A Few Threads

(an elegy to the 23-year-old victim of gang-rape and also the two-year-old victim of rape…both of whom passed away today, hopefully for a better world)

A Few Threads

Oh maa, is this new sari for me?
Look at the colours,
feel the texture,
the embroidery is so fine
and delicate.
These threads
speak in tongues
and carry tales
I want to sing;
I want to wrap their softness
and many-coloured moods
around me
and float like a feather
as it free-falls through the air
on its way towards a head-on collision with the grass.
Yes,
my Diwali looks brighter already.

Oh papa,
the cold is setting in;
jeans, sweaters
and multi-coloured scarves
will have to warm me now.
I’ll match my earrings
with my scarves –
who says a polar bear can’t look pretty?
I’ll carry your bear-hug with me as I go,
wherever I go,
papa –
they’re the warmest memories I own.

Tell me again, nani,
what exactly did Draupadi pray to Krishna
as her soul was being stripped
of every of dignity she possessed
in front of the eyes of a blind court?
Did she howl in pain?
Did she beg for a few strands
to cover her modesty,
her breasts,
her pussy?

I did,
you know.
I prayed to every God I knew,
using up the mantras of my childhood memories;
the agarbatti smells of your daily worship,
maa,
I used them to numb my senses
as I screamed
while the beasts tore into my body with savage glee.
I howled in pain and shame,
papa,
as they ripped apart my gut
and clawed off my breasts
and bloodied the nation with gore.

And I begged
and I begged
and I begged
for a few threads
on my back
as I lay shivering in the cold
on the road.

Nobody stopped,
nobody cared,
many people looked,
but no one bothered
to throw a few threads
of dignity my way
along with their
looks of pity
and fear
and horror
and shame.

Maa,
you cover me with sheets now,
and there is newsprint
where my gut once used to be.
I’ve lost the name you gave me,
but I have a few fancier ones instead.
I can hear loud words, maa,
angry words;
words of rage
and pain
and protest
being yelled out
in one  big collective wail
of rage
and pain
and protest.
Or maybe that’s just the morphine talking.

Papa,
I believe we’re in Singapore?
How many boxes of dreams
did you help load on the aircrafts
to fly all the way here
without ever knowing
that one day,
you too
would be here with me?
Is Singapore beautiful?
Is it everything you dreamed of
and more?

It’s okay.
Don’t tell me.
I can see for myself now.
I can see these tall skyscrapers
and trains speeding through the skies
and women wearing the most fashionable clothes
I’d only ever seen in movies
and magazines.

I…
I don’t know.
I don’t know about castration
or death by hanging.
I don’t know about lethal injections
or shoving iron rods up their ass
and scrambling their intestines.
I don’t know about lynching them
or feeding them to hungry hyenas
or to an angry mob.
All I know
is that I wanted to live…

I can hear the voices
of my sisters in pain
screaming “Enough is enough!”

but

enough of what?

Today,
my two-year-old sister
died with me,
leaving another scar
on our Motherland’s face.
Did she get a name?
Wasn’t she a laadli,
a shona,
a pari
a rani,like I was once,
before becoming a Damini,
an Amanat,
a Nirbhaya?

Scream away my sisters.
Scream till the blood gurgles out of your throat
staining our corridors of power.
Scream till we change our herstories,
our laws,
our brothers’ mindsets,
our daughters’ lives,
and
our freedoms.

As for me,
I’m off to have a word with Draupadi now.
I need to know
why her prayer for a few threads of dignity
was far greater than my own.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “A Few Threads

  1. oh God! Baisali! I have no words … you said it all!

  2. o my; Words fail me – . It is indeed a collective shame and hope the society embarks on looking inside and bringing about a visible change. I pray that this few threads resonate far and wide !

  3. This isn’t just a poem. It’s an anthem. It breaks my heart and, at the same time, makes me want to scream till the blood gurgles out of my throat, staining the corridors of power. Thank you for writing this!

    • The screaming cannot stop until change is implemented. Women’s rights groups, activists, women from all walks of life are doing their bit to make the world a better, safer place. May we see the change soon. Thank you for your heartfelt words. It is very encouraging to me.

  4. Taniya

    So beautifully painfully written. Gave me chills.

  5. Nivedita Singh

    Speechless !!!!

  6. Rangamani KAla

    Really true. I hope that the new year will herald a new awakening for the girl child who is not safe even before she is born. I hope that evils of society is not reduced to candle light vigils, but meaningful laws to give the rightful dues to the girls, I hope that the girl will have no advantage beyond equality, I hope that the girl will be able to understand the meaning of Rabindranath tagore’s Gitanjali while she says ” Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, Where knowledge is free…………… into that heaven  of freedom, my Father let my country awake.”…. in 2013.

    • Two months into the new year, and still so many atrocities being reported. At times I despair of things getting better, but then I read reports of people fighting to make the change and once again, I feel hope. May we never forget. May we make the world a better place.

  7. Arvind N.

    Heartfelt writing. An awakening. My Salutes.
    My heart pains at the sad state of affairs in India.
    Why God allows people to sin? Why can’t He punish them?

    • Well, according to our Hindu customs, God will indeed punish them in their next birth, due to their sinful karma. But since we cannot wait for their next birth, it is up to us humans to punish them NOW!!

  8. So heart wrenching 😢…. what it must have taken for you to pen such lines ! Hugs.

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