Ode to women: Maya Angelou (I)

I’ve known some extraordinary women in my life. Known them through books, virtual or everyday life. Women who made me realize the beauty; the beauty of life and womanhood. I like to say that I have each part of these women, yet, they always inspire me to be authentic and original.

My mother, my favorite singer, my best friend, my teachers and favorite writers are my muses. Women who surround me and those who stir me. This is why when I read the verses of Maya Angelou, it feels like encountering a storm. A reality that shakes you up, a calamity that was bound to happen to revive you, to bring you back in existence. She comes to remind me of the value that love holds— love for yourself, trust and power that lies within a fragile body. The power that cannot be found at any other place and must not be given away.

She makes me believe that I don’t need anyone to appreciate me or to make me realize how capable or good I am. It is a lesson girl that you ought to learn by yourself. ‘You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody,’ she says.

When I feel crushed down by the standards of modern beauty; something that makes all of these pretty young women suffer. Suffer to the extreme point. But here she comes to whisper in the silent, dreary nights saying, ‘I’m not cute or built to fit a model size but I’m phenomenal.’ Waking us again from the dream of lies.

The magic lies in the eyes. She has the power, an absolute power, an inner potential that surpasses the world’s arrogance.

When I think about my first love; he with whom I never shared a word, yet he stays with me until the last breath of consciousness in the night. I feel bruised by my own feebleness, my own decisions, and my own emotions. I saw the enemy that doesn’t stand in front of me but stays inside of me. The greatest foe who can’t be beaten and can’t be a friend.

She appears again from the thick clouds of tangled thoughts. She came to console me; reminding the desires will change and dreams will fade away in the distant memory.

Men walk.
Knowing something.
Going someplace.
But this time, I will simply
Stand and watch.

She learned the lesson with a bitter experience. But she wrote it down to help us choose the right way. Saving us from the rough and tough path.

Not everything we desire is full of roses. Soft and delightful made just for us to walk. We can become blind to reality but only to the extent we want. But ‘life loves the liver of it.’ And you must think of living and learning from it.

Sweet Beats (Part I)

Those eyes, beautiful
and delightful,
caged me forever.
My heart flew
away with joy
and
left me bereft like ever.

I cried, whined, sobbed
and declared,
It was you!
King of my dreams and
cause of my misery.

It felt like a havoc in my dear heaven.

There was a strange
pleasure whatsoever.
And gratefulness
for my fancies.
Hate lacked in the end,
I say,
in my lament defense.
And I’m again thankful
to you, my love,
for endowing me
with such a great sense.

For once and forever.

Such intensity within
those eyes,
smiling and loving
glazing and shining
will be my treasure forever.

The world needs strong women

The most common way people gave their power is by thinking they don’t have any — Alice Walker

Hey my beautiful girls, where are you lost? I saw you thinking about other’s perception and letting yourself fade a little. Little by little until you forget yourself.

You mold yourself to please others. But this makes you die a little. You feel this pain of slow death — a pain so thorough and exhausting.

Your face has become a piece of canvas which you paint daily to hide your imperfections. Those imperfections that are beautiful and inspiring.

You want to be a so-called strong woman but let yourself defeated by the superficial society. You leave your dreams behind, justifying mortality while the world’s opinion holds importance as if it is concrete and mortal.

Open your eyes to the beauty around you, open your mind to the wonders of life, open your heart to those who love you, and always be true to yourself.

Your daughter will look up to you. She will try to find a role model in her dear mother. She needs someone to tell her, ‘ You are good the way you are. Be authentic and strong. Hold your passion near your heart and use it to make this world a better place.’

Open your eyes to the beauty around you, open your mind to the wonders of life, open your heart to those who love you, and always be true to yourself — Maya Angelou

I want you to tell her to read those great women who believed in themselves and lead the mass to follow them. Women that wanted to please themselves and not to satisfy the world.

I want you to make them fearless.

I want you to gather your empathy again. Get up and leave the cage of your own mind. Shred the barriers. Recognize your power and don’t be a prisoner of your own beliefs.

Charlotte Corday: Angel of Assassination

“She kills us, but she teaches us how to die.” — Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud

Jean-Paul Marat, one of the influential figures of the 18th century was a revolutionary leader and a radical voice during the period. He was a vocal and aggressive opponent of the counter-revolution, a defendant of people’s right and a nationalist who hated ‘the enemies of the fatherland’. He was an eloquent writer and started his own newspaper L’Ami du Peuple in which he unmasked the traitors whom he believed to be enemies of the republic. He was an extremist asking for people to be killed, suggesting

“five or six hundred heads cut off would have assured your repose, freedom, and happiness.”

His writings helped to enrage the mass which eventually ended up in September Massacres — some 1200 to 1400 prisoners were executed and no one went through justice for this carnage.

The Terror. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Some were supportive of this prominent representative of the reign of terror but there were critics too who believed that this instigator of the bloodshed must be halted at once.

Charlotte Corday, daughter of a minor aristocrat and a sympathizer of Girondins was one such opponent. She took to herself this necessary task of assassinating Marat which she undertook to safeguard her country from violence and bloody civil war.

