Kavita Nandini Ramdas

Editors’ Note: The Wikipedia entry on Kamla Bhasin, who passed away on September 25, begins thus: Kamla Bhasin (24 April 1946 – 25 September 2021) was an Indian developmental feminist activist, poet, author and social scientist. Bhasin’s work, that began in 1970, focused on gender, education, human development and the media. She lived in New Delhi, India.She was best known for her work with Sangat – A Feminist Network and for her poem Kyunki main ladki hoon, mujhe padhna hai. In 1995, she recited a refurbished, feminist version of the popular poem Azadi (Freedom) in a conference. She was also the South Asia coordinator of One Billion Rising.

She resigned from her job at the U.N. in 2002, to work with Sangat, of which she was a founder member and adviser. She believed in a form of advocacy that combines feminist theory and community action. She worked with underprivileged women from tribal and working communities, often using posters, plays and other non literary methods to get through to communities with low literacy rates. She had always maintained that in order to usher effective change, sloganeering must be accompanied by community mobilization.

She sang us songs. Songs of yearning for a world free of hate.

She sang us songs. Songs of a country choosing its own fate.

She sang us songs. Songs for women silenced too long.

Songs for the weak, who were always the strong.

Songs for resistance, for courage, for unity.

Songs for justice, peace, and solidarity.

She sang us songs.

Of crossing borders and building ties.

Of strengthening bridges and refusing the lies.

The lies that said, “oh, those people eat xxx so they are bad” or

“Those people worship yyyy and they are bad” or

“Those women love women so they are bad” or

“Those men wear saris, so they are bad.”

Instead her songs made us see the beating hearts in you and me

They raised us up. They gave us hope.

They made us laugh.  To us they spoke.

Of a vision of another world. The world just around the river bend.

Across the Indus. Beyond the Himalayas. A stone’s throw from Calcutta.

A boat ride on the backwaters.

A kabab house in Lahore.

The sunrise on a distant shore.

She sang songs that left us wanting more.

Now she is no more.

Kamla Bhasin left our earth, this home.

But like the songbird that she was

Her humming, her clapping, her heartbeat, her drumming, her energy, her spirit, her twinkling eyes, her spiky white hair, her passion, and her kindness

Are everywhere.

Dilli’s streets reverberate with her chants, “Hum Bharat ki Nari hain, Phul Nahin, Chingari hain!”

We are the women of India. We are not flowers but sparks of change.

The sisters across our artificial and militarized borders – they hear Kammo singing – in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the beat goes on.

Rest In Peace, darling Kammo. Rest in the Power of Love. 

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