Rahat Indori, famed Urdu shayar and lyricist passed away today following a heart attack. He was seventy years old. He has left behind a legacy, one that will inspire people for generations to come. Like all evocative and revolutionary art, his words speak in many voices to multiple experiences and identities.
Here is one such interpretation- five beautiful couplets penned by him, seen through a feminist lens, which can serve you in difficult times, as pick-me-ups, as inspiration or as guidance, on your journey towards wholeness and freedom.
This sher is psychotherapy 101, but infinitely more beautiful. The way we relate to the world, and how we show up in relationships, romantic, personal, professional, is deeply impacted by our childhood, and by the ‘drama’ that played out for us when we were young. Unknowingly, we repeat the same patterns, and re-create situations from our childhood. If we saw, for example, that our mother did not have agency or voice, we might find ourselves in a situation where we don’t have it either, or in a situation in which we forcefully take that agency away from someone else. We are attracted to people who feel familiar ( the word familiar comes from family) and what is familiar is not always good for us.
Recognising the ‘naatak’ and knowing that it is our choice to finally step off that stage or rewrite the story, holds the key to recovering agency and voice.
Prominent societal narratives program us to long for the ‘one’ who will witness our sorrows and heal our wounds. These romantic notions fuel the fantasy of a lover or a guru who will save us, and in doing so, we forget this.
That only we understand the origin of the thorn in our foot, its unique pain, its geography, and only we can pull it out.
In longing for the other to do that, or in the hope that we become this ideal ‘other’ who relieves the beloved of their pain, we forget the ones we are here to love and heal – ourselves.
A refusal to see the thorn in our own foot often accompanies obsessive focus on others’ thorns, and the martyr complex. Bring your focus back to yourself, even while accepting support from others, so you can truly stand proud on your own feet ( or walk, or run.)
‘Aankh mein paani’ evokes emotional sensitivity, and ‘hoton pe chingari’ evokes the fierceness of speaking truth to power. As women, the former is seen as ‘natural’ and ‘feminine’, but the latter is frowned upon.
But emotional sensitivity without the ability and option to speak up is disempowering, and fiery speech ( as seen in call out culture) without compassion and understanding of another’s pain is toxic.
There are parts of ourselves that we have hidden away, maybe because pleasing others was a survival strategy, or perhaps because speaking up was unsafe. As we access these parts, we can show up more strongly, more compassionately, more powerfully, and discover the tools and ‘tarkeebein’ that help us deal with life, without losing ourselves.
These powerful words can enter you like a burning flame, and be a talisman for challenging times. After years of surrendering my power to others, I am finally learning that there is no shame in being a force of nature, even when it makes others uncomfortable.
People around you will always be discomforted when you own your power, and relationships that worked only because you ‘adjusted’ too much will fall away, or transform.
The ‘aandhi’ can only be our friend once we have discovered our inner strength, but until that happens, its purpose is to awaken us to that part of ourselves that can stand up to people and situations, and knows its own strength.
And finally, this. Our journey towards personal power is complete only when your freedom paves the way for others, when your struggles make it easier for those that come after you.
The freedoms we take for granted today were made possible by the flying-in-the-face-of-society attitude, rebellion, hard work, grit, sacrifices and anger of women who came before us. As we undo our own conditioning, we carve a path for others. As we touch our own trauma, our courage shines forth for others too. Everytime we demonstrate that we can make our choices, take responsibility for those choices, and show up for their consequences, good or bad, we signal bravery and the willingness to be there for ourselves in all situations. And everytime we celebrate our own selves, we give others permission to do the same.
So there you go, five couplets that will help you step into your power!