Thus begins her plot of assassination. Initially, she planned to kill him at the Bastille Day in front of the National Convention but soon found out that his target won’t be able to attend those festivities due to his poor health. She reached his house and arranged to meet him on the context of revealing the list of Girondist traitors who were planning an uprising in Caen. She was admitted to his medicinal bathtub and furnished him the list. Then, she pulled a 6-inch kitchen knife and plunged it in his chest.

The Death of Marat, By Jacques-Louis David (1793)

Immediately arrested, Corday was brought to trial. The prosecutor asked him what she intended with this murder. She replied, ‘ Peace! Now that he is dead, peace will return to my country.’

“ Who has inspired you with so much
hatred against Marat.” they asked of her.
“I had no need of the hate of others,” she replied, “I had enough of my own; besides, persons execute badly that which they do not conceive themselves.”

Eventually, she was condemned by the revolutionary tribunal and ordered to be executed by guillotine only after four days from the murder. As her last wish she requested a portrait of her to be painted, “Since I still have a few moments to live, might I hope, citizens, that you will allow me to have myself painted.”

Portrait painted at her request by Jean-Jacques Hauer, a few hours before her execution.

She went to the scaffold wearing red chemise which symbolized a traitor- a person who assassinated a people’s representative.

She resembled the celestial vengeance, satisfied and transfigured. She
appeared, at some moments, to seek in the thousands of visages, a look of intelligence on which her eve might repose.
Charlotte Corday, Her Biography (translated from Lamartine)

Wartime violence against women

“You save yourself or you remain unsaved.” — Alice Sebold

Terror of Nazis was concluding and new dark clouds were engulfing Europe. Allied forces were coming to save but they will distress the vulnerable women and violate them to appease their hunger.

After the war’s end, a pair of smiling, well-dressed Soviet soldiers accost a German woman on a street

From January until June of 1945, there was a mass rape of German women by Soviet Red Army. There aren’t any precise figures available but the estimation states about 2 million victims. According to hospital reports, abortions rates were surging. Even though aborting a child was strictly illegal in Germany, many doctors thought it to be their duty to help these women.

Sexual violence was a revenge tactic — for a crime that Germans committed by invading their motherland. Make their women suffer, establish power by controlling their body and leaving them traumatized with unwanted pregnancies.
“They all lifted their skirts for us and lay on the bed. Two million of our children were born”, boasted one senior leader of a tank company.

Violations were indiscriminating. They were raping every woman from eight to eighty. A young Jewish lieutenant, Vladimir Gelfand recorded in his diary the following observations:

With horror on their faces, they told me what had happened on the first night of the Red Army’s arrival.

‘They poked here,’ explained the beautiful German girl, lifting up her skirt, ‘all night. They were old, some were covered in pimples and they all climbed on me and poked — no less than 20 men,’ she burst into tears.

‘They raped my daughter in front of me and they can still come back and rape her again’, said the poor mother.

“‘Stay here,’ the girl suddenly threw herself at me, ‘sleep with me! You can do whatever you want with me, but only you!’”

Author of German Diary 1945–1946 (Deutschland-Tagebuch 1945–1946) — Notations of a Soldier in the Red Army

Ingeborg Bullert was twenty at the time and dreamed of becoming an actress. She came out after decades to share her distressing experience.

Ingeborg Bullert, one of the victims of Soviet Army sexual violence

Suddenly there were two Russians pointing their pistols at me. One of them forced me to expose myself and raped me, and then they changed places and the other one raped me as well. I thought I would die, that they would kill me.

“My mother liked to boast that her daughter hadn’t been touched,” she says.

There was another anonymous diarist who shared her bed with a senior officer from Leningrad to save herself from the ‘male beasts’.

“By no means could it be said that the major is raping me. Am I doing it for bacon, butter, sugar, candles, canned meat? To some extent I’m sure I am. In addition I like the major and the less he wants from me as a man, the more I like him as a person.

It was not only German to suffer, but women in other parts of Europe also received the same treatment — Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. “The boys should be allowed to have some fun. It’s been a hard war’, justified the ruler of the Soviet Union Iosif Stalin.

One victim of these gang rapes described it as being dead. The whole body is gripped by cramp and you feel repulsion. I can’t tell how many men were there- ten, fifteen. But this went on and on.

Inge Zaun lived in Klein-Machnow was raped “over and over again, sixty times” when she was just eighteen-years-old.

‘How can you defend yourself?’

‘When they pound at the door and fire their guns
senselessly. Each night new ones, each night others. The first time
when they took me and forced my father to watch, I thought I would
die … . Since their captain has taken me as his mistress, it is fortunately
only one. He listens to me too and helps make sure they leave the girls
[her sisters] alone.’

Andreas-Friedrich notes that after 6 May, when the Soviets entered her
neighborhood, German men were lamenting the rape of their daughters
and wives:

Suicide is in the air…
‘Honor lost, all lost’, a bewildered father says and hands a rope to his
daughter who has been raped twelve times. Obediently she goes and
hangs herself from the nearest window sash.

