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

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina gabyvargasc at prodigy.net.mx
Tue Aug 7 18:26:17 IST 2007

Inder Salim,

Thank you so much for this interesting comparison.  I did not know anything
about Habba Khaton but now I am compelled to find her work, because of your
note.  Sor Juana was a great poet and writer and if there is a comparable
figure anywhere we all should read him or her.

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
Merida, Mexico

On 8/6/07 12:48 PM, "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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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'sŠ

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.

> 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--
> 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.

> 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
> 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
> 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/>

More information about the reader-list mailing list