International Women’s Day 2021

March 8th is designated as International Women’s Day to:

celebrate women’s achievements
raise awareness about women’s equality
actively advocate for gender parity
raise funds for female-centric charities

The theme for this year is “choose to challenge.” Challenge ourselves and those around us to be alert for gender disparity and discrimination and actively seek to bring equality so that we don’t have to set aside such a day in the future.

On this occasion, I am bringing you an obscure poet from my home state of Maharashtra in India. I have always admired Bahinabai Chaudhari (1880 – 1951) for her natural poetic talent and fierce independence. She wasn’t aware of her talent and never wrote down her ‘songs’ which she composed while going about her daily routine. I am presenting her poem about the plague pandemic during 1940 as it is incredibly relevant today. The original Marathi version is followed by my loose translation. I can’t match her meter and rhyme, but the meaning is extremely relevant. I hope you join me in saluting this favorite poet and at least three more female poets I plan to present this month.

पिलोक पिलोक
आल्या पिलोकाच्या गाठी
उजाडलं गांव
खयामयांमधीं भेटी

पिलोक पिलोक
जीव आला मेटाकुटी
भाईर झोंपड्या
गांवामधीं मसन्‌वटी

पिलोक पिलोक
कशाच्या रे भेठीगांठी !
घरोघरीं दूख
काखाजांगामधीं गांठी

पिलोक पिलोक
आतां नशीबांत ताटी
उचलला रोगी
आन् गांठली करंटी

plague, plague
the lumps of plague are here
the towns are deserted
people meet in the open fields

plague, plague
people feel only despair
the huts are on the outskirts
the town has become a graveyard

plague, plague
what get-togethers?
every household filled with sorrow
lumps in armpits and groins

plague, plague
now only destiny is a bier
pick up the ailing
and remain in quarantine

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