[Reader-list] Habba Khatoon & Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

rashneek kher rashneek at gmail.com
Tue Aug 7 15:34:54 IST 2007

Kashmir has been home to some really great poets like Shams Faqir,Ahad
Zargar,Mahmud Gami,Krishanjoo Razdan,Samad Mir,Dina Nath Nadim and many
more,Habba Khatoon or Zoon does not qualify in the same league of poets as
the ones named above her.

This is primarily on account of the following

1.She was more of a singer and it is to this day believed in Kashmir that
her voice resonated in the saffron fields of Pampore
2.She was a song writer or lyricist of the songs she sang.Now very few can
describe Indeevar as a poet,despite the fact that he wrote some exceptional

Having said that her contribution as a song writer or a keeper of
conscience/rebel to the society in which she lived cannot be undermined.
She speaks of the constant ridicule that she had to undergo at the hands of
her first and only husband(she was only a concubine to Yusuf Shah Chak,and
not a wife..this has been testified by Amin Kamil and TN Raina)...when she
sings...Not me phutmo malinavay ho....

She also brings home the point how women were mistreated,and most wanted a
girl not to be born( in her song..chuye baer baer mas pyalo...in which she
says...most frown at the birth of a girl...although a girl is a lion yet
they make her feel like a fox)

She is a nationalist to core...when she sings paens to Yusuf Shah Chak in
her tribute when he fights Akbar...She sings..O my friend see what feats he
accomplished...neither the axes nor arrows did he fear...thats why my friend
he is Sher-i-Jabbar..(vich taem sakhiyav kaer kith karo-na su khooch teeras
na su tabre..tavay tas naav paev sher-jabbaro)

One can really write volumes on her songs and her rather sad life...but
Habba Khatoon alongwith Lalded,and Arinmal remain the voices of Kashmiri
women...till date....
but to call her a poet would be comparing her to Ahmed Batwari and Abdul
Ahad Azad...which is rather unfair..
The only song where she shows some flashes of poetry is

Valo myane poshe madano....one of the verses read(i try and translate)

O my friend..let us go and fetch water(Vale vyes gachevay aabas)
while the world is still asleep(duniya chu naendre khwabas)
I await his reply(here she transcends the boundary of song writing to a
higher plane)(praran tahendes jawabas)
Come my beloved friend....(valo myane poshe madano)



