because you see, having dinner together was only a thing when you started smoking instead of attending your classes and making out with boys in your section instead of the girls from the hostel opposite to yours.
you are like the palaces in lucknow.
the tapestries that hang on your walls are fingerprints of each poem i wrote about you// the disordered rugs are a sign that perhaps even the most romantic of poets can’t fix all that’s wrong with us// and the half-open windows are the hesitance you show every time i try to enter. the hesitance you turn into anger as the whistling windows get eroded by the wind// and the clock that ticks twelve hours behind is your perpetual need to sulk over the past// for it isn’t the past until you choose to let go of it.
and the chandelier built of mirrors with hexagonal structures exists so that maybe every time you look up while praying, you see yourself instead of God
because damn it you’re all you’ve ever cared about.
and the door with three locks made of silver are the tests you put everyone through once in a while because trust is not a word your lying deceiving father could ever teach you// and the dining table has only one clean chair while the other five remain covered with dust, because you see having dinner together was only a thing when you started smoking instead of attending your classes and making out with boys in your section instead of the girls from the hostel opposite to yours.
and the carved markings next to the painting on the wall are the childhood you lived like a rebel, doing everything you could to prove you were different. but that painting is still untouched. immune to your fight or flight response. that painting of an enchanting landscape with mountains and a fresh river stream, perhaps a magical place that you could only ever dream of, a magical place that was your only chance of escape from the horrid palace that you call your home.
from the horrid palace that is only left with soldiers to guard its doors,
from the horrid palace that you live in, but your heart abandoned long ago.
you forget that i am a woman. you think i am as soft as water and yet, i am what extinguishes your fire.
some powerful women my friends and i look up to:)
i am a woman. you think i am as soft as water and yet, i am in the girl you gave justice to 8 years late. i am in the girl you cremated to hide the evil that runs through your veins. the evil you mask behind delayed hearings and careless police work. the evil that makes your blood boil like fire. i am in the wife you slap after she drops the glass you should have filled yourself. i am in the girl you call pataaka when she cycles by. the girl you say shouldn’t have been outside her house so late when you’re the one who should be locked inside a cell forever. i am in the girl you sexualize on the screen. the girl who you dress in clothes as short as possible because the tickets wouldn’t sell without zoom-ins on her naked waist. i am in the daughter you cover up. to who you teach that by being female, she is at fault. to who you teach that her body is nothing but a distraction for men, when you shouldn’t have been looking in the first place. i am in the mother who sacrificed her entire life for you. the mother who repressed her dreams to raise you well. the mother you disappoint every time you look at the girls on streets with the same fire that boils in your blood.
but you think i am the water in the lotus flower. the water that helps it grow, but disappears into the air right after. you think i am the buttons on your office shirts. always trying to hold it all together. being replaced every time one falls off. you think i am the leaves of autumn. losing colour as soon as the weather changes. falling to the ground, fragile. you think i am the alcohol that lets you loose. the alcohol you blame for the things you do after the city falls asleep. you think i am a pushover. a woman who does whatever floats your boat. a woman who carries all your baggage for you like a river carries salts. but you forget. you forget that i am a woman. you think i am as soft as water and yet, i am what extinguishes your fire.
But who on earth gives us the right to judge? Who gives us the right to make them feel as though by being themselves, they are already guilty of something?
Today, I want to shed light on a subject which we barely question ourselves about. I figured that I cannot merely touch upon it through a poem like I usually do. For this is something we as a society really need to dig deeper into. And the magical term is;
This refers to personal assets which provide us with social mobility. This enables us to climb the social ladder without necessarily having wealth or financial resources. It includes our skills, knowledge, interests, hobbies, etc. In layman terms, cultural capital is when we’re perceived on the basis of our non economic strengths. Unfortunately, this leads to class differences and social inequality 99% of the time. But one of its biggest consequences is gender inequality.
You’re probably confused but let me explain.
Women and particularly teenage girls hold almost zero cultural capital in our society. Their interests are quite frequently looked down upon in contrast to those of men. Things that are stereotypically marketed towards men such as sports, action films, action figures are generally considered good taste. Whereas when it comes to the stereotypical interests of women which include rom coms, make-up, and even fashion to an extent, then the self-created critics are always quick to comment. I mean ask yourself, what holds higher value in your mind?
A movie like ‘Mean Girls,’ which consists of rich spoilt school girls as the protagonists who plot plans to avenge each other or a movie like ‘Thor,’ which has a strong masculine superhero who fights other supernatural creatures as the lead character? If I had to take a wild guess, then based on the centuries long gender biased mindset we’ve all been victims of, I’d say the latter.
We are naturally inclined towards downplaying the likes and dislikes of women in our daily life.
