Amarendra Yadav, a well-known Maithili literary figure, has been active in Maithili literary activities for almost two and a half decades. He recently wrote ‘Stri aa Aaig’ (The Woman and the Fire), a collection of poems which won the 2020 Nepal Bidyapati Maithili Pandulipi (Manuscript) Prize. The collection of forty-two poems is steeped in themes of inspection – a search for truth and a search for beauty in the apron-like plains of Tarai.
The title of the collection refers to its central theme – the meaning of being a woman associated with its exploitation and its resistance. Not everyone can see the form of violence against women rooted in centuries-old cultural traditions. Madhushravani, a 15-day ritual observed by young brides is an example. During the ritual, the women fast all day, and on the last day of the ritual, the women’s knees are burned in a practice called “Temi”. The Maithili women and the fire come face to face from time to time – when the fire in the stove heats up, when the speeches get hot, when the men forcibly put out the “fire” from their bodies. The poet Amarendra modernizes the medieval cruelty of the same fire tradition and also attempts to formulate its historicity.
Many also compare ‘Temi’ with ‘Agni Pariksha’ of the Hindu goddess Sita. Since Sita did not object to the ritual, the poet says her love and loyalty to Rama should be questioned. It implies that Sita’s surrender to Rama is the root cause of the exploitation of women.
The particularity of this collection is its love for the language, its fidelity to the mother tongue of the author, Maithili. Yadav’s poetry is the voice of the times we live in. Such an aggressive poetic expression of devotion to his language is impossible to measure.
In the book, one can also see the poet’s perspective on change and the manifestations of attraction. As such, there are poems about love and sexual attraction. His love poems are full of village images in which the symbolic scent of the village has been carefully incorporated. The collection has a wide range of poems that will appeal to different tastes.
Another important social issue that the book addresses is class. In Mithila, what is considered caste uniqueness is, in fact, also class society. The poet Amarendra succeeded in reflecting the class society of Mithila through his poetic language.
This collection of poems explores themes of love, happiness, mania, excitement, despair, frustration, tragedy, anger, destruction and all the colors of life . The main tone of this collection is social realism. However, some poems are also indirectly inspired by socialist realism. In particular, the two poems “Bijayk Danka” and “Avatar” describe the struggle of the working class and aptly show the proletarian charm.
The main voices in this collection that permeate the poems seem to be women, exhausted and suffering humanity, the tragedy of a troubled civilization, Maithili’s worries, frustrations at women’s oppression and outrage, the Madhesi identity movement and past fascination with rural consciousness fleeing to the city.
The collection also contains six love poems and some very personal experiential poems. The complexities and pains of ethnic ties lie at the center of love poems.
The poet seems to have shown sensitivity towards Maithili in terms of the political, cultural and linguistic aspects of Madhes. Through his poems, he raised awareness of the struggle against government repression in the Madhes movement. He also identified Khas as a selfish high-caste ruler who ruthlessly discriminated against the people of Tarai-Madhes.
Poems about poetic sensibility, Maithili mother tongue and women are much more pointed. The poet has also expressed his concern and anger towards writers and politicians attracted to Maithili’s Hindi in ‘Hindi Rani’, ‘Maithili Mai’ and other poems.
In the poem “Hey Mahakabi”, anger and resentment are expressed against the way some people want to imprison Maithili and Vidyapati in Brahmanical narrowness and dominance in language conflict.
In five women-themed poems, various forms of exploitation of women were expressed with strong resentment, anger and hatred towards tradition. But all of the poems in this collection are also composed through a contemporary lens. The poems addressed to human beings today – the representatives of troubled humanity and troubled civilization trapped in the marketplace, religions and regime – are deeply introspective. With the exception of a few sentimental prose and general poems, almost all the poems are influential and dynamic. Ordinary love poems are elevated to another level due to their pictorial presentation.
Through this collection of poems, the poet traces his journey from adolescence to adulthood. Some of the poems also deal with global issues – the Kashmiri uprising against the ruling Indian dispensation, the struggles of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the murder of 12 Nepalese in Iraq in 2004. These poems show the poet’s sensitivity to global issues. In terms of craftsmanship, the presentation of traditional images and symbols from a new angle shows the ability and uniqueness of the poet. Although there is an ideological limit to the poet, there is still plenty of bounty in the collection of poems that advocate radical change.
This collection tries to cover the whole definition of poetry. As such, the poet was able to present his personal and general experiences candidly. In his love poems, reality and escape are discussed. Although written by the poet early in his writing career, the poems are artistic and deeply personal.
It talks about societal struggle and duality in society – love on one side and anger on the other. Understanding responsibility to society, he points out that structurally discriminatory politics is not only economic but also social and cultural. Through his poems, he defends the rights of women, the rights of the Madhesi and Maithili languages. However, even though old and traditional thought processes are heavily attacked, not all of the poems seem progressive. In the poem “Gaam”, the poet praises the status quo of a traditional and underdeveloped village. Similarly, in the poem “He Mahakavi”, Yadav salutes the poetic contribution of the poet Maithili Vidyapati, who is considered by many to be a regressive literary figure.
With the exception of a few proses, the majority of it in the book is influential and dynamic. Most poems do justice to the subjects they address.