I walk down the street
With my Amma beside me,
Her soiled pallu wrapped around
Her frizzly hair with streaks of grey.
Doors shut behind us
As we walk; all eyes ahead
Avoid contact with ours.
I look around with slight haze
Frantically looking for a friendly face.
We go home to a strange man
Waiting outside; his hands down his pants.
A new man each day, but I dare not ask why.
Amma ushers me in hastily,
As though the harsh realities of the world outside
Cease to exist as soon as we shut the door.
But I dare not say a word.
She splashes water onto her
Pale, weary face and heads out,
Leaving me blissfully unaware of her state.
Encumbered by the responsibility of putting food on the plate,
She starves and slaves from dawn to dusk.
I gaze outside the window to see
A group of exuberant little boys
Running around in tucked-out white shirts and khaki shorts.
I feel numb. I feel nothing.
My heart no longer yearns for inclusion
Or even for a mother's warmth.
Years of make-believe reassurances
Have taken my innocence away,
The innocence that every child is deserving of.
In solitude alone, I find the liberty I seek.
I let go of the well-trodden path
And settle into the stigmatized hole.
I sit there, hoping for a prejudice-free tomorrow
Where my daughters run barefoot
On the sparkling sand by the sea,
Teasing, tittering with other children.
A tomorrow where they shine with dauntless optimism,
A tomorrow where they walk on the streets
With their heads held high.
A tomorrow where they unleash themselves
From the derogatory stance of this world,
A tomorrow that I call 'freedom'.