Femininity is so powerful that I nest to learn how to be vulnerable and yet to speak without a man shielding me.
Ma used to tell me stories of women in kitchen and how the kohl in their eyes spilled because of the sweat they carried of patriarchy. I have seen my mother’s bindi falling off everywhere near the kitchen and I always picked up to put it on my forehead because it carried so much strength of longing. The skin of a woman has seen the worst and yet they long to be touched so tenderly. The kitchen of the patriarchy has held woman’s beauty in flames and never fathomed to their voices dubbed inside the kitchen halls.
Ma, you always told me that you belonged to that same kitchen where love and kindness were filled with the palms soaked in so much love. But I want to tell you, the lost bindis narrated stories of you who wanted to see the world for women without jarring them in the flame.
Ma, let’s paint our hands in alta and tell Durga that we are beautiful women, shall we?
Ma tells me that even though her every jhumka made sounds of her beauty but she was never reminded of the power her femininity carried in a house where the dingy shoes of men marked the way for a house to run. Women behind curtains and kitchens write stories of their power inside the saree where she hides a daughter to make her believe, women and their palms should always be reminded of robustness and strength because a hand that can cook well, is a hand can plunge knives of sexism and misogyny this world decorated on women.
Today, when I put a bindi, hold a flower, flicker the jhumka around my ears, I get reminded of how much I have grown up with so much vulnerability that I was never scared to embrace femininity in a world making pits of unbothered masculinity. Ma, can we wear a saree and go to Rabindra sangeet where women are always appreciated?
With femininity I learnt to be calm, to be loved, to love, to nurture, to grow and to embrace strength in the beauty of little lessons my mother stitched me with. I can use the word beautiful with me because femininity reminds me to hug myself on nights when I still feel the tremors men put me into.
I am my mother’s daughter, who she kept hidden inside her pallu because she knew, she wanted me to call her beautiful when I held her first bindi while playing with her jhumkas as a child.
Ma, we are beautiful women, aren’t we?
harshit, finding strength with femininity.
Harshit Jalan (he/they) is a 22-year-old journalism student and a queer poet writing about the LGBTQIA+ community and womenhood. His favourite writer is Ocean Vuong.