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Giving Indian women a voice through poetry
By Basanta Kumar Kar, Operations Director, Care India

Basanta Kumar KarMany of you may know me as, Basanta Kumar Kar, Operations Director of Care India. I support the nutrition and health program targeting 16 million women and children. You may know that I am from the state of Orissa in India. Or, you may have met me March 17-28 when I was visiting the CARE Headquarters in Atlanta for Work Week. You may not know, however, that in addition to my work with CARE, I am also a poet and writer dedicated to giving a voice to those who are traditionally voice-less: poor and marginalized women and girls in India.

I use poetry to communicate real life women’s stories. Creating the poems is a journey that begins with meeting the women to listen to their personal stories first-hand. I have talked to women from Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh. I spend up to three to four hours sitting with a woman or girl just listening. I am careful when I listen as I know that nonverbal, as well as verbal, communication is important to earn a person’s trust.

I’d love to share with you the story of a 35-year-old malnourished mother from the Gond tribe in India. This woman has birthed eight children, but only four are alive today. In many parts of India, infant mortality is so high that babies are not named until they reach their second birthday. Here is her story:

Margin

I control birth
behold life in me
a baby born again
death is others’ control
in the tempest new buds bloom.

Protein, you prescribe
energy I struggle
this malnutrition a puzzle.

I loose four and gain four
I am the gainer.

Seasons change
Seasonality affects
I cope;
live each day as it comes
resigning to other’s control
for life and death.


To find out more about Basanta’s work, including his two collections of poems, “The Naïve Bird’ and “The Silent Monsoon,” published by Books India International, New Delhi, email him at bkar@careindia.org.

You can also read his poems featured on:

  • BBC” (www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/learning/getwritingni/sp_bk_canvas.shtml),
  • End Violence Against Women” (http://www.endvaw.org/enewsletter/2007-11.php#8),
  • and “Word Salad Magazine” (www.wsmagazine.net/poetry/missing.html).

Do you know someone who should be featured in Our People? Contact icareeditor@care.org

Photo: Mila Rossi/CARE USA