Eighteenth century Kashmiri romantic poet, Arnimal was a path-breaker in her own right. Born in a conservative Kashmiri Hindu society, she lived in a loveless marriage, forsaken by her husband. For her, speaking of her marital woes was an act of grave defiance.

Arni rang gom shraavana heeye
Kar yeeye darshun deeye

I was a summer jasmine, with an ivory glow
Without lustre, wan and pale I wait
When will he come and show me his face?

Much like her stylistic predecessor Habba Khatoon, Arnimal’s poetry had an earthy quality, a relevance and place in her time, drawing from reality without the mystical allusions other Kashmiri poets are often known for. Her words, however, do take us back to Habba’s floral poems.

Me kari tas kits poshi maala ta
Chhavi na hiy chhas meni druy
Haavasa barimas maski pyaala ta
Yiyina loli manz karhas jayi ta
Darshana thande baal sambaala ta
Chhavi na hiy chhas meni druy

Garlands of flowers I weave for him
Won’t he revel in the jasmine for me?
Desire fills these goblets with wine
He has a place in this hear of mine
One glimpse of his face will give me my life
Won’t he revel in the jasmine for me?

Arnimal was married to a renowned poet who flourished during afghan rule. He, however, was not interested in her. He was known to abandon her and philander in the world of courtesans. Not wanting to be silent and cast off, she sang of her woes and exposed her husband’s infidelity. She was a woman spurned, and her poetry told tales of her dejection.

Kar lagan chaen kadam saani aangnay
Sheri hemayo valo
Bo draayas darda chaane parda tsatith
Beyi yitamo lo
Bo hee maal aesus motseyas
Poshi tulo ho valo

My garden waits for your footstep
Place your foot upon my head
Let me wear your footprint like a crown
In the ache of longing I tore my veil
Will you never return to me?
I was once a wreath of jasmine
I’ve withered now to a blade of grass
Let me wear your footprint like a crown

//

Aayas bo neerith shoka chaane
Chaerith vucchimay bumay.
Me konthsamay tse loguyo Rumareshun aay
Daay kami dyutnay chhay no pheran may.

Driven by love I came rushing out
Only to see your eyebrows, arched
Ruma Rishi’s age be yours
May you live long my faithless one,
But tell me, who gives you counsel?
Not once do you look my way.

For Arnimal to speak of violence and abuse while embedded in a culture of silence was an admirable and courageous feat. Her words of broken heartedness ring loud, reminding us of the suffering women often endure behind closed doors.

 

Vanta vesi kus kas ptse
Kus vunyub karith gom
Hatsi lomnam nendri matse
Mathsiband saenith gom
Swan nyumam ratsi ratse
Kus vunyb karith gom.

Tell me friend, who’s to be trusted?
Is there a bigger fool than I?
He grabbed my wrist while I was asleep
The armband dug into my flesh
He tore off my gold
He stripped off each jewel
Tell me friend, who’s to be trusted?
Is there a bigger fool than I?

 

Translation by Neerja Mattoo

All translations have been taken from a new book, ‘The Mystic and the Lyric: Four Women Poets from Kashmir’, Introduced and Translated by Neerja Mattoo, Zubaan.

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