Let’s take another example; fashion.
Stereotypically, most females are drawn to clothing and accessories. They tend to care about the way they look more than men do. However, the fashion industry as a whole is considered highly superficial. Women who enjoy styling themselves are quickly boxed into the spoilt and stupid rich brat stereotype. Although, if a man takes care of the way he dresses and experiments with his clothing then he’s considered ‘cool,’ and ‘classy.’ He’s even termed as smart looking to an extent.
I think it’s important we ask ourselves why.
For this is not just present in the cinema or a few other industries. It’s present within us as well.
When I was younger, I’d never have admitted to liking Taylor Swift or One Direction. Those were two artists whose fan bases mostly consisted of female fans. Unsurprisingly, it was considered ‘basic’ to like them. If you were fond of Taylor Swift, then you were immediately labelled as the dumb girly teenager. When it came to One Direction, people were quick to assume that girls only liked them because of their attractive looks. I mean what else, right? People didn’t waste time listening to their music before calling them the band which only shallow teenage girls listened to. Young women were practically shamed for having a choice which was different from that of the men.
Sometimes, it was even worse. For quite frequently, a man and woman might have the same interest but a woman is shamed for it whereas a man isn’t.
Let’s go back to Taylor Swift. She was and still is famous for writing most of her songs about boys who broke her heart. Now although heartbreaks are a normal part of life, she was continuously shamed for it. She was perceived as this immature unintelligent blonde who was utterly boy obsessed and was termed as someone who was forever ‘victimising’ herself. Nevertheless, when Post Malone wrote about a girl who broke his heart, everybody was ready to drop everything and scream ‘fuck that bitch,’ with him. They began to think of him as someone who understood real pain.
What’s so different about a young woman writing about heartbreak compared to a young man doing the same?
A more current life example would be the different trends which keep coming into light. Like the whole vsco girl thing. Young girls were trolled, bullied and practically forced to feel shameful of talking and behaving in a certain way which seemed to be stupid in the eyes of other people. Take a look at tiktok. There are so many videos on youtube of people reacting to tiktoks of teenage girls and just making fun of them for having ‘no talent,’ or being dense, all because they chose to put themselves out there by recording short videos.
But who on earth gives us the right to judge? Who gives us the right to make them feel as though by being themselves, they are already guilty of something?
This right here, is the sole reason why girls grow up to silence themselves. They grow up to become women who prefer to remain quiet because when your interests and opinions aren’t valued then what’s the point of using your voice? When your likes and views are naturally considered inferior to those of others then what’s the point of arguing? What’s the point of saying anything at all, right?
I’d like you to just imagine if teenage boys were picked on for liking superheroes or unrealistic action movies the same way young girls are made fun of for enjoying sappy romance movies and barbie dolls. But that could never happen. Because we have been programmed to think of anything that is associated with the female gender as something which is inferior to the things that are linked to the male gender.
It is way ‘cooler’ to watch Mission Impossible instead of Clueless.
It is way ‘cooler’ to have Iron Man figurines instead of Barbie dolls.
It is way ‘cooler’ to prefer shirts over dresses.
It is way ‘cooler’ to be a professional swimmer than a professional makeup artist.
Our minds have been installed with a toxic mindset since birth and we don’t know why.
When we’re two years old, we don’t know the definitions of words like pencil, chair, or even mother. We just know how to identify them with images. We just know that the woman who feeds us everyday is our mother, the object we write with is a pencil, and the piece of furniture we sit on is a chair. But when we’re two, we don’t know how to state the meanings of each word. We only know what we’ve seen and heard.
Similarly, we as a society, including our ancestors, don’t know why the colour pink or the floral dresses forever 21 sells are associated with females. We don’t know why scary movies and sports like boxing are associated with males. We cannot do anything to change that identification established in our minds either.
But what we can do is start believing and reminding ourselves every day that liking pink is just as okay as liking blue.
Enjoying the Avengers; End Game is just as okay as enjoying the Titanic.
Being a stereotypical teenage girl is just as okay as being a stereotypical teenage boy. Not being either of those is alright too.
For our likes and dislikes make us who we are and that is something which should never ever be compared.
In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Goddess Sita was known to be Lord Rama’s wife. She accompanied him in his 14 year long exile along side his brother Lakshmana. They spent a few years at Panchvati, also known as the site where Goddess Sita’s abduction by Ravana, the ten faced king of Lanka took place. She is often regarded as the embodiment of wifely devotion and self-sacrifice.
