Where’s my independence?
1947 brought a different independence
Than the novella in my head:
Where heroines dressed like themselves
But were accorded the valor of heroes.
Where an aimless drifter was a woman with matted hair
But the word “witch” did not exist in village air
Where a friend was a Hijra whose every taali was Holi
So gender became a misnomer for inner fire and joie de vivre.
Where men forgot the violence of violent gestures
Where honour had no place in vaginas, but, did in virtue
And every strange eye reached the depths of your soul
In search of beauty but did not perish at splendor.
And all erect fences on borders were crossed with unhurried steps
Because consent likes to play hard-to-get
But sometimes flings itself at you,
So new limits are defined for a day.
Where the word “No” from the mouth of a woman
Did not leave a metallic aftertaste
Where midnight was legitimately the beginning of another day
So she walked barefoot on the beach
And her skin soaked the darkness of night.
Not unbecoming, but resplendent in near sight
Because freedom tends to look that way
When hyenas die in the absence of a prey
In my fiction kindness flowed through every vein
So a river of blood didn’t drown a mundane street
And a tomb did not ravage itself with wails and grief
and death was a friend who took you home as reprieve.
They gave me independence in a flag
But left me hungry for my fiction that were to become life
So I gathered my friends of words of love and light
and chose to live in a different state (of mind).
Letter to my child
Dear child, I don’t know who you are
Or who you are gonna be
So I won’t afflict you with the scalding anguish of
Pinks and blues and tutus and tiaras of gender
So that strangers can walk all over you
Thrust their claws into your heart
And call it civilization.
Dear child, I will name you Impervious
To the rights and wrongs and in-betweens of a body
So your territory is a flower garden
Whose thorns are homeless at dawn
so by morning your blood flows into flowers
and becomes one. So you can find beauty
in springs of your inner blossoms.
Dear child, I won’t burden you with pronouns
That washes away rainbow tinged hope from faces
So mirrors mourn their loss in shards.
I won’t impose the stifling singularity of
Sartorial truth that ruptures through your sinews
With cruel flattery from vacuous strangers with strange names
Stranger hankering for violent games
So you rip off the muslin and bandage rotting wounds
And call it fashion statement
But the lie hurts, the skin crawls, singes the soul.
So I will spare you the drama and the stage.
And open up the treasury of love
So you can rummage through it till you find rage.
Dear child, I won’t tame your fire with my whims
But gift you the promise of patient hearing
through the window of silence and wall of grief
through the torment of tortured memory and
the pile of bodies that revolt your being
So you can breathe before flying the nest
So you can discover your path through
The grim of dusk and treacherous cleft
And return home to visit museums for stacks of
Antiquated fears and self-contempt stored away
To feel safe to return to them at will and without peril
So strength ceases to be intangible and leaps out of its shell
To grace your fingers and your chin.
Dear child, you will be your own hero
Your own master and your own slave
I will only pour in oxygen
When you are out of breath.
Sohini Chatterjee holds an MA in International Relations, her work has previously appeared in Kindle Magazine, Cafe Dissensus Everyday, Huffington Post India, Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, The Lookout Journal among others. Sohini is a feminist and writes primarily on gender, culture and politics.