Three Great Poems by Narayan Surve – Poetic Portraits of Repressed and Helpless Women

Three great poems By Narayan Surve, which take leap into the Inner Psychic – Mental World and expresses the Inner turmoil of the Toiling, Repressed, deprived, outcast Women who have lost everything. The Poetic narrations have deep impact on Listeners and readers and profusely disturb them.

Narayan Surve (15th October 1926 to 16th August 2010) can be counted as one of the few Marathi Poets who through his poetic verses provided manifestation of the deeper Psychic turmoil of women, whether they be laborers, deprived Women or prostitutes who sell themselves directly. Narayan Surve communicates their deepest anguish, agonies, sorrows and helplessness through Poetic Narratives of these suffering Women..

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We have selected three such illustrious Poems, “Teacher Write Your name only’, “Money ADAR” & असं पत्रात लिवा) Write this in your Letter, which through verbalization brings out to the fore the enormity of the Social, Psychological Problems faced by repressed Women Community. As himself being born like Saint Kabir with no identified Parents, he could empathize with the sorrows of the three Women Characters which he created.

POEM ONE- “Teacher Write Your name only’

‘Mainavati’ being the first one(fictional name). The Scene opens up with Mainavati goes for enrolling her child in school. The title of the poem is very eloquent. Poverty and destitution, no one can tell what the poverty stricken woman is compelled to do. Even if she does not like it, Mainavati, the ‘Devdasi’, has no choice but to sell her body. And from that she gives birth to a child who does not have a ‘father’s identity and location. She accepts her responsibility as a mother and ‘up brings’ this’ beloved plant ‘-child’. With deep anxiety about his future life, she has taken him to school today for admission. Now listen to the Dialogue with School ‘Master’ (Teacher), what she says and she pleads and begs endlessly by holding in hand the School Admission Form, with tearful eyes to seek for his mercy and clemency and compel him to get the child admitted to the school by hook or crook.

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Poem as Dialogue between Mainavati and School Teacher.

Mainawati: – Teacher, Take this School Admission- Application Form
Please write your name (As child’s Father).
School Master: Hey lady, what are you talking about? What are you urging me to do?
Mainawati: Hay! I plead from my Heart,
with commemoration and ‘Oath’ of Mother Goddess ‘Mari’.
Please, please, write your name, Oh, master it is ‘God’s donated Gift, it is ‘God’s’ ….
School Master: Let it be! But why and how my name instead of his father’s?
“Tell me, without plowing and without sowing
Can Plant Grow? Does it grow and rise? Grow”? Speak up. Oh! Woman! ‘Bai”,”
So how can I write my name instead of his father’s?
If you claim that he does not have father, then How the Child was Born? —
Mainawati: – However please do not write Name of any ‘God’as his Father
Write the name of Human, What has God done?
He only filled my lap with the child!—
You write your Name only.(In place of his father)
Teacher: OK. What is Caste of the Child?
Mainavati:-Don’t Ask for his Caste!
School Master:-That is the Rule, No Admission to School if Father’s Name not on Application.
There is no solution
Mainavati: Oh, Master Teacher, Are we the ‘wife’ of someone? of One single Husband?
We are not the “Family Women’, Housewife! We are not that Fortunate.
Mainawati: He was born here only.
The child slipped off from stomach
No ‘midwife’, nor any support, First I shivered, and then relieved
Mainavati:-My beloved Child Touch his Feet, Touch his Feet and Salute.
School Master- Oh, Oh, what are you doing? What are you doing? (Moves backward)
Mainavati:-Yes, my Child, Touch his Feet, Touch his Feet and Salute him.
Mainavati:- Yes ,But master, write your own name, your Name only.

The Poem is Unique of its kind since it brings into perception of the listener very daunting problems faced by the Deprived women worried about the fate of their child, of the next generation and the livelihood.


‘Money Order’ is pronounced as ‘Money Adar’ in the village language. This poem is a Dialogue between the Devdasi (Prostitute) and the School Teacher authorized to provide admission to Children in the First standard of the school. The narrative and unending perusal from the mouth of this woman leaves our mind in pathos. At Grand Road, he was working as a peon in the education department, making hand delivery of all the circulars issued by the department to the nearby schools. He had to go through many different localities and colonies. He had to pass through the red light area like Golpitha, Foras Road, Kamathipura in Mumbai.. During the afternoon hours the prostitutes there, use to swarm around the ‘Letter writers’ outside the Post offices. At any time, without display of any paperwork and without indicating their miserable conditions. Without informing their houses at Native places, they use to compel the ‘Letter Writers’ to conceal their terrifying living conditions, to ‘Write in the letter’ that they are very happy and Cheerful .


But these women used to sit in the corners and silently and secretly cry by hiding their tearful eyes under their Borders of their Saree. The only thing left for these women was to sell their bodies. However even after selling their bodies they shouldered their responsibilities to take care of their blood relatives. She continues to take responsibility for herself.

From these experiences of the women ‘out casted’ from society, Poet Narayan Surve recreates Social Character of such Women who forcibly repress their sorrows and dreadful living conditions in depth of their minds. The excerpts of this Poem, ‘Money ADAR’ by one such female ( Money Order in crude Language) displays how they display commitments to responsibilities and hides volumes of their sorrows. She dictates to the letter writer following Text with her ‘MONEY ORDER”.

