Hey, they said–
voices full of condoned sympathy–
walk in, we want you here,
we want you as you come – all of you, but your identity –
subtly slipped off at the entry.
We’re not asking for much,
Only that you don’t cause alarm
with your cries of diversity.
If your drape guards your spirit,
leave your spirit there too.
We’re free people – we are.
But we practice freedom only when
it fits within our smoked mirror binaries.
You are welcome, they said,
all of you–
but when you come
leave it behind, leave it at the entry,
that one visible piece of your identity.
We’ll sharpen your mind but only
if you’d let your democracy be,
we’ll practice your diversity but
we’ll dye it a subtle orange, if you allow it,
we’ll hold it against you if you drape yourselves
but if you’ll let it go,
so will we.
We’ll let you enter,
all we’ll take is your identity.
We promise, we want you here,
but all we ask is that you hold it back,
the subtleties of your identity,
we’re not asking for all that much-
But hey, we’ll let it be,
we’ll let you be
when you take the first step, and
dismantle the start of your identity.
We’ll let you in, and we’ll want you then,
when you let it go, and you leave
your hijab at the entry.
Featured image: Students stand outside a college as they boycott classes after being denied entry with hijab in the college premises, in Chikmagalur, on February 21, 2022. Photo: PTI