Everyone knows boys are farm machines.
Seed drills and tractors first-
sow your oats. put your seed in her. plow that.
Combine harvesters after,
when they winnow through throngs of women then reap plush spoils.
And everyone knows girls are flowers
showered with sweet botanical metaphor when little
saddled with grim agricultural metaphor after and
lascivious, fruit- based innuendo in between. Observe the ages-
फूलों सा चेहरा
कलियों सी मासूम
ओस सी कोमल
full and luscious
आँगन की तुलसी
then to be beautiful and powerful and ruthless
and some parts giving and some parts selfish
and some parts self- pitying and some parts conceited
and some parts brave and some parts terrified
and some parts tired and angry and bitter
and all parts determined
is to say
I am neither fruit nor flower
nor soil nor earth.
I am sky, you may go through me but you will not touch or thwart me.
I am above you, both shelter and curse,
and you can not, shall not know when I will turn.
When I am unremarkable, you will forget I am there
to your own detriment and downfall.
I resent and defy expectations of pleasantness or predictability.
I will roar often, turn grey and sombre, threaten to fall
to be heard.
I will smite you,
soak you in your own misgivings,
drown you in your worst fears
freeze you out of comfort and familiarity
blow grit in your eyes so you are left panicked and scrambling.
I will not be ignored, or dismissed, or forgotten
not even when I’m quiet.
to think that I am tame or tameable when sunny
is to walk into a trap.
There is no knowing the shape of me
there will be calm,
there will be mornings of generous light
the air so clear you want to dance and give thanks.
I am capable of unexpected kindnesses- good weather that lasts,
good weather that won’t trick you into misery or disappointment.
The great, oppressive sulk just before I give in to the thirst of the earth
is me hoping you’ll notice
that it is my greatest wish
to be feared and to be loved
to be deferred to and to be befriended
to both blend in and stand out,
to be trusted, but never, ever taken for granted,
to give, but also to take away,
to reward and to punish,
to be just but also, to respect my inner barometer
to never have a man pin me to a green screen
and point smugly with his wand at my contours and declare
‘Light showers expected.’
And this is why it is important that I defy your greatest wish
for me- to be invisible.
Not in your wildest dreams
am I a thing you can know or wish away.
While the men guffaw and slander in their pinewood chambers
while they jab a finger at us in Parliament, show us our place
while they plot our demise on colossal mahogany desks covered in green baize and lies,
while they mock and belittle us and our clothes and our hair and our bodies and our youth even when it is long gone,
(even as their own chins slacken and wag, or stomachs strain their buttons with their wanton spillage),
while they watch phone porn or hurl chairs and abuse at each other
or bless the circulation of gossip, suggest indiscretions where there were none
we do not cower
we contain our grief when we must
we thunder when it is time
we plot vengeance when it is inevitable
Do you realise
that we are all skies?
Let no indulgent auntie or uncle
tell you that you are a flower,
that you await a sowing, or a reaping.
Ask only to be compared to the sky.
to be both special and nothing special
to be both un-remarkable and hard to miss
to be both vital and unknowable
to be capable of anger both righteous and self- preserving
to be capable of forgiveness but also revenge
to be known for your kindness and also for your power
to shine sweetly, but also flash warnings
to contain within you a multitude of weathers, entire climates that shape terra firma to their will
to defy forecasts in ways that make men shake their heads and groan and reach for their umbrellas and look silly clutching at spring- loaded scrunched up nylon on a sunny day
to never have a man pin you to a green screen and point smugly at your contours with his wand and declare
‘Light showers expected’.
Images, from top to bottom and left to right- Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, J. Jayalalitha, Benazir Bhutto, Indira Gandhi, Phoolan Devi, Mamata Bannerjee, Meira Kumar, Mayawati, Smriti Irani, Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, Rabri Devi, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Sheikh Hasina.