everyone knows girls are flowers

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

कच्ची कली

budding breasts

ripe curves

juicy body

full and luscious

आँगन की तुलसी




सूनी कोख


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

and yet,

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 remain

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.

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