“Once Upon a Time” is a lament for the loss of innocence and the decline of human values. The speaker contrasts the past, when people were sincere and connected, with the present, when people are more interested in material possessions and have lost their sense of innocence and wonder.
Once Upon a Time (Poem) Summary
Imtiaz Dharker’s “Another Woman” is about the domestic violence happening against women all over India. The title suggests that domestic violence is not a case which could be applied to a single woman. This poem tells us the ill-treatment of the women which leads to their ending the lives.
The woman in the poem goes to market to purchase vegetables. She buys green ‘methi’ and then wishes to have a white radish. She imagines about the crunch it makes when she puts it in between her teeth and its sharp taste. Thinking that it is an extravagance, she puts her thought aside.
She counts her coins carefully and ties them in the bundle at her waist. Then she returns home and faces the harsh behaviour of her mother-in-law. She takes methi leaves and cuts off them and the other vegetables with care and prepares curry. At this time she protects herself from the heat.
The mother-in-law curses her for spending money. She also curses her parents for sending her to bring ill-luck to them. The girl listens to all her cursing by crouching as usual on the floor beside the stove. She doesn’t face her husband who comes home. He simply keeps quiet though he listens to his mother’s harsh words. She bends a little more when he comes.
There is no right for her to speak about anything in that home. She sits watching the flame hisses up. This is the house where she has been sent to as a daughter-in-law. This is the man who she has wedded to. This ¡s the future she has been born into. She doesn’t have patience to bear her sufferings anymore. The only option left in front of her is to take her life. She submits herself to the hands of the flames.
Thus, she ends her life. She is the representative of all the women who are the victims of domestic violence. Though we know about it, we pay no attention towards it and turn our faces from the harsh realities of our society. We know that women are getting killed and oppressed in the name of birth (gender discrimination), dowry etc. But there is no one to act against it.
In the conclusion of “Once Upon a Time”, Okara expresses his hope for a better future where people are once again sincere and connected, and where innocence and wonder are cherished. He asks his readers to join him in creating this new world.