Without a Place

We present this work in honor of Bihar Divas.

03-22 Anamika
Anamika
Indian
b. 1961

 

This is how the shloka goes —
women, nails and hair
once they’ve fallen
just can’t be put back in place
said our Sanskrit teacher.

Frozen in place out of fear
we girls held on tight to our seats.
Place, what is this ‘place’?
We were shown our place
in the first grade.
We remembered our elementary school lessons
Ram, go to school, son,
Radha, go and cook pakora!
Ram, sip sugar syrup,
Radha, bring your broom!
Ram, bedtime, school tomorrow
Radha, go and make the bed for brother.
Aha! This is your new house
Look Ram! Here’s your room
“And mine?”
Oh, little loony!
Girls are wind, the sun and the good earth
They have no homes
“Those who don’t have a home,
where do they belong?”

Which is the place from where we fall
become clipped nails, fallen hair trapped in combs,
fit only to be swept away
Houses left behind, paths left behind
people were left behind
questions chasing us, too left behind
Leaving behind tradition,
it seems to me I’m as out of context
as a short line
from a great classic
scribbled on a BA examination paper

But I don’t want
somebody to sit down and
analyse me
to pigeonhole me
At long last, beyond all contexts
with real difficulty
I’ve gotten here

Let me be hummed
like an abhang,
unfinished.

 

Translation by Arlene Zide

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