i. The only family heirloom great grandma passed down to us is resistance
But she wore it as a silent anklet,
bell-less and clandestine under the saree
her husband wanted worn to bed.
Grandma, a little bolder than her mother,
alchemized the anklet to a waist belt.
And my mother later turned it into a bangle.
And now it cordially waits for my designs
in her almirah, as I tell her I plan to flaunt it
on my forehead as a flamboyant maang teeka,
seizing any space supposed for a saffron tilak.
ii. At 20, I learn to mould armour for my future daughter,
because my mother taught me to fight too late
and I’d rather have my daughter complain
that I was too early.
But I wonder
What if my daughter’s born squeamish to blood?
What if she faints at the sight of a blade?
I wonder, how many daughters have to kill against their will
so that their daughters won’t have to one day?
iii. At 20, mother took an oath
that she’d change the world
or raise a daughter who would do so.
I drop my pen and pick up a sword
so that the oath doesn’t become another family heirloom.
All the while, hoping that my daughter picks up the pen I dropped
and writes us all a story I couldn’t.
iv. At 20, grandma was a mother of two,
and her waist belt didn’t fit her anymore
so she unclipped it as her daughter watched
the marks on her skin
from when it was too delicate a canvas
for resistance; being made a woman
when she didn’t yet know
what it was to be a girl.
v. At 20, I hope my daughter
is busy loving life,
nursing her flowers in a pest-less world,
without carrying the guilt of a bad feminist.
I hope she only sees my maang teeka
as an antique in a museum, with wonder in her eyes,
with a war-proof glass separating our ages,
with a heart full of unspoilt innocence
and dainty dreams.
And if there ever comes a time
for my girl to seek out her armour,
I will resurrect the souls of her ancestors
buried in the graveyard of burnt witches
and cast a protection spell so strong
that her palms remain as rosy as her million dreams
from never having to wield
a baneful sword against a baneful man.
At 20, I hope the only heirloom my girl dreams of passing down
is a pendant of love,
prepared to age like fine wine.
Shreya Chadal, 20, is a writer, storyteller and a theatre artist.