘inescapable fate’ or ‘ascriptions of caste or religion’. He... Read More...
Caste management through feminism in India
Friday, 06 August 2021
Kanika S There was a time some 5-6 years ago when feminism tried to undermine Dr Ambedkar by pointing out that he carried a penis.1 Now he is just as fantastically a carrier of feminist ideals... Read More...
A portrait of the casteist as a young influencer
Monday, 12 July 2021
Shy of inquiry into privilege, social media posts flaunt antiquated attitudes to caste, reservations Rahi Gaikwad We are all to some extent the prisoners of our upbringing.-PD James (Death in Holy... Read More...
Life of Bahujans in Brahminical Schools
Friday, 18 June 2021
  Pranav Jeevan P Schools are one of the primary places where the functioning of caste is passed on to the next generation. Savarna kids are indoctrinated of their superiority and Bahujan kids... Read More...
Against all odds: Babasaheb Ambedkar's prophetic warnings about communist China
Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Dr. Aniruddha Babar “Chinese ‘might be induced not to be hostile to us’. And why would that be? Because “I have some slight reputation with the leaders of Communist China because of the... Read More...