Tag Archives: poetry with a cause

Untouchable- Part 5

today
i heard my mother
fight with the maid
she’s asking for more
than we can afford to pay

our maid looked down,
and whispered about
her alcoholic husband
and her unemployed son
the daughter in law trying
harder and harder everyday
to provide for the grandchildren.

my mother asks me
why does she need to send her grandchildren to private school?
the fees is so high, she says
we could barely afford it.
why is our maid
hoping to get her grandchildren
into the private school we went to?

my mother
reprimands me
when i drink starbucks
but not when i
take a loan
for private school
the more you pay
the more you get back
better jobs, better life.

but my mother
asks my maid
who is begging for a higher wage
why she needs to send
her grandchildren
to private school.
Part 5/7

Untouchable- Part 4

all we are
and all we’ll ever be
is skin and bones,
flesh and blood.

yet,
all we are
and all we’ll ever be
are death threats
and poverty
and food to fleas
and to ants
and to the vultures
of human kind

whatever we’re made of
we will always have
sunshine
and stardust
and moonlight;
the skies
and the earth

and yet,
it’s your skin
that I can’t touch
and if I do,
it’s you that i’m
forced to wash away
from my skin
every day
the offchance
that our skins
touched.

and yet,
it’s your fire
that kindles the flames
in my bones.

Untouchable- Part 2

the first time I see her
she wears a nightie
and stands outside the bedroom
I share with my cousins

she laughs with me
about that word
in my mothertongue
that I mispronounce

she is five years older
but calls me thamburati, m’lady
I have only heard the word in movies
and on tv, in soap-dramas

she tells me about the latest movies
i need to watch with my cousins
rent a jeep, go to the theatre
watch it with your cousins, m’lady.

she reads to me
poetry in my mothertongue
that i can’t be bothered
to learn to read

she reads to me
copies of Balarama
because my cousins refuse to.

she reads to me
from across the barred windows
of the Touchable room
that she cannot enter.

next summer,
i want to meet my new friend
because she reads to me
as no one else does
but she’s gone off to med school
to be a doctor.

only because of reservation
my uncle said, and everyone scoffed.
he forgot that she made his food everyday
before going back to study at home
he forgot that his daughter
watched the touchable TV in her touchable room
while she cleaned the touchable TV with her untouchable hands
and cleaned their touchable plates
at the untouchable well.

when my dad became a doctor
he moved to the big bad city
when she became a doctor
she moved back home
to treat the malices
of the country side
but she could not touch
the malice
of untouchability.

Untouchable- Part 1

bombay
the whispers echo
through the front yard
as I brush my teeth
in front of them.

she’s come from bombay
they whisper with reverence
with a feverish glow in their eyes
and chapped lips parted
a grin directed at me
with their loving, reverential gazes.

eppo ethi? when did You reach?
they ask me
as I rinse
not knowing what to tell them.
my mother taught me not to talk to strangers
but what about strangers from home?

they buy their milk
from our touchable cows
that they take care of
they but their curd
from our touchable vessels
that they wash
they buy rice
from our touchable fields
that they plough.

they thank us
tell us we’ve saved their lives
by letting their children
in our touchable schools
with their untouchable money
that we paid them
for cleaning
our touchable cows
our touchable vessels
our touchable cars
our touchable house
our touchable kitchens
with their untouchable hands

Bombay
they whisper
an unviable dream
(for them)
that came true
(for me)
because they cleaned me
with their untouchable dirtyhands
when I was born
when I was dirty

they buy the milk
and empty the vessel
clean it up
and push it away
to the touchable side
and go back
to protecting
and feeding
our touchable cows
with their untouchable hands
This week, I’m going to publish a series on Untouchability in India. Here’s Part 1/7. 

It’s of course just the way I’ve seen it around me and nothing concrete/universal. 

Maybe he won’t touch you.

What I tell myself everyday, as I walk past all the places I’ve been assaulted:
Maybe he won’t touch you.

Breathe In. Breathe Out.
They’re not here to assault you.
They’re walking past you.
They’re just walking past you.
Phew!

Oops, there it is.’Ay, Baby!’
You pick up your pace
As the little courage you have
Shatters and smears across the ground.

‘Come on. Just one time.’
You put your arms across your breasts
As if your soft hands will hide them
From their predatory eyes.

You curse yourself for walking alone
On a night, dressed in your skirt,
And your red, red lipstick
And taking a shortcut.
You should have known.

You cross the alley
And reach a lit road
And you heave in relief
Because they can’t hurt you now.
Can they?

You are just one of the thousands
They want against their body
They forget you, don’t they?
You’re just a body they want to own
A story they want to tell their buddies
Over beer and hand rolled cheap ciggarattes

But you remember the pain, the embarassment,
The shame, the guilt.
You wash your hands with soap a hundred times
Because that man kissed you on the palm of your hand
A hundred times, on the porch swing, when you were six.
And you stop wearing your favourite colour,
Because that man tweaked your nipple
And winked at you, with a smile.
And you accidentally burnt your favourite jeans
Because that man rubbed himself against you
On the public transport you have to take every day to work.

You take detours
And panic when your male friend hugs you
You walk a little away from the crowd
A little behind everybody
Slow, but not too slow.
You walk with your bag in front of you
Hugging it, because that’s a couple more layers
Till they get to you.
You put your earphones on
So you can be in the illusion
Of being isolated in the crowd.

Breathe In. Breathe Out.
You might change the world one day.
You might stop being a woman.
You might die and get burned soon.
And your great grandchildren will hopefully never understand this poem.

The Light at the End of This Tunnel

My heart beats a little louder today
Yesterday we had a problem without a name
Xanax was our constant companion
Education was just a suitor seeking game

My heart beats a little prouder today
My children can come out to an accepting mother
Who might hug the child and celebrate
Instead of closing the door to the face.

My heart beats a little happier today
My voice is getting louder
The crowd is getting stronger
The pocket, fuller.

My heart beats a little longer today
Someone is responding from afar
It echos from the darkest corners of the pit
The light at the end of this tunnel is bright