Friday, March 29, 2013

Another Child Bride

The twenty six alphabets
are voiceless vowels
and the table of two
a chart of codes
most like the mantras
she will be coerced to chant,
her dreams were dandified daisies
she had plucked
with the departing dawn
when her doll was
given away in marriage,
a red riding hood
with frills of fallow.

When waken at four
she couldn’t read
through the riddle
that this day
would consummate her
in the holy fire
and she will be confined
in the seven cycles
of mutiny and not matrimony
she never went to school
after that day,
and started wearing a noose spun
of black beads
vermilion was the scarlet sorrow
confined in a chest of confessions,
since then her head stays covered
and tongue prisoned behind
her milk teeth, wisdom in waiting
the first night was a red sea
that would ebb till the time
she becomes a bride again
on the ashes
of her resting pyre.

First published in Copperfield review here

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Spinster Act

She has torn newspaper advertisements
lettered in bold black with
"Brides Wanted" while battering
through the armour of the computer
without asbestos apology.

She has said "no" a thousand times
to women who bottle her in
a "sister in law act"
analytical in her artisty
at homemaking, even when they know
how she doesn't bicker at her ability
to pour the platter
for her pally pathogens.

She has seen baby bumps
breed the bulge, and plummet
in the poise of pride
when 'girl" names she heard
like a list of grocery items
more than boy names.

Her allies have transformed
into women
and mothers of money
while she counts the cliche capers
she wrote as a carol
now being a crime.
the evening sun stalks
those yellow roses in her backyard
with no redressal for remorse
while she anticipates
that the paint in her pen
will repay her in full
one day.

First published in Penwood Review here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Frock and Hopscotch days

Childhood is the cradle of memories for every human.  So was mine, a cradle of mirthful moments ! Frilled frocks were a fascination and those with pink plaits or polka dots all over them made my heart skip a beat. 

Although when I see my photographs I realize that my parents had not brought me up as a girl, not really the way most Indian girls are brought up. They made me wear shorts with contrasting caps and shoes that always kept the uncle or aunty in the neighbourhood guessing about my sex. Don't know if my parents were fans of  Sherlock Holmes then. A mystery was always thrown upto to every other visitor who came to meet me armed with bags of fruits or cerelac, most of which I tried to boycott with a shriek. Until the aunty from the neighbourhood came sprinting to save my tongue from the bland taste.

While most of my first friends in life, always wore frocks, I have proofs in the charcoal coloured pictures in the albums stacked in my cupboard, and most of us were toothless fairies then. A smirk for the shutterbug was a two toothed or toothless sparkle in most of those pictures, with my partner in crime from those days, Neenu, my first friend.

My parents bought me all kinds of toys, my first ones being the utensils in the kitchen which wasn't brought in my name. They arrested my attention and so did the local vegetable vendor.They say my ambition in life then, was to sell vegetables and make a buck. My dad was my babysitter for the first two years of my life. In the absence of a paid babysitter and my grandparents not buying the thought of taking care of me, he  decided to quit his less paying job when mom got a more respectable government job three months after my arrival. That might be the reason that dad gave me all kinds of toys and games to play with and my grooming was very gender neutral, untouched by inequality. My room was a crib riddled with kitchen set,doctor's set,cars,dolls,and even teddy bears, none mollycoddled to feminine frailty. The visitors to my nest, couldn't really call it a girl child's room, it was a child's room just another child's room full of objects of various shapes,sizes and colours. 
My other activities included racing my walker along the length of the long winding terrace we had, and knock at every neighbour's house. By the time someone in the house would rush to the call I would have reached the end of the balcony! An almost baby Schumacher I was. 

Another interesting fascination was to ride a bike, always had the biker girl's genes it seems. At the age of three when I climbed on to the bulky bike dad's friend had parked in front of our house I happened to suffer from a major fall and my forehead was bruised. Such notorious was that fall that it gave me a furrow on my forehead, one that everyone notices easily when they first happen to meet me. It is like a birthmark, that was given to me after my birth! I thought of preserving it as a childhood memory and haven't attempted surgery to correct that scar ever.

My first period happened at the age of ten. I remember running to mom complaining of blood coming out of the place from where I passed urine.   Mom hurriedly hushed me to another room and without giving any explanations gave me a white cloth to wear. I thought that I will die of a dangerous disease and for the next one month, there wasn't a single day when I didn't cry. Unanticipated was the arrival of my period at the tender age of ten that it took mom about a year to explain me the biology behind menstruation.
Thereby with time I learned to wash my soiled underwear by myself and didn't give it to the laundry maid. Washing machines were expensive then and it was our maid who did the honours of housekeeping for us.

When teenage gave me wings I was never asked to dress down. I wore the smallest shorts unlike my other female friends,  and rode a bicycle in my neighbourhood, otherwise haggled by bad boys. I still remember my time table in those days. I rode my bicycle from 4 to 6 and then played hopscotch for half an hour. Hopscotch always confused me with the large squares and numbers, I never really liked it, although I loved the idea of jumping.On the day my younger brother managed to convince his friends, I used to give hopscotch a miss and played football or cricket with my brother and his friends. Football was all about dribbling and kicking the ball in imitation to the boys and cricket made me a left handed batswoman. I couldn't throw the ball with a hawk eye's perfection and thus,  never became a bowler.

