they drank till their slight touches turned into slaps, and repeated their favourite line, ‘tu haan kar, ya naa kar, tu hai meri kiran.’
translation: ‘even if you say yes, or no, you are my kiran.’
my uncles liked having loud conversations,
they liked keeping count,
of how many people survived,
and of how many died,
they liked arguing over policies,
capitalist or communist,
conservative or socialist,
as if the leaders involved were just by passers,
diplomats in their monarchical world,
they liked to talk while chewing,
often spitting in each other's plates,
secretly staring verma aunty up and down,
her liberal mind was too much to bear,
some days were worse than others,
for they drank till their slight touches turned into slaps,
and repeated their favourite line,
'tu haan kar,
ya naa kar,
tu hai meri kiran,'
over and over again, every single time.
my uncles liked to take names,
calling the pakistani traitors,
and the bangladeshi bastards,
sharma uncle would always say that our politicians were corrupt,
that the strikes were staged,
and the roads were never built,
for the taxes we paid were rather used,
for their luxurious spa treatments,
and sarees of silk,
but he never dared to speak,
of the tea stained rupee notes that he slid,
to the man with stars on his vardi,
nor of the abundant notes he gave to his son's principal,
and how he just forgot to mention they were farsi.
but the women in our family,
well they never spoke,
they'd clear the tables,
throw away the seeds on the orange peels,
tidy up the washbasin,
while uncles smoked their pipes and went to sleep,
although they weren't literate enough to read,
and their lips remained steadily shut,
their ears always perked up,
for they longed to hear of a day,
when the headlines would talk about their win,
and the misogynists' defeat,
the day they could be the ones commenting on medha pathkar's feminist ideals,
and the outspoken female who only won one seat,
they would continue to scrub the spots of the dhotis which smelled like mrs.sharma,
and put cotton on their swollen bruises,
they would continue to nod and say 'no matter,'
and then leave to take care of chores,
for whether or not china chose to avenge itself,
whether or not the workers staged their strikes,
whether or not policemen took bribes,
they'd have to grow barley and pluck their weeds,
uncle would continue to come home at 11,
although the security guard said he left at 7,
friday evening dinners would still turn into political campaigns for the parties which paid more,
for even if the economy slows down,
and all those endangered are gone,
manages to go on.
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.
Padmavati was the Queen of Chittor in the 13th century. She was married to Ratan Singh and was known for her surreal beauty. People yearned to even catch a glimpse of her exquisite features. Alauddin Khilji was one such man. However his greed and lust caused him to declare war against Chittor. When it became clear that he would win, Queen Padmavati made a decision which would go on to impact millions. She committed Jauhar which is defined as the act of mass self-immolation by women in parts of the Indian subcontinent, to avoid capture, enslavement and rape by foreign invaders, when facing certain defeat during a war.
Although the goddess like Queen died, Indian history immortalized her.
And this is her story.
p.s: part two coming soon:)
Praises of her pulchritude,
Fill the ancient halls of Chittor,
Hira Mani tells tales of her beauty,
The rajput warrior desires to know more.
She walks in her ghagra choli,
Embellished with heavy gold beads,
Blinding mirror sequins,
Like a lotus flower amongst weeds.
He reaches the doors of Singhal,
Wins the swayamvar as his duty,
Marries the legend of folk songs,
Padmavati, the epitome of beauty.
Nights in Chittorgarh seem like bright mornings,
For her divine glow ignites the sky,
Maybe that’s why the moon hides behind the sun
The Queen’s royal glamour makes it shy.
Alauddin follows the tittle tattle,
With his desire to own every precious thing on land,
Ratan Singh mistakenly prepares to battle,
But Queen Padmini is Khilji’s only demand.
Yet looks don’t limit to her charms,
She allows a glance,
Seeing her reflection is his only chance.
Furious sultan deceits the trusting Ratan singh,
His lifeless body falls to the ground,
Men with armours clench their shivering swords,
“Jai bhavani,” they scream as mughals surround.
Alauddin storms inside the majestic fort,
A surprise beholds his eyes,
Sixteen thousand women in crimson red ghagras,
Dressed as newlywed brides.
They’re more than enough to take him down,
But they don’t,
Instead they fill the palace with echoes of their cries,
Chanting, “jai bhavani”
Ready to sacrifice,
As each second, a braveheart dies.
Yearning to catch a glimpse of Queen Padmavati,
Khilji sprints across the halls,
He screeches as the gates close,
And she embraces the fire,
With no tears in sight,
For they may have killed the rajputs,
But Padmavati won this fight.
Aur yeh hi, Alauddin ki sabse badi haar thi.
In light ofrecent protests and in hopes of a good result after today’s voting, here’s a poem on the nation’s capital:)
Buried sultans, Symmetrical gardens, And the smell of garam chai, Ramu kaka shouting ‘10 ka ek,’ And the vast crowd in chandni chowk, Still makes me sigh.
For these handwoven intricate shawls, The same colour as my jhumkas, Temples and mosques, Built in harmony, Are memories which cease to exist, Like rusted keys to ancient locks.
For now, All I know are, Everyday protests, By the voices which go unheard, The rebellious youth, Spraying graffiti on the blank walls, And my heart seems to rejoice, As the old conservative Dilli falls.
This city of ours, Is beginning a fresh journey, It’s finally bidding goodbye, To the oppressors which fill the station, The revolution is here, Here in Dilli, The forgotten yet rising, Heart of the nation.
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.