is a poet, research scholar and an Assistant Professor of English. Her research interests are rooted in crime fiction studies, feminist literary studies and dalit studies. Her poems have appeared in The CQ: A Literary Magazine and Global Poemic and will soon appear in Faces to the Sun: A Mental Health Awareness Anthology and Point Positive Publishing’s Rebloom Anthology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I looked at myself in the mirror,
Smeared my face with mousse and compact powder,
Tried to draw a winged liner, changed into a new dress, wore heels.
I looked at myself again in the mirror.
Ah! My saggy double-chin!
I vehemently dabbed the powder puff to hide it.
My tummy bulging out from beneath my crop tee,
I took a deep breath and tucked my stomach in,
My wide thighs, too wide to be called aesthetically pleasing, were peeping from my denims.
I looked at myself again.
My boyfriend calling me a fat pig flashed in front of my eyes,
Called me a typical behenji, for wearing salwar-suits,
He asked me to draw inspiration from his ex-girlfriend who was beautiful and tantalizing.
Mocking my oiled hairs, he had thrown me out of his car in the middle of nowhere because my ugliness embarrassed him.
I was too unattractive and simple to be his girlfriend.
And now here I stood in front of the mirror, trying to recover from the humiliation I had been subjected to.
I could no longer hold my breath, my tummy bulged out again, I noticed the stretch marks spread like worms on my infected body.
I screamed and wailed inside the locked doors,
I caught hold of the layer of adipose fat that has stubbornly clung to my belly since my adolescent years,
I desperately wanted to slash it off with a knife,
I pleaded and implored to fit in, to belong, to be called beautiful.
I looked at myself in the mirror again.
My kajal had smudged, the make-up had started wiping off, mirroring a grotesque hideous caricature,
I choked. I suddenly felt pity at the reflection.
This was not me,
In a vain attempt to please his eyes I had ended up creating a travesty of my own identity, a distorted mimicry of his beauty standards.
I wiped my tears and with a sudden urge I stood up.
I held myself in an embrace… I wanted to my scars to heal.
I changed into my salwar-suit, wore my kolhapuri sandals,
I let my body breathe, heave a sigh of relief,
I looked at myself in the mirror,
This is me.
It is now time to end the drama and heal my scars, recover my strength,
I will fight the body-shamer with renewed ardour and fervor.
I opened the door and stepped out of the coop,
Call me what you please, you cannot break my heart anymore.
(Note: behenji : a woman who favours traditional Indian clothing, music, etc. over the Western equivalents. )
Smoke on the Cappuccino
I take a puff from my cigarette,
My cappuccino has arrived,
I slowly let my senses bask in the olfactory delight of the caffeine.
As I take my first sip, I find a man staring at my naked legs,
I stare straight into his eyes and he flashes his nicotine-stained teeth at me,
Two women walking past the counter watch me with raised eyebrows as I take another puff,
My tattooed cleavage possibly posing a threat to their morals and culture.
I take a bite from my chicken club sandwich.
The guy sitting behind my table is constantly trying to read the measurements of my body,
Abruptly he comes up and occupies the empty chair in front of me.
Calling me a pretty face, he quickly descends to praising my tattoos and my voluptuous curves.
He slyly rests his hand on my thighs and winks.
He quickly scribbles the name of a filthy little inn where he would be waiting for me tonight.
Turning my charm on, I give him a smile, a seductively naughty smile,
I skillfully take his fingers into mine,
I slowly twist them, stamping his feet with my heels all the while.
He shouts in pain and calls me a bitch!
I laugh out loud this time.
Although I abhor the idea of wasting my coffee, yet I could not but just throw it on his face.
Picking up another cappuccino from the counter, I walk towards the exit.
The man with his nicotine-stained teeth is still staring at me,
I look at him, my stern black eyes,
He suddenly chokes on his cup.
I laugh again!
As I walk down the street, I light yet another cigarette,
This time I take a long puff and let the world disappear in smoke.