DUBAI // Dressed in traditional silk saris, a group of Indian women yesterday recited poems that celebrated their lives.
The poems, in several Indian languages, told of empowerment and conveyed emotions ranging from love to grief.
About 56 women from small towns across India are visiting Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah for poetry recitals organised by the All India Poetess Conference.
The annual event, recognised around the world, brings women from varied backgrounds together to express themselves. The UAE is the site of the seventh international conference of the 6,000-strong organisation, attended by university professors, doctors, wives, mothers and grandmothers.
"Women hide their feelings, we should come out of ourselves," said Sudheera KP, 50, a bank manager from Calicut in the south Indian state of Kerala who released the travelogue From the Earth to the Sky during the conference at Four Points by Sheraton in Bur Dubai. "This helps us become real women. Getting together to read gives a chance to all.
"It's all about women's liberation, to help us hold up our head. I'm all tensed up in my profession, then I come home to domestic chores. I'm a wife, but I'm not only a wife. I'm a writer of love, romance, problems of women."
The poems were read in languages ranging from the southern Malayalam to western Gujarati.
Shazia Kidwai, a Sharjah-based finance professional who helped co-ordinate the programme, said the event showcased India's diversity, and helped women find a voice.
"When you can't speak/And you can't stay quiet/Then the real voice comes out in poetry/What a lovely story it is/This is about a woman from India," Mrs Kidwai recited at the conference.
The event was a "life-saver" for Prabha Neeralagi after her husband's death and her retirement as the head of mathematics at a southern Karnataka college.
"I could have gone into deep depression, I could have gone mad," said Mrs Neeralagi, a grandmother of three who did not want her age published. "But this helped me forget my pain. After retirement, people say you're finished, but I'm more active. I'm so excited to meet new people, to write."
Vimlesh Sharma, a Hindi professor from a college in Kanpur, northern India, also released a book of poems about a little-known 17th century Kashmiri poet.
"It helps us go beyond boundaries," said Mrs Sharma, 58. "Poetry is universal. So whether in Dubai or India, we cry the same tears, smile the same smiles."
The poems helped showcase the talents of women who may have otherwise never left home, said Dr Lari Azad, the organisation's founder. "My mission is to show that every woman is a poetess," he said. "When she is painting, playing with her child, cooking in the kitchen or writing, a woman is a poetess with power."