My amma
did not raise me
to be a poet, nor a feminist.
She asks, why are you a feminist?

When you’re raised
in a household
run by three women and one alcoholic,
wife-hitting father,
you tend to notice certain things
sooner or later.

Misogynistic comments
do not go unpunished
in my head.

Do you remember?
At age seven,
My aunt bought a Barbie instead of a G.I. Joe.

You were thrilled.

You were always more Barbie
than Ken,
You wanted the blonde hair,
the red polyester dress.

At age ten,
you start to think that,
in a family comprising mostly of women,
you need to pump
your machismo,
to the size
of a hot air balloon
that can block out the sun.

At age eleven,
you puff out
your Salman Khan-inspired chest and
try to intimidate
the 50-year-old creep
looking at your aunt,
while shopping for Christmas.

At twelve,
you realise
what you call
is what other people
call man boobs,
and for eternity,
you will hate that kid in your class
for pointing them out.
(But why are man boobs frowned upon?)

At thirteen,
you start despising
some parts of your body
for being too large, for always sticking out in crowds
but paper clip small, in the hands of your father.

At fourteen,
your wardrobe
officially changes,
to layers of sweaters
and always, always,
a t-shirt a size larger.
The fear
of being visually dissected
by strangers
while picking out groceries
in the supermarket
is shockingly visceral
(Is it me or do you also think everybody else is staring at me?
Do you think they are cutting off parts of me in their mind so that I can fit into their lives?)

At fifteen,
you realise you live in a country where kissing another boy
is illegal
and you realise
you were born
to commit crimes.
(How do you say
you’re more into poetry
than you’re into porn?)

At sixteen,
you discover feminism,
waking up from hibernation and sprouting from your throat.

You can’t stop seeing
what was not there
a while ago,
but it has always been there,
in your kitchen,
lounging in your living room
even in your own mouth.

At seventeen,
when you’re asked to speak on a YouTube video about
‘What does feminism mean to you?’
you will want to run your mouth
a hundred miles per hour.
But instead, you stutter out the word feminism,
as ‘fenimism’,
and you run off.

At eighteen,
you’ve committed reckless crimes so many times,
how does it feel
to be a criminal in seventy countries?

At nineteen,
you call yourself a bad feminist after reading Roxanne Gay
and write this poem to say ‘feminism’ without stuttering,
and slowly get ready to hold your boyfriend’s hand in public.

Edited by Arathy Asok. 

Deepak is a writer and feminist in the making. 

Featured image credit: 愚木混株 Cdd20/Pixabay