‘If you get raped nothing is left to you but death,’ a teacher declares
to a class of girls two days before the final collapse. More than half the
students came to the anticipated conclusion, as expected of them, and
drowned themselves and their lost honor in the nearest body of water.
Honor lost, all lost. Poison or bullet, rope or knife. They are killing
themselves by the hundreds.

Women took their own lives in advance of the Red Army invasion. (Voller Ernst/Getty)

Rupy Kaur: The Poet’s Voice

The writer who flourished from the Sikh diaspora and become one of the best known contemporary poets.

‘Milk and honey’, the New York Times best-seller is a first book written and published by Rupy Kaur who is now one of the most popular poets in the world. This writer emerged from the internet world. She is, as per Rolling Stone, the ‘Queen Of The Instapoets’.

It started in 2015 with an Instagram post in which she decided to open up and share a part (struggle) of being a woman. This was unconventional and was censored by Instagram. But Kaur didn’t stop and came to defend herself with the following response.

As a result, Instagram allowed the post to reappear on its platform but this rift brought a lot of attention to Rupy. She has been addressing a theme that, despite being a natural side of femininity, is considered a taboo.

Kaur’s writing often touches the intense themes: love, sex, heartbreak, abuse, trauma, race and gender dynamics.

Her life, as a child of the immigrants, along with her Sikh background influences her writing immensely. Her choice to use the lowercase and periods only is an ode to her mother tongue (Punjabi) and an effort to preserve the equality and symmetry it creates.

She talks about the pain and struggles that Sikhs endured during the 1984 genocide, that pushed his father to flee to Canada as a refugee. The trauma and the assault about which Rupi Kaur writes traces back those women who have been violated and left behind bereft in that period.

Her poetry reflects the lives of those South Asian girls who are expected to be conservative and quiet. Girls who are supposed to be pure and purports the dignity of their families.

Rupi challenges this idea of the tranquil woman and writes about her longings. The love she craves and the mistakes she made. The ache that the lost love induces and the wounds that a strong soul heals.

Poets like her challenge the silences and express their beliefs, thoughts in a way that makes the other forms rather unconvincing.

There are criticisms of course, but I wanted to write this just to appreciate one voice that excites the society to delve deep into the issues that we often ignore.
And pay my regards to another woman who inspires to search our soul with the art of poetry and encourage other people to create their own authentic masterpieces.

Delicious food stuffed with terror

Every day we feared it was going to be our last meal.

Margot Wolk was a member of Hitler’s ‘Prison Brigade’, one of the 15 women to test Fuhrer’s food and ensure it is free of any harmful toxins. She was the only one to survive and share her story with the rest of the world.

Margot was a Berlin girl, daughter of a man who was condemned for refusing to join the Nazi Army. She moved to Gross -Partsch, now in northern Poland, after her parent’s apartment was bombed-out by the allied forces. Her husband went to war. Having no other option at avail, she decided to reside at her in-law’s place but little she would have thought what future awaits for her.

She has just arrived at her new house when she got drafted by SS and was assigned as a food taster for the dictator. She was paid around 300 Reichmarks for swallowing this terror-filled food.

So, each morning, she drove off in a bus with other food tasters to eat his lunch. She described, “We boarded a bus with these S.S. thugs on board and drove to house 11 km away and there were 14 other young women around my age there, all from the locality, all Germans.” The women were forced to eat the food and wait for the poison to take its course before it gets served to Hitler.

Being hunger-stricken by the brutal war, the food they ate was satisfying.

“Well, the food was simply wonderful”.

Despite being sacrificing her life, she never got to see the dictator. She only saw her dog Blondi which was later killed by the same cyanide which the Hitler and his bride took for the suicide.

On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg’s bomb exploded but the plot got failed and the women were forced to board in an empty school building nearby. The security tightened further.

‘We were guarded like cage animals’.

After some time, the Red Army was advancing in the area.

By the autumn, rumors were swirling that things were not going well on the eastern front. The Red Army was on its way. And there were stories of atrocities….

Margot knew it won’t end up good for anyone who worked for Hitler. A lieutenant, Oberleutnant Gerhard La Grange, arranged for her escape to Berlin. Other women are believed to be shot dead by the Soviet army.

But the hardships didn’t last there. In the last months of the war, she got caught by Red Army. They made her suffer for Hitler’s crime by captivating and raping her repeatedly for two weeks.

I tried to say I had TB, that I was infected. It did no good. They held me for 14 days and nights and raped me.

At that time, many women and girls suffered intensely from the sexual violence by Red Army soldiers. A report state that ‘ many Germans declare that all German women in East Prussia who stayed behind were raped by Red Army Soldiers’. Violated by the forces, Margot was never able to have any kids.

She was finally reunited with her husband Karl, she said: “On March 27, 1946, I opened the door to a man in uniform with a bandage on his head I didn’t recognize”.The couple lived together until Karl’s death in 1980.

She didn’t share her experience for decades but the memories kept coming to her in dreams. Finally, on her 95th birthday, a local Berlin journalist paid her a visit and she started speaking about her experiences.

I just wanted to say what happened there, she said.