Avvaiyar, the legendary Tamil poet and wise woman, takes centre-stage in the poem The Fine Art of Ageing in Arundhathi Subramaniam’s latest anthology, Love Without a Story. ‘Spare me the desperation of the old/ she says/ and the puerility of the young,’ Subramaniam writes in the first section of the sequential poem. In another, she says: ‘She’s done with the nightmare/of smiling and finding she’s forgotten/ to wear her dentures.’
The poems are a reflection of Subramaniam’s growing fascination with the idea of the crone and the gendered disparities that accompany ageing. “When men age, they become sages. When women do, they become hags. We fetishise youth and beauty so much that growing old for many women is about turning increasingly powerless. I was curious about female figures who don’t lose power, but gain strength and wisdom with age,” she says, when we meet her in her Mumbai home.
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July 22, 2019