Poorvika Subramaniam

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'.


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