Women's Day may be marked by the sun, but women's lives find resonance in the moon

Women’s Day rolls around every year on the sun’s plodding, I-am-making-a-masterpiece-schedule and leaves us wondering about our lives. But the moon is closer home, reflecting the repetitive, beautiful, boring, terrible churn of our daily lives, the repetitive ways of civilisations rediscovering new ways to liberate and imprison women.

Nisha Susan March 08, 2020 09:55:20 IST
Women's Day may be marked by the sun, but women's lives find resonance in the moon
  • Women’s Day rolls around every year on the sun’s plodding, I-am-making-a-masterpiece-schedule and leaves us wondering about our lives.

  • But the moon is closer home, reflecting the repetitive, beautiful, boring, terrible churn of our daily lives, the repetitive ways of civilisations rediscovering new ways to liberate and imprison women.

  • So we sing hopefully, ‘ik bagal mein chand hoga, ik bagal mein rotiyan,’ knowing that neither may arrive.

If the world is coming to an end, does Women’s Day matter? If the dystopian hell-scape we live in includes a jaw-dropping weaponisation of the most banal Women’s Day kitsch by the leader of our nation, ships full of illness being turned away from port to port, young people’s bodies being fished out of drains in Delhi, does Women’s Day matter?

While the world well (and ought to) come to an end in 2020, I am hard pressed to think of any year that comes out looking favourably through the prism of Women’s Day. At best you make a robust fight through the clutter of marketing SMSes, pink and lavender paraphernalia and try not to sneer at this pale descendent of its militant working class origins. At worst you have to fight not to be ground down by the statistics, deaths and essential injustice. All this to arrive briefly at some flickering pulse of our womanness — our political womanness, our ethical womannness, our poetic womanness, aesthetic womanness, not our genitalia — and feel vaguely happy.

For the waking hours of 8 March, we imitate, grudgingly or ungrudgingly, the fine, upstanding women who fight through the year. They fight through relentless sexism, violence, stupidity and the incredible dullness of patriarchy to make better lives for themselves and for others. To quote Lady Bracknell, ‘chins are worn very high this season’.  Even if you were sighing in self-pity it would be hard to not have your chin forced up this year because of the sea of women leading the anti-CAA, anti-NRC protests. If every year you have searched about for one or two talismanic women to suit your own fell purposes, this time round, you are spoiled for choice.

I don’t know why I am being so presumptuous. Perhaps you, who are reading this mopey essay, are the talismanic woman and everyone in the room knows it. In which case, hello, hello and behen, aage badho.

Womens Day may be marked by the sun but womens lives find resonance in the moon

The moon has taught women to hope and to say this too shall pass — round face to sliver to darkness and back again. Image via Twitter/@mix_travel

So to you phenomenal woman, I ask, what do you think of the moon? Do you feel like it talks to you? You are not alone. Throughout history women have had relationships with it. The lunar calendars were handier to track our periods, no need to see if September has 30 days on your knuckles before closing your handbag. But I hate these pragmatic reverse-engineered explanations of inexplicable feelings, don’t you? You and the moon don’t need the friends-with-benefits tag.

All manner of poets have been, unsurprisingly, obsessed with the moon. They have sometimes called her (as Marge Piercy said, the Moon is always female) affectionate names, but there is an underlying knowledge of the moon that always comes through.

As Sylvia Plath, the original emo girl, said in her sharp way, “The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.” Or as Carol Ann Duffy said more recently in her sterling The Woman in the Moon: “[Round I go, the moon] a diet of light, sliver of pear, wedge of lemon, slice of melon, half an orange, silver onion; your human sound falling through space, childbirth’s song, the lover’s song, the song of death.”

Women’s Day rolls around every year on the sun’s plodding, I-am-making-a-masterpiece-schedule and leaves us wondering about our lives. But the moon is closer home, reflecting the repetitive, beautiful, boring, terrible churn of our daily lives, the repetitive ways of civilisations rediscovering new ways to liberate and imprison women. So we sing hopefully, ‘ik bagal mein chand hoga, ik bagal mein rotiyan,’ knowing that neither may arrive.

And on this solar schedule, my lunar sister, forgive my presumption. ICYMI, I have some news. The earth has recently acquired a new moon, a whole new moon. It’s the size of a small car, has its own orbit and is not visible to the naked eye. But it’s a whole new moon! Scientists say it might not be around forever. A previous mini-moon arrived in 2006 and left the next year. This one may leave next week or in April.

But our old moon, our familiar bestie, has trained us well. She has taught women to hope and to say this too shall pass — round face to sliver to darkness and back again. As another moon-loving poet Elizabeth Bishop wrote, ‘the art of losing isn’t hard to master’. And in the meanwhile we can set our eyes skyward in search of transient truth and beauty.

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