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21 Jan

“Listen to Me” by Kishwar Naheed

 “Listen to Me” by Kishwar Naheed

1. The poem articulates Kishwar Naheed’s intense desire for freedom, desire to be heard and an  even more intense fear of punishment.

2. In the poem “Listen to me”, the poet Kishwar Naheed uses very ordinary activities of life as symbols.  In the hands of Naheed, commonplace activities like speaking, breathing, walking, laughing, thinking, crying and forgetting become powerful symbols.  In a country like Pakistan where her fundamental right to expression is severely curbed, the woman writer in Kishwar Naheed chokes. She desperately tries to articulate her intense desire for freedom and self-expression through these powerful symbols. For instance, if one wants to speak, the punishment is death. In another vivid expression, she says that if one wants to walk, one must cut off the legs and carry them in the arms. In yet another poignant symbol, she suggests that if one wants to cry, one must sink into the river.

3. The poem “Listen to Me” by Kishwar Naheed can be seen as a powerful feminist poem. In a country like Pakistan where her fundamental right to expression is severely curbed, the woman writer in Kishwar Naheed chokes. She feels that she must speak out in the open if the fate of the womenfolk in Pakistan is to improve. Currently, the situation in the country is horrible. No woman writer in Pakistan can feel safe about expressing herself.  In the poem she says that if a woman wants to speak, the punishment is death. In yet another poignant symbol, she suggests that if a woman wants to cry, she must sink into the river. Even in her thought processes, her freedom is severely curbed. If she must think, she should shut all the doors and throw away the key.

4. The poem “Listen to Me” by Kishwar Naheed achieves its strong rhetorical effect through the use of ‘if’. In fact, the entire poem can be seen as a series of ‘ifs’.  The poem presents eight ‘ifs’, each of which is a powerful symbol.  She desperately tries to articulate her intense desire for freedom and self-expression through these powerful symbols. For instance, if one wants to speak, the punishment is death. In another vivid expression, she says that if one wants to walk, one must cut off the legs and carry them in the arms. In yet another poignant symbol, she suggests that if one wants to cry, one must sink into the river. Even in her thought processes, her freedom is severely curbed. If she must think, she should shut all the doors and throw away the key. If one wants to laugh, one must hang upside down in a well.

5. Yes, there is a distinct element of irony towards the fag end of the poem. The entire poem can be seen as a series of ‘ifs’. For instance, if one wants to speak, the punishment is death. In another vivid expression, she says that if one wants to walk, one must cut off the legs and carry them in the arms. In yet another poignant symbol, she suggests that if one wants to cry, one must sink into the river. If one wants to laugh, one must hang upside down in a well. The increase in the intensity of agony is spelt out in the pattern of images that become increasingly stark and poignant. However, the last statement in the poem says, “ If you want to forget everything, then pause and think: of the word you first learnt”. The poet catches us off guard here. The poem achieves its ironic effect by deceiving the unwary reader. 

 

Copyright © Manu Mangattu, Assistant Professor, Department of English, SGC Aruvithura

Provide your Feedback/Suggestion/Requests for notes to manumangattu@gmail.com

 

 

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