Dove in a Cage

Trigger warning: Domestic violence

When I was ten,
teachers at school taught us that
a white dove is the symbol of peace.
At night,
when I asked Maa to draw a dove,
she hesitated,
hiding the bruises with her ghoongat,
that baba inscribed on her frosted hand.

My mother doesn’t know
how to speak in English,
she doesn’t know
the spelling of marriage,
but she knows how to spell ‘battlefield’.
Baba’s voice was the sound of a gunfire,
and Maa’s silence
was bullets trapped in a gun.
Women in my family become martyrs
before learning how to become soldiers.

My mother says that
she died before Baba;
the first time she wore a shroud
was when she wore her red lehenga;
the first time she felt blood on her skin
was when Baba put sindoor
on the parting line of her hair;
and the first time she resembled a funeral pyre was when Baba hit her.

Since Baba passed away,
Maa has been wearing white sarees;
and she often tells me in her mother tongue,
“A dove once caged,
is never free even after death.”

My mother doesn’t know
how to speak in English;
so last night,
when I asked Maa
if she has ever felt at peace,
she laughed and said,
“In piece,
in piece,
in pieces.”

Featured image: 卡晨/Unsplash