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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 11 New Delhi March 3, 2018

Laughing Matter!

Monday 5 March 2018

[Recently there was a hue and cry over the laughter emitted by Ms Renuka Chowdhury during the speech of the Prime Minister in the Rajya Sabha. Laughter or a cackle is a freedom of expression. But, if the source is a woman, it brings to the fore many uncomfortable truths in a patriarchal society. In this context, I’ve composed the following poem.— A.K.D.]

Is laughter gender-neutral?
How is a woman supposed
to laugh, precisely while
giving vent to her cackle?

Should she sound boisterous,
unable to hold back or smile
with well-brought-up control
politely amidst male egos?

Laughter conveys emotions
of myriad shades, contours
in its flight over the face.
But is there a
lakshman-rekha?

If the face is of a woman,
has it to be a reined-in effort
of a smile visible, not audible,
lest it be demeaned, demonised?

Ajit Kumar Das

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