The Echoes

It’s the echoes that hurt.
The echoes that have forgotten where they came from,
and chose instead,
to reverberate louder and louder,
In my head.
Just a hum beneath my conscience,
on days when I smile,
without effort.
Drowning out everything else,
on the days when I feel particularly blue.

The echo of the day my father told me,
“Once you get married,
coming to see us ceases to be a right…
It becomes subject to various clauses,
subject to the decisions of a few select others.”
And I sat in the backseat of his car,
blinking back tears of rage,
wondering how, how in the world,
this man who had swung me from his arms,
when I was two,
and held me with all the love I had ever known,
could utter something so cruel, so casually.
As if what he had just said,
wouldn’t kill me inside.

The echo of a teacher who stood
at the head of a class and remarked authoritatively,
“A girl’s love for her parents is very superficial,
it lessens each year after her marriage,
and finally ceases into nothingness.”
And when the girls in the class wildly erupted in protest,
he challenged us with a snide smirk,
“Well, why don’t you wait and see for yourselves?”

The echo of the man who sat across from me,
on a bus ride home from college,
one late evening, just as the stars came out,
and broke out into song,
about the colour of my dupatta.
I squirmed in my seat uncomfortably,
jolted from my happy place,
acutely aware of my alone-ness,
and that he looked at me and saw something
vulnerable and weak.

The echo of the many many men,
who seemed to think,
that if I was out on the road,
in broad daylight, in a crowded street,
then it was their right,
to blow me a flying kiss,
as they whizzed past on their bikes.
To stare till I was made aware,
of every curve of my body,
every rise and fall of my skin,
that made me feel like I was a morsel of meat
that stray dogs in a dark alley fought over,

The echo of voices, that seemed,
surprised at my indignation,
surprised that I didn’t know,
that this was the way the world turned.
Surprised that I wasn’t ready,
to look the other way
and not raise a hue and cry,
over so many little insignificant things.

And trust me, I tried.
I tried to stop.
I tried to stop seeing things.
Tried not to take it to heart,
not to take offence,
when things that were said,
felt like a slap on my face.
I tried to bite my tongue till it bled,
so I wouldn’t start a fight.
I tiptoed, trying to ignore it all,
I thought that would help me,
breathe more easily.
be more happy.

The echoes, they only got louder.
as if they kept hitting the walls of my mind,
and gained force, instead of diminishing.
They drowned me,
the more I tried to cower down,
I realised, I couldn’t look into my own eyes,
I couldn’t be alone with myself,
because those echoes frightened me.

So here I am.
Loving life and laughter and everything in between.
Flawed, angry and unapologetically “easily offended”.
If that’s how you need to label me,
that’s okay too.
That’s the only way I can be,
With all the love in my heart,
Without those echoes killing my sanity.

Lekshmy S. Nair can be found on Instagram @shadows_and_smiles.

Featured image credit: 愚木混株 Cdd20/Pixabay