By Mudita Girotra
New Delhi, May 18 (IANS) For about two years, when author Kota Neelima was researching on farmers’ widows in Maharashtra, she also made art works inspired by the philosophy that they learned from their practical experiences with nature.
“The fundamental question that I would eventually ask a lady is how she survived — not just about the physical survival but also the emotional survival. They spoke in terms of nature — trees, soil and the moon,” Neelima told IANS in an interview.
“Once, one of them delineated a very interesting interpretation about the moon, which is gone after a night but is not actually gone. That’s how they see loss…it’s there but I can’t see it,” she said, adding: “Look at the wonderful reconciliation.”
Neelima said this beautiful spirituality coming from these women inspired the collection of her beautiful paintings that found space at the just-concluded “Metaphors of the Moon” exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi here.
“It is the natural, very very humble, beautiful spirituality of the ordinary people in extremely difficult situations. They will hold a bit of the soil in their hands and say I can feel the love of my husband in it because he has gone back to the soil.
“The imagery in paintings is about nature,” she said.
In her works at the show, the mind was the metaphor for the moon.
It represented the cyclic process of thought, its creation, immersion and regeneration, and also is a metaphor for absence and presence. The lessons of the Moon are about the fragility of reconciliation and the assurance of restoration.
Also, tree roots found significant space. Why?
“They look at the branches of the trees and say the roots are not visible. The branches are flourishing because sacrifice is being made by the invisible roots. I can’t give examples like that.”
“Hope isn’t just a word. They generate it every day…they live it in a very organic, a visceral manner.”
Neelima, in her books, focuses on agricultural distress and the state of rural India.
In her earlier books, she said, she missed the women’s perspective. “It is those women who tell the story of the farmers. She knows exactly why he killed himself but she is the last one who is asked.”
“People think she doesn’t know the issues of bank loans and taxes being a woman. but she does. She is in the shadow of the farmer,” she said.
“Nobody writes about those women. Nobody talks about them,” she added.
Neelima specifically wanted to focus on women and in 2014, began researching in two districts of Vidarbha, which has had a maximum number of suicides by farmers.
Her book, “Widows of Vidarbha: Making of Shadows”, is the story of 18 widows of the area who have been invisible to the state, the community and even their families.
Tracked over two years of research from 2014 to 2016, the widows speak about their lost dreams of education and identity, their diminished view of the world, and their helpless surrender to conveniences of patriarchy.
“One farmer dies every 30 minutes…every 30 minutes, the life of one woman is irretrievably thrown into chaos — in rural societies they are not allowed education. They are married off very early. Once they are married, they play the pre-decided roles.
“They are home-bound. The boundaries are very clearly edged — confining the woman to finding her own capabilities or her own identity,” Neelima explained.
“When the husband dies, the wife, who has not been visible before, becomes even more invisible,” she added.
(Mudita Girotra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )