Indian Women Poem by Shiv K Kumar Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


The poem “Indian Women” by Shiv K. Kumar explores the many aspects of Indian women’s identities and experiences. The many roles, difficulties, and ambitions of Indian women are explored by Kumar using vivid imagery and expressive language. The poem perfectly expresses what it means to be a woman, highlighting both her resilience and the difficulties Indian women experience in society. “Indian Women” encourages readers to consider the complexity of gender relations and the rich tapestry of women’s lives in Indian culture through a combination of social criticism and personal reflection.

About the poet

Shiv K. Kumar was an Indian English-language poet, dramatist, novelist, and short story writer. He was born on 16 August 1921 in Lahore, British India, and died on 1 March 2017 in Hyderabad, India. Both his father, Bishan Das Kumar, a former headmaster, and his grandfather, the late Tulsi Das Kumar, were headmasters. In the name Shiv K. Kumar, the letter “K” stands for Krishna.


The theme of Shiv K. Kumar’s poem “Indian Women” is an examination of women’s lives and societal roles in India. It explores several aspects of females, such as their perseverance, strength, challenges, and goals. The poem provides light on the difficulties and restrictions faced by women as well as the complicated dynamics of gender in Indian culture. It also recognizes the accomplishments, hopes, and goals of women and celebrates the great diversity of their lives. In short, the theme reflects the complexity of Indian women and urges a greater comprehension and respect of their experiences in light of their social and cultural roles.


Line 1-3

In this triple-baked continent

women don’t etch angry eyebrows

on mud walls.


The poet indicates in these lines that women in India’s diverse and broad continent do not express their anger or frustration by etching angry eyebrows on mud walls.


India is referred to by the poet as a triple-baked continent. He refers to Indian women as being “triple-baked,” which refers to their exposure to the sun, sex, and poverty. It is a warm country with a patriarchal society, where poverty is at its worst. The male leader of the household is the only one permitted to express anger inside the mud walls in such a setting, as evidenced by the woman’s inability to “etch angry eyebrows On the mud walls.” These lines demonstrate the complex ways in which women navigate and negotiate with their emotions in their various circumstances.

Line 4-9

Patiently they sit

like empty pitchers

on the mouth of the village well

pleating hope in each braid of their mississippi-long hair

looking deep into the water’s mirror

for the moisture in their eyes.


In these lines, the poet compares the village’s women to empty pitchers set at a well’s mouth while they wait patiently. Their long hair is compared to the Mississippi River, and they gaze into the water’s mirror to see evidence of moisture in their eyes, which are interpreted as representations of their aspirations and desires.


These lines reflect women in a community, demonstrating patience and hope. Indian women are recognized for their patience, and it is one of their qualities. Women in rural areas live in mud huts and cook in mud pots. This demonstrates their patience level since they maintain such pots and vessels neat, clean, and undamaged for years. Despite being the family’s leader, males often only make choices. When men are at work, women are responsible for taking care of their families. Due to the lack of water, women patiently wait by the village well to fetch water. Indian women typically have long hair, which he compares to the Mississippi River and says “Pleating hope in each braid of their Mississippi long hair.” Water is the source of hope. They gaze intently into the well in search of water while their eyes are filled with tears. The poet describes this gesture as ‘looking deep into the water’s mirror for the moisture in their eyes’. 

Line 10-14

With zodiac doodlings on the sands

they guard their tattooed thighs

Waiting for their men’s return

till even the shadows

roll up their contours and are gone beyond the hills.


In these lines, the poet explains how women in the village would cover their tattooed thighs and make zodiac signs in the sand. Even as the evening’s shadows fade below the hills, they wait for their men to return.


Indian women have a reputation for being conservative. They often draw doodles on the sand because they are shy. This is a cultural approach to expressing positive affection for their partner or subjects related to their partners. They protect their tattooed thighs, another cultural reference. When a lady has her husband’s name inked on her thighs, it indicates that she exclusively belongs to him (almost like a piece of property). She is expected to take care of it in the sense that she must take care not to delight any other men to prevent her husband from feeling ashamed of her.  Women wait till nightfall for their respective husbands to return home safely (men who have left for work outside of the hills for the family due to poverty). The poet indicates that culturally constrained Indian women go about their everyday lives in this manner.