Sunday, October 01, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 15, 1445 H
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Existence Beyond Calamity



An existence that transcends adversities wouldn’t probably conjure up an image of the feminine, in most of us. Given the way we have lived all our life, it’s pardonable. But the question continues to challenge us: Is the feminine best understood only by the feminine? Can a man ever comprehend a woman, let alone express her in words?

Of course, men have made great attempts at defining the female and have often found themselves lost in lines like, “Flowers spring to blossom where she walks/ The careful ways of duty/ Our hard, stiff lines of life with her/ Are flowing curves of beauty.” Sadly, they didn’t get far.

Is it impossible for a man to pen something like “I gather myself/ In dignity I embrace/A woman like me, had learned to stand beyond any calamity?” Maybe, only women can answer that. And as the Omani poet who wrote those lines, Nasra al Adawi is worth listening to when it comes to exploring the delicate and complex topic of the feminine existence.

Nasra was born in Zanzibar and started writing poems in Arabic, and over time switched to English, and regularly participated in poetry competitions in the US and won hearts. Her verses never failed to strike a responsive chord with a wide base of discerning readers, and in 2001, in recognition of the sheer influencing power of her words, the leading paints brand Jotun Paints chose to feature her poem on its promotional T-shirts.

Her poetry has always been one of commitment and compassion. She published three books to create greater public awareness about cancer and to generate funds to support cancer patients. Her “Collective Thoughts” and “Within Myself: The Will Power To Live beyond Cancer” have been highly appreciated by the readers. The second was published in association with the Oman National Association for Cancer Awareness, and the sales proceeds were used for the treatment of children in Oman suffering from cancer. Beyond poetry, she writes about various topics. Her articles appear in Al Mar’a, a leading woman’s magazine in the Sultanate.

Nasra is always open to exploring innovative art projects to reach a wider segment of the public. As a poetess, Nasra strongly believes in the power and impact of collaborative art, and holds that creative and original insights can add significant meaning to such a merger of art forms.

She successfully partnered with Yarub al Bakry, a noted Omani photographer, for a mixed art charity project involving the dual art forms of poetry and photography. It was in 2005, and the funds thus raised were given away to lend a helping hand to the needy, through the Oman Charitable Organisation.

Even without any artistic collaboration, her words, on their own, throb with the irresistible feminine power of creation and transformation. “A woman like me” is ample proof of this: “Defeat has no definition in my brain/ I have the aspiration; I’m set to seize that dream/ A woman like me, will reach that far and many miles more.”

She portrays the depressing and estranged world we have created for children with Down syndrome when she writes, “No one else but me/ Had been stared at/

Like a stranger on earth,” in “I’m a Down syndrome Child.” She continues: “A Down syndrome child/ I reach for their love/ I find none/ I wonder if I’m real or deviant on earth/ In their polite silence, I’m rejected/ So I have Down syndrome but still need your affection.”

She challenges perceived but distorted notions and unravels the innate beauty of ‘being’ in “My African Lady”: “I take a glance at you/ My African lady/ Your skin is full of glow/ The colour of the mountain/ Persistence in your fighting/ Prevailing among all/ You gaze beyond the distance reach/ A symbol of determination/ Your heart is the finest/ A lioness in your soul.”

Making sense of existence is a struggle we humans indulge in on and off. Nasra delves deep into the conundrum of life and meaning in “Finding Soul’s Delight”: “I’m tired of gazing into the motion of earth/ I’m tired of my soul standing still/ The earth seems to be so much alive/ Still I’m here, little by little dying away/ Yet my soul dreams/Just for once, to merge with the revolving earth/ Mesmerising moment, impossible to deny one’s self the celebration of life.

Certainly, her poetic wanderings are a delight for our souls.

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