Fabric the colour of saffron,
On the eccentric green grass,
Her sari spread like rangoli’s rays,
Her thick silky hair,
Bound by elastic,
Few short strands flow,
With the breeze that blows,
Congested in a bijou hut,
Near the free fragnance,
Of dear Godavari,
Lies the confined heart of Panchvati,
The cold damp gufa,
Where sits the almighty shivaling,
Echoes her silent prayers,
Enclosed by 14 years of unfair penance and care,
Yet her genuine heart,
Sees no disguise,
A starving beggar appears,
Mouth full of hungry lies,
She steps out,
Crossing the holy line,
He doesn’t take a second to grab her,
And divine Panchvati loses its shine,
The elastic loosens,
Black locks gather apart,
Her shrill screams haunt the hut,
Remorse fills her heart,
They fly away in his grand chariot,
Ten faces laugh aloud,
Yet the sky cries with her,
Her anger as heavy as the storm cloud,
Panchvati bids goodbye to its queen,
Lord Rama shouts in agony,
For he failed his promise,
But long gone now is,
Sita, our Goddess.
“There may have been several ramas but only one sita.”
Note: The events that happen in this poem are all real and happened on the night of December 16th, 2012 to a girl named Jyoti. Unfortunately she didn’t survive although, fought very hard to. Her death led to several protests across Indiaand sparked various questions against every Indian woman’s safety. Eventually, she became known as Nirbhaya, meaning; the fearless one. Her rapists are being hung 8 years later, a few days from now. Through this poem which was extremely painful for me to write, I hope to remind everyone that she was one of the most powerful women to exist and that her death was not in vain.
trigger warning: rape, sexual assault, violence.
11:00 PM. The film was beautiful, He and I walk hand in hand, There is a storm coming, They always come by surprise, Starting with light rain, And then hit unexpectedly, Always leaving a huge wound, One that could take years to heal, I had no idea, That soon there would be a wound so vast, So powerful, It’d scar me forever. Yet right now, I just wish to go home, After a long tiring day, That’s what we all want, right? —- 11:15 PM. He and I board the bus, There are only five people, Yet the night feels lonely, Maybe it’s just me? The driver looks at me, Turns forward, Looks at me again, Turns forward, Didn’t we already pay for a ticket? I turn to him, He’s not the………r….e……. —– 11:17 PM. Their hands on me are like a storm, Unexpected and unwelcomed, My body is the earth, Now filled with mud, Mud I can never get rid of. I scream, The hands only change, Yes, There are five of them, I close my eyes, Maybe not all of us get to go home after a long tiring day, Nevertheless, I want to survive. —- 11:25 PM. The driver changes, And so do the hands, My voice is gone, And so is any worth I had left, The men stop, And whisper amongst each other, What’s happening? And then it comes, The loudest scream this world has ever heard, This world once filled with distant stars and lonely nights, Now only lurks of unheard voices covered with horrendous sights, They take turns penetrating it, It’s silver and shiny, Dug deep in the ground when done, And used while making buildings, But, When did I become one? —- 11:28 PM. It takes all in me to look behind, I see two of them, Beating him up, Soon they’ll back, For their turn with me, I close my eyes again, I think of all those times I heard tales of such women on the news, I think of how they felt, And how I thought I’d never know. One of them looks younger than me, He’s a boy, I feel no mercy, Just pity, Something must be wrong with this country, For him to not be learning the power of books, But the power of rods. —- 11:30 PM. It’s over. I don’t feel my body anymore, I can’t lift an inch. ‘ Abh kya karna hai inka, Ram bhaiya?’ ‘Vo hi jo socha tha, Mukesh aur maine.’ Anger runs in my veins stronger than the blood, With all my might, I scream again, Mukesh slaps me, Picks my body up, Not forgetting to grab my breasts, And then removing his hands, Like they weren’t ripe enough for him, Ram grabs my friend, They throw us off the bus. —- 11:32 PM. I am lifeless, Naked, My body isn’t mine anymore, I don’t want it to be, I look over at him, And I remember how he was telling me about his dreams an hour ago, I think of my own, And how they seem even further away, Than the stars in the sky, Never will I ever get to wear a lab coat with pride again, Become a doctor and make my parents proud, My parents, Memories flash through my mind, Faster than this night seems to pass, With the tiny amount of strength I have left, I take the film ticket out of my pocket, For a second I’m reminded of how delighted I was when I bought it, I take out a pen from my other pocket, Slowly I scribble, As the words my mother said to me, The day I cried in her lap when I was 15, Repeat in my brain, Kabhi haar mat maarna, Jyoti. My body gives out, And the paper lies right where they entered me, Only four words remain on it, I want to survive. —- 11:35 PM. Himmat bhi nahi haari, Sahas bhi nahi gaya, Nirbhaya, Nirbhaya, Nirbhaya.