If I were to pen every moment from my my girlhood I am sure that this post won't really end. The transformation was of course a reasoner of why childhood is the best time in any person's life. 

I still raise a howl, but not in celebration for the first bicycle that dad had given to me on my seventh birthday, but for the seventeenth grey hair I have at this age. I think that count is right. I do not ride bicycles anymore, although most of these days I was cribbing to mom about how I should get to doing it again, to tuck my tummy. And she shrieked without an apology and told me that there were no open spaces to tire my legs on the pedal and a twenty something woman riddling along the road would make a hundred heads turn, it wasn't so then when I was seven. 

Yesterday while at the monastery we happened to distribute sweets in celebration of a child's birthday growing up at their orphanage. And I heard a raring request for a coffee candy and not for strawberry molasses and realized that life has indeed been blissful, always having given me more than I ever asked for. It could have been nameless and faceless like it is for an orphan, but it was very kind, kinder than I had anticipated.

Every minute was a merit I have preserved as certificates and trophies from a school that allowed us to play basketball and burn our skin and not faint at the thought of social studies classes that followed. When I see girls in blue pinafores and red ribbons hopping back home in the afternoons, I do miss my frock and hopscotch days terribly. Although they still remain my favourite memory, like that pleasant gust of wind that visits me on evening walks I embark now, instead of going on a ride along the thoughtless terrain of life. 
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Friday, March 15, 2013

My Lawfully Wedded Husband and other stories by Madhulika Liddle

Title: My Lawfully Wedded Husband and Other Stories
Author:  Madhulika Liddle
Genre : Fiction
Price: Rs. 250
Pages: 225
Publisher:  Westland Limited (2012)

I have a limited attention span and that might be one of the reasons that I absolutely dote on a collection of short stories. The cover was a captivating one with the red and black in sync to the  darkly humorous stories written onto its pages.
The titles intrigued my mind as well, some like St.George and the Dragon and the Howling Waves of Tranquebar and even Sum Total itch your curiosity and might serve as the perfect Bollywood scripts for alternative cinema I am so in love with . Others like the Silent Fear and Night Train weren't monologues of mystery and were predictable and I guess even dragged, although since these were very very short, I was hooked on till the end. Without giving up on my patience.

Sum Total was a story of delusions and fears, crammed inside the head of a woman who wanted to seek revenge against the people, trying to get even with her. Ofttimes because of the fallacies of other humans hate and anger mushrooms inside us. When selfishness pulls the wool over others eyes and they try to make us a scapegoat for their covetous calling, does deceit disguise into fallacy. Veera's day dreams were a product of that kind of a parsimony.
Geeti, a not so smart girl had a lot to lose in the end, when she decided to trust the most reliable girl in school. And the poor soul couldn't have imagined that the girl she looked upto for succor was the main protagonist of the cliff hanger staged in front of her.
Feet of Clay read more like a fairy tale straight from a castle of dreams. It takes a closer look at one of the most cowardly crimes existing in the Indian society which is usually brushed under the carpet for the fear of social stigmatization.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


She skewed seven stretch marks
bearing eight oysters
who dole out her dowry
in the white of her milk. 

Prayers, her morning manners
the book her gift
for gall and worms, 
red seas never fretted
on her form
where not even a crease
could be carved by
the crown of thorns. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Laying Down the Laws for Rape

After the barbaric gang rape and death of the 23 year old paramedical student Jyoti, which triggered a mass protest and awakened the ignorant insensitivity of our society that is still indifferent towards its women, the big debate has taken the centre stage again. What should be the punishment for rapists? The feminist fury wrote down their anger on placards in big bold letters favouring castration and less furious ones went for hanging, I tried to read through what the rape laws of our constitution say, and thought of seeking an answer.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Six years
I counted them as six minutes
or six lives
sixth was the day
sixth the month
when I stabbed you
to six deaths.
Outside my house
mountains rose out of molehills
wrecked wheels transformed
into cars and coaches
markets became malls
towering the streets
while women wailed
against crimes of lust and loathe
even with a lady of husbandry.

Friday, March 8, 2013

One Billion Falling

Another International Women's day is around the corner. And my inbox is clogged with e-mails, of discount vouchers and free gifts and Women's day contests aspiring to make a difference. This history has repeated itself over the years. Every year the celebration gets bigger and better. There are more discount sales and free giveaways to take home. So also, if you have written a book on women there is no better day for its launch than this. In the midst of these celebrations, many of which I give a miss, have I often wondered as to what is this elation about? And why one day marked in the calendar is important to remind us of womanhood.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Child Bride

The vermilion on her forehead
is the colour of
crayon that coloured rising ridges
of the canvas in the art class,
her puny fingers are
blotted blood red
in alta, soiled in the dirt of
henna, both inane in ignorance.