By Esha Chauhan
My friends wish to go back to my hometown,
Every three months.
I, do not join them.
They ask me,
Don’t you want to go back to your roots?
To a place that was a second home,
Visit your school, the teachers?
All I can possibly think to say is,
How can I call this place a home, if I have never even felt comfortable enough to wear what I want, here?
Herein the city of men with knives for tongues and women with plastered on smiles
There is no space for a woman with a voice.
The man’s presence fills the room, and the woman’s still makes space for it.
Where I come from,
A woman with a voice and one with a gun are equally terrifying.
On the car ride over to my relatives’ home,
My mother used to warn me
Not every family gathering needs to turn into an argument
I have been trained to not fight,
A warrior in armour sitting in the back of a car,
My legs visible in open defiance of men with shark teeth
Bold red on my lip in opposition to the baby pink blush they want me to embrace.
The smog in this city meets the judgmental glances of women who live down the street
And hit me in the chest, a combined force.
I wonder if they use me a cautionary tales for their girls,
Teaching them to not be like that girl
The one who is often found on the back of a motorcycle—
I hope, and pray,
They know better than to listen.
They learn to follow the rules only after bending them a little.
I can only wish them,
To be courageous,
Turn the music on louder,
And drown out all the noise.