Four Good Words: Vinita Agrawal

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Vinita Agrawal is an award winning author of four books of poetry. She has edited an anthology on climate change titled Open Your Eyes. She has curated literary events for PEN MUMBAI. She is on the advisory board of the Tagore literary prize.

Bespoken

So many nameless daughters lost
that we cannot begin to look for them.
Their absence encased
in the prayers of those who survived.

The sun shines for the ‘master’ of the house
while ‘she’ remains twinned to darkness;
small barred windows
hinting at far off blue skies.

Some days, she makes it to adult literacy classes
Her face bruised.
The ellipsis of a veil
bending her story into the archives of flesh.

Victory does not lie in silence,
but in speaking up.
Mitigation, in rubbing the blood
off the morning mirror,

and feeling it throb in veins
like a train ploughing tracks.
Her battles fought –
word by word, act by act.

Woman, girl, female foetus…
the world stands hushed before you
like the air of stillness before a storm;
say whatever it is that you have to say.


Woman

Like a plastic palmyra showcased at the front door
A rag doll – gloved, thumb-printed, buttressed
bruised, soughed, oboe-d
and at the end of it all – grey like the ash of a rose.

Rabbit-like. Fearful, frightened.
Babbling, burbling, dripping
scurrying, stumbling, succumbing
until reduced to a sobbing choir of broken hummingbirds.

She is his colour-card for abuse
one shade for every kind;
to rape, demean, curb, thrash, burn, mutilate, violate, intimidate,
a fertile ground for the plough of his madness.

She is no one. She is nothing.
She is dry yellow grass, an invasive weed
sawdust, thorn, nettle.
an abandoned trellis on which he pegs his evils.

But really, she is none of these.
She is a cause to be fought for in her own voice.
Though sandpapered by scars of a thousand hard years
her resilience is still intact.

Woman – she shines in a light of her own – ever evolving
weaving a special bond with her sisterhood
no veil, no hijab, no purdah can conceal her strength
nothing can keep her down.

She is Ma Durga, Ma Kali, Ling Bhairavi
Jwala, Amba, Bhavani
the fierce rider of tigers, spewer of fire
killer of demons, drinker of blood.

She is the twin of every aspect that exists in the universe
the half of the whole called man
She is Shakti. The bearer of souls.
Because of her man exists.


Some Things I Knew The Day I Was Born

I’d craft phrases
To please your delicate ego

Never tell you what I really thought or how I felt
only what you wished to hear

I’d disappear inside my home
nor you or the children would care to look for me

I’d nurture modest dreams, mildly defining who I was
but not in a way that might threaten your kingdom

I’d dress demurely, cover my legs and shoulders
curb the desires marbling somewhere around my navel

I’d choke on my own wild silence
on some dark nights of stark solitude

Being born female is a crime
I’d be so soundless that I might not be at all

Worst of all, duplicity would be my greatest talent
hypocrisy and fakery my biggest virtues

So it would go on, without respite
everyday – a blank page

Some things I knew the day I was born


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