On 8/6/07, inder salim <indersalim at gmail.com> wrote:
> Habba Khatoon &  Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
> This is about  16th and 17 century. After the full moon of Habba
> Khatoon  alias Zooni, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz shone on the South
> American horizon nearly one century later. We don't have detailed
> account of Habba Khatoon unlike Sor Juna whom we know how she died and
> even at what time of which month and of what disease. That is that,
> but what fascinates me here, is their similarity in many areas.  Both
> Habba and Juana come from a humble background, and both ended
> tragically.  Both were gifted poets with a deep love for music, though
> Sor Juana was well read and knew science as well from the beginning,
> but both had no regular schooling. Both were in love, and both were
> radical in thought and profoundly protesting against  the social
> decadence and other forms of human suffering. To say the least, both
> were women, and beautiful.
> Sor  Juana was not only a poet but a philosopher, playwright, and
> prose writer. She was an illegitimate and a lesbian, unlike Habba
> Khatoon who was simply the daughter of a peasant; and in love with
> nature from the beginning. I said this because we don't have an
> intensive record of her upbringing, adolescence and marriage. But I am
> sure, the medieval rural of Maxico and Kashmir must have been quite
> lyrical, because of which it was possible for daughters of humble
> backgrounds to pick up the nuances of song making intrinsically.  The
> credit goes to the inherent strength in the folk music it self; and
> since folk is non-translatable into any other form of expression, and
> here, any attempt to compare the two great poets is almost
> insignificant.  While Octavio Paz won Nobel prize in 1990 for his
> monumental work on Sor Juana, our Kashmiri Nightingale, for some
> Kashmiri brothers, is still not impressive enough to qualify as a
> poet, even.
> Sor Juana was Catholic and a Nun in an autocratic, theocratic, male
> dominated society, and when she pressed for the proper education of
> girls she was forced to stop writing, which finally resulted in the
> sale of her collection of 4000 books, musical instruments and
> everything she identified with. That was the beginning of her quick
> end, hastened by the Plauge in the city. On the contrary, Habba
> Khatoon was beaten by her first husband and forced to abandon  poetry,
> which dramatically caused her to discover new love, a new lease of
> life as a creative poet in the court of King Yousuf Shah Check. But
> she was soon out of favour when the Kashmiri Sultan was killed by
> Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great. That was the beginning of her tragic
> end, too.
> A Habba Khatoon poem is the effortless song of a woman poet, quite
> like Sor Juana's, but in a different context, perhaps.  When  I hear,
> ' bei tschsai Zameen tai, tchi chook Asman, seers chook sar posh' the
> blue earth flashes in front of my eyes. I see, the zameen ( the earth
> ) surrounded by invisible air, being kissed by the very transparency
> it is surrounded with. A deep kiss in its entirety, writing all the
> far and beyond, in 'a blue', we all are familiar with.  A great secret
> which we can see from a distant planet, but can visualize and
> experience only from below, and hence a secret. This woman poet was
> able to appropriate the whole of earth in a bid to proclaim 'love' so
> overwhelmingly that even the sky looks smaller. The echo of such a
> thought comes to us from an ancient Shiva Shakti thought but since
> that has turned merely into a popular worship  form of main stream
> Hindu religion, unlike the word ' zameen' ( earth ) which gives us
> back our empirical pride and a grass root belonging at the same time.
> I approach, and I withdraw:
> who but I could find
> absence in the eyes,
> presence in what's far?
> This is  sor Junana, experiencing the meaning of visual so
> spontaneously. Here,  I am a little interested to see how the poet's
> quantum of thought weaves all the possibility, with such a precision,
> and yet declares nothing, and hence so secretive, so personal and so
> close to  ones life, particularly a woman's…
> The most famous song in Kashmir by Haba Khatoon is her protest against
> in-laws, who were perhaps pressing her for dowry. During one of  those
> days when she happened to break her water pitcher she gives a call to
> her parents to come to her rescue and provide her with a new pitcher.
> "The mother-in law grabbed me by my hair, which stung me more than the
> pangs of death. I fell asleep on the supporting plank of the spinning
> wheel, and in this way, the circular wheel got damaged. I cannot
> reconcile myself with the atrocities of the inlaws, O! my parents,
> please come to my rescue."  ( translation by KN Dhar )
> The song goes on and on. Poets are perhaps tailor made to take the
> matters of dignity too seriously.  Needless to say that woman have
> suffered more than anybody else in the whole process of civilization
> making. Children have suffered too, and here is how Haba Khatoon
> expresses so lucidly in verses
> "My parents sent me to a distant school for receiving tuition. The
> teacher there beat me with a tender stick mercilessly and ignited a
> fire within me; No body's youth with child- like innocence should go
> unrewarded like that of mine." ( translation by KN Dhar)
> The manner in which Haba Khatoon spoke against the Child-abuse is
> without a parallel in the whole of literature. Unpredictability, the
> essential element of poetry pours out just a bud comes out a bough,
> with a universal human heart of a mother. The popularity of the songs
> has given it a status in the cultural history of Kashmir that no one
> can erase it from the memory of people who are celebrating the songs
> of Haba Khatoon in the present, even.
> Unfortunately, her creative being was cut short, more for her being a
> woman than by the death of King Yousuf Shah Check. This is how she
> expresses, perhaps in her last song.
> Tschi kaho watiyo mani marnay "  what will you gain by my death, O God.'
> One finds a similar echo in  Sor Juana's last inscription, title of a
> film also,  la peor de todas ("I, The Worst of All")
> Here, a Sor Juana  poem translated in English:
> Silly, you men-so very adept
> at wrongly faulting womankind,
> not seeing you're alone to blame
> for faults you plant in woman's mind.
> After you've won by urgent plea
> the right to tarnish her good name,
> you still expect her to behave--
> you, that coaxed her into shame.
> You batter her resistance down
> and then, all righteousness, proclaim
> that feminine frivolity,
> not your persistence, is to blame.
> When it comes to bravely posturing,
> your witlessness must take the prize:
> you're the child that makes a bogeyman,
> and then recoils in fear and cries.
> Presumptuous beyond belief,
> you'd have the woman you pursue
> be Thais when you're courting her,
> Lucretia once she falls to you.
> For plain default of common sense,
> could any action be so queer
> as oneself to cloud the mirror,
> then complain that it's not clear?
> Whether you're favored or disdained,
> nothing can leave you satisfied.
> You whimper if you're turned away,
> you sneer if you've been gratified.
> With you, no woman can hope to score;
> whichever way, she's bound to lose;
> spurning you, she's ungrateful--
> succumbing, you call her lewd.
> Your folly is always the same:
> you apply a single rule
> to the one you accuse of looseness
> and the one you brand as cruel.
> What happy mean could there be
> for the woman who catches your eye,
> if, unresponsive, she offends,
> yet whose complaisance you decry?
> Still, whether it's torment or anger--
> and both ways you've yourselves to blame--
> God bless the woman who won't have you,
> no matter how loud you complain.
> It's your persistent entreaties
> that change her from timid to bold.
> Having made her thereby naughty,
> you would have her good as gold.
> So where does the greater guilt lie
> for a passion that should not be:
> with the man who pleads out of baseness
> or the woman debased by his plea?
> Or which is more to be blamed--
> though both will have cause for chagrin:
> the woman who sins for money
> or the man who pays money to sin?
> So why are you men all so stunned
> at the thought you're all guilty alike?
> Either like them for what you've made them
> or make of them what you can like.
> If you'd give up pursuing them,
> you'd discover, without a doubt,
> you've a stronger case to make
> against those who seek you out.
> I well know what powerful arms
> you wield in pressing for evil:
> your arrogance is allied
> with the world, the flesh, and the devil!
> --
> --
> _________________________________________
> reader-list: an open discussion list on media and the city.
> Critiques & Collaborations
> To subscribe: send an email to reader-list-request at sarai.net with
> subscribe in the subject header.
> To unsubscribe: https://mail.sarai.net/mailman/listinfo/reader-list
> List archive: &lt;https://mail.sarai.net/pipermail/reader-list/>

Rashneek Kher

More information about the reader-list mailing list