Kiran-Katha: Tongue Memories
by Nandini Dhar
(This is a Kiranmala Poems, after the classic Bengali fairytale Arun-Barun-Kiranmala compiled by Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder in his Thakumar Jhuli (Tales from Granny’s Bag). Kiranmala or Kiran is one of the protagonists of the tale, who, in order to take care of herself and her brothers, Arun and Barun, dresses up as a man and defeats the demons successfully.)
I heard many more stories than those contained in the following pages; but I rejected a great many, as they appeared to me to contain spurious additions to the original stories which I had heard when a boy. I have reason to believe that the stories given in this book are a genuine sample of the old old stories told by old Bengali women from age to age through a hundred generations.
— Lal Behari Dey, Preface to Folktales of Bengal
Author’s Note: The language referenced in this poem is Sanskrit. It was forbidden for men of lower castes and women of all castes to learn Sanskrit in ancient India. In the original fairy-tale, Kiran and her brothers — the daughter and sons of a king — were thrown into the water soon after their birth by their “evil” aunts. They were eventually rescued by a childless Brahmin, who brought them up as his own. It is to this adoptive Brahmin father the poem refers. Brahmin men, according to the traditional norms of Hindu patriarchy, were the custodians of most (if not all) forms of knowledge produced in Sanskrit.
Nandini Dhar‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Muse India, Kritya, Mascara Literary Review, Off the Coast, Pratilipi, tinfoildresses, First Literary Review, Hawaii Review, Prick of the Spindle, Penwood Review and Asia Writes. A Pushcart nominee, Nandini grew up in Kolkata, India, and received an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Calcutta and another M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon. Currently, she is a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Literature at University of Texas at Austin.