“Yes, Further write, Money Ardar is late
Nevertheless, It is still being sent
“I have made a new Vajratik (Necklace Ornament)
Inform him that Brand New ‘Vajratik” has been made for you.
Also tell that (WAKI” (Perl) has been sent through Ishnu (Country Pronunciation of Vishnu).
And also sending Ten Rupees less than fifty rupees
From that Money buy one Book for ‘Gangi’ also.(All country pronunciations)
Namayala ‘Chardi’,(shorts)
Pay Ten paisa to the Child every day
So that the child will run to the school, willingly.
Write my Kiss to both of them.

(She turns to her every day job to Bring the memories)
The man visiting clings like tick
And speaks Nonsense

Everything is Boring
But do come down intermittently.

The POEM ends on this sad Note.

She shoulders her responsibility without fail but at the bottom, deep down in to psyche lies the hidden sorrow, grief and disgust of being downtrodden , woman being compelled by misfortune.

(असं पत्रात लिवा) Write this in your Letter .( 5 March 1994)Marathi Version)


Now we are going to listen to a poem by the poet Narayan Surve who created arathi Version of a Hindi Poem. The story of the birth of this poem is interesting. This is a song written in Hindi by two women activists working together in the women’s liberation movement. One is Mrs. Shahnaz Sheikh and the other is Geeta Mahajan. Of conflicting Religious identities.

This Poem conveys not the agony, sorrow and pains of a woman but her rebellious emotional world. This is the universal experience of millions of working women, rooted in proletarian culture. he heat generated by efforts in survival is experienced by woman.. The male doer of the house has gone abroad. The husband has not gone to Mumbai or Pune but to Dubai. The woman is struggling to counter predicament. But focus of her husband is on his wife’s suspected behavior in his absence. Is a typical Indian husband, who tells her, “Be like that, be like that, Behave this way” etc. in Male Chauvinistic tone. The Poem is reply to the Dubai Based Husband who dictates how his wife should behave with neighbourers, in society and with other family members also. In male dominated Bourgeois Society thousands and thousands of such women are the victims of male Domination. The woman is echoing the Grievances and grouse of Thousands of such women who have been waiting for their husbands in their hometowns for years. The Poetic narration drenched in intense sarcasm and mockery and with Satirical tone is acclaim of ‘Nari Mukti’, “Women Liberation” and is Titled as (असं पत्रात लिवा) Write this in the Letter ). She sarcastically asking her Husband to answer few scratchy and sore questions in through his Letter.

“You keep well and stay Happily”, that is what you write it in Letter to us.
Which ghost from hell informed you that I strut, wander and swagger affectionately on Road?
If you have any doubts about me, I won’t go out,
“whether I should go out to fetch water? Also write this down in your letter

You are asking me for the Accounts of how I spent Hundred Rupees,
Suspecting that I alone consumed them for myself”
Twenty for light, Bills, thirty for water, and spent Twenty Five for rations!
Gave twenty five to the milkman, should I spend the money on them”,- write this in your letter

First you came empty handed and wasted your Trip
Baby has grown up and she loves to hear taped Songs

Should we all listen to the songs or should not? Write this in your letter
Baby / Infant suffered from Cough & Fever, I took him to the Private Doctor!

Gave her injection worth Hundred Rupees, but the money sunk into waste water!
Should I take him to J.J. Hospital or no – write this down in your Letter
Meetings are held for the Cause of Women’s Liberation, and we all go together for the Meetings
Your sister’s Husband Beats her and threatens everyone,
Should I go for her Rescue or No? Write this down in your Letter
From the day you have travelled abroad, the imposters have rambled,
and are fomenting Riots in the name of religion,
Should I or shouldn’t I explain to the inhabitants, – Write this in your letter
Who the ghost from hell informed you that I strut, wander and swagger affectionately on Road?
I go for Meetings and marches and demonstrations, How can I survive without them?
Come on, Join us and support us- Write this in your letter
Write this down in your letter that we should live in happiness

The true anguish of this song, the stress, the desire, the feeling of fear, the worry about the Health of children, social family conflicts, Rebellious intent and sarcastic response to husband’s suspicions are expressed in the verses. She is also in touch with changing times. In the Song the mischievousness of the woman’s speech and her perseverance, determination and love for asking questions to a skeptical husband can be seen.

Poet Narayan Surve has created the World of these proletarian women who are struggling to overpower the Patriarchy and Repression to change the system. That makes his Poetry as the Voice of New Age. Narayan Surve recited the poem in the presence of 10,000 workers at the state-wide conference of Maharashtra State ST Workers in Vasai, when the slogan ‘Once More’ resounded. Numerous workers sent letters asking for the song. Such was the case with the talented poet, Narayan Surve.

Written by: Vasanti Gokhale- Dilasa, Sr. Citizens Branch Lokmanya Seva Sangh

Concept Provider:- Rashmi Fadanvis, Secretary, Lokmanya Seva Sangh, Vile Parle

Translated in to English by: Anil Gokhale



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