Uncertain Futures

I emerge starry-eyed after 14 years of school,
the world should feel like hope,
it should feel like new possibilities and all the potential,
it should entice me with all the people I can be,
instead, what I feel is dread.

This is not the India I have learnt about and known.
Now owning your identity feels like walking a tightrope,
it is now a world that thrives on denial.
Denial of atrocities, however grave they may be,
basic compassion and humanity in human hearts seem to be dead.

It is not the India of my childhood anymore,
nobody cared about religions in the tiny India I grew up in,
We would not think twice before diving into a friend’s school lunch,
all festivals were celebrated clamouring into each other’s homes,
I guess you can say that I see differently because I grew up.

Being a Muslim woman is something which can no longer go ignored,
your opinions are drowned as easily as waves erasing writings on the sand.
The way people treat you differently in situations feels like a solid resounding punch.
You are busy building walls and defences, and when you look up, you see another crisis has come,
it is in fact centuries of hate that have been slowly and steadily built up.

You can see the hate in the eyes of a crowd that beats a man to death,
you can detect it in the derogatory weekend of the trollers on social media,
you can sense it in the way the media is now a weapon for spewing hate,
you can perceive it every single time the government and judiciary choose to look away.

People have started to live counting each and every breath,
life feels like a nightmare in this dystopia.
You study and you give it your all but you are still uncertain about your fate,
you do your part and try and treat people around you with a little more kindness and understanding,
you suck it up, keep your head down and pray that tomorrow is better than yesterday.

Is it such a crime for me to be who I am?
Does my existence cause you such harm?
Don’t I get to have the fundamental human rights promised to everybody?
The right to have whatever job I want, to exist peacefully,
and the right to love who I love?
The basic guarantee that the roof over my head won’t be demolished, and I won’t be mercilessly beaten and thrown in jail?

Will I ever get to see the India of my dreams?
A place where people’s hearts are once again warm,
a country where the morning papers cease to be bloody,
where I can think about my future and not be this hesitant?
Is it too much to ask for the beautiful country I was born in and love?
So I stop for a moment, take a deep breath and dive in,
I do my best, I hope, I pray, and I keep my fingers crossed.
Deep down it is still that India,
it has to be.

Kaunain Fatima is an 18-year-old from Lucknow.

Featured image: Amazon/Editing: LiveWire