Introduction

The poem explains how a woman starts her day with daily household chores. Her work has no limitations but perfection is always expected of her. She makes sure to select the best vegetables from the market. Her purchasing should be within budget. ‘Another Woman’ is a poem about social evil and it narrates a personal saga of a victim lady. In a simple and sympathetic language, the poem details the inhuman treatment of society on women. Specifically, it deals with the evil of dowry.

About the poet

Imtiaz Dharker (1954) is a poet-artist and documentary filmmaker. She is awarded many prizes at the national and international levels. She is a renowned poet as well as a filmmaker. She scripts and directs films, many of them for non-government organizations in India, working in the area of shelter, education, and health for women and children. Her poetry brings together several themes and issues of contemporary themes like exile, home freedom, displacement, communal tension, and the polities of gender. Here poet deals with various problems of women. But her focus is on the injustice, oppression, and violence they are subjected to.

Theme

Another Woman by Imtiaz Dharker gives expression to many such gender issues. According to her many Indian brides either burn themselves or are burned in the name of dowry. Statistics show that 80% of the bank loans availed by the poor in India are to meet the wedding costs and dowry demands. Another issue is malnutrition. For the woman in the poem, even a white radish is an extravagance. She can only dream of its crunch between her teeth and its sweet-sharp taste. Then we see the issue of the rights of women. The woman in the poem does not even have the right to speak to her husband. She has no space of her own and she has to spend her time sitting in the kitchen amidst the heat and fumes. It is a shame that even in the 21st century, a woman is just a commodity to be bought and sold in the marriage market and ill-treated at home.

Stanza 1

This morning she bought green 'methi'
in the market, choosing the freshest bunch;
picked up a white radish,
imagined the crunch it would make
between her teeth, the sweet sharp taste,
then put it aside, thinking it
an extravagance, counted her coins
out carefully, tied them, a small bundle
into her sari at the waist;
came home, faced her mother-in-law's
dark looks, took
the leaves and chopped them,
her hands stained yellow from the juice;
cut an onion, fine and cooked
the whole thing in the pot
over the stove,
shielding her face from the heat.

These lines capture the stark picture of a woman belonging to a traditional lower-middle-class Indian family. She went to market this morning and brought green Methi. She picked up white radish which she wanted to buy. She imagined the sweet-sharp taste of the crunch it would make between her teeth but put it aside thinking it an extravagance to spend money on that radish. She counted the left coins after paying for methi and tied them into a small bundle at the edge of her sari. When she came back, her mother-in-law looked at her angrily. The women showed no reaction at all and sat down silently to chop the methi leaves. Her hands got strained with yellow juice from the methi. While cooking over the stove, she had to keep facing the dark looks of her mother-in-law. She tried to shield her face from the heat of the stove.

Stanza 2

The usual words came and beat
their wings against her: the money spent,
curses heaped upon her parents,
who had sent her out
to darken other people's doors.
She crouched, as usual, on the floor
beside the stove,
When the man came home
she did not look into his face
nor raise her head; but bent
her back a little more.
Nothing gave her the right
to speak.

The taunts and jabs of the mother-in-law have become an everyday affair of her life. The mother in Law accuses her of spending too much money wastefully. Mother-in-law keeps cursing her parents also. She says that they have sent their daughter to darken the lives of others. It is no wonder then that the birth of a girl child is dreaded in an Indian family. The women suffer not only at the hands of her mother-in-law but the hands of her husband. While the mother-in-law keeps abusing her every day. The husband remains indifferent to her sad state. She keeps sitting on her heels with her knees bend on closed to her body near the stove when her husband enters the house from his work. She doesn’t even look at his face or raise her head because she has no hope for him. She bends her back even more and keeps crouching as usual. She has not been given the right to speak even.

Stanza 3

She watched the flame hiss up
and beat against the cheap old pot,
a wing of brightness
against its blackened cheek.
This was the house she had been sent to,
the man she had been bound to,
the future she had been born into.

Using highly metaphorical language, the poet gives an image of women’s terrible tortured state. At the physical level, she is watching the flames of the stove and beating against the cheap old pot. The flame of the stove is beating her black cheeks. Metaphorically poet presents that her blackened chick is the women youth and beauty that has been eaten by her husband who is an offshoot of that very flame. The green methi seems to sing her simmering sighs. This is the house she had been sent to. This was the man she had been bound to. This was the future she had been born into. In this way poet projects the reality of Indian women.

Stanza 4

So when the kerosene was thrown
(just a moment of surprise,
A brilliant spark)
It was the only choice
that she had ever known.
Another torch, blazing in the dark.
Another woman.
We shield our faces from the heat.

Here the poet continues with her metaphor of the flame rising from the kerosene stove. At once there is a brilliant spark of fire. So also happens with a woman whose heart is already burning with the nagging of her in-laws. She has been burned by her in-laws. She realizes that her faith could never have been any different. It was the only choice that she had ever known. She was just another woman. It was in her fate to keep burning and remain surrounded by darkness. The poet says ’we shield our face from the heat’. In other words, society remains unconcerned about the terrible fate of the uncomfortable woman.