Friday 4 February 2022

Penpiravi - Birth of a Woman: She could be you, but she's me too.


Title: Penpiravi – Birth of a Woman
Translation by: Vineetha Mekkoth
Poems by: Girija Pathekkara
Published by: Authorspress

“Penpiravi – Birth of a Woman”, a collection of poems by Vineetha Mekkoth, is a translation of Girija Pathekkara’s collection of Malayalam poems of the same title.

Through the entire reading of the book from cover to cover, I was aware of the presence of a woman who is very bold and progressive in her thinking, but very docile in her personal everyday life. A docility that she hangs on to, perhaps, out of her emotional attachment to those around her. A docility that can, like a sleeping volcano, erupt at any moment. A docility that can turn into a powerful force, which she essentially is, at her own free will. A docility that she can do away with anytime if she so chooses. That woman, I feel, is perhaps the poet. And, that woman, I know for sure, is me.

As a reader of poems, I believe the order of the poems in a collection plays an important role in how the readers experience them. In the poem “Ichchamati”, which is brilliantly placed as the concluding poem in this collection, I could see the beginning of the woman’s transformation into what she would and should become. However, I neither see the explosive awakening of a sleeping volcano nor a vehement unleashing of the power of her will. What I see is a gentle unfoldment that is as gentle as the metamorphosis of a butterfly or the blooming of a flower.

“…Does the water
have eyes to see
the way it has to flow?

My little question
then you answered
with so many kisses.

water is
a freedom-loving
mother, you had
answered then.

Here now
before me
is Ichchamati.
May I step into her now?”
(p. 76)

Ichamati is a river that flows between India and Bangladesh. Roughly translated, the word ichamati means “someone who moves (lives) by her own wishes”.

I take my hat off to Mekkoth for preserving the experience of the poems. She has maintained the spirit of the original language, Malayalam, without compromising the beauty of the target language, English. Mekkoth has also been able to present the cultural setting of the original poems effortlessly. Having said that, the poems don't lean on the original versions to connect with and delight the readers. They are beautiful poems in themselves that can enchant lovers of poetry across the world. Well, simply put, I enjoyed reading the book.

I wish Vineetha Mekkoth and Girija Pathekkara the very best on their poetic journeys.

The book is available at

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