Terms and Conditions Apply

When the doctor announces, “It’s a girl”,
they forget to state,
that terms and conditions apply
at every stage.
Terms that we never agreed to,
and yet, are bound by.
conditions we hardly ever read,
which yet keep us tethered.

When I was a kid,
I used to play with dolls
thin, fair and tall.
These dolls cooked in mini utensils
of the kitchen set I owned.
My parents never bought me cars
or big tanks,
because these toys,
after all,
were ‘meant’ for the boys.
I never questioned them
neither did I ask why,
my dolls ended up in the kitchen always
or, why
did their wardrobe not have
and jerseys
and space suits
and white coats.

I was eight when my grandma advised
“sit like a girl, and speak like one too”,
I shrivelled,
as the leaves of the touch-me-not do,
brought my knees close,
and the walls of my mind, closer.
Now, eighteen,
I sit as I please,
I say what I feel,
because, you see,
I’d rather be un-ladylike
than step back from putting up my fight.

Growing up, I realised,
that if I take my age on the x-axis
and the length of my dresses on y,
I’d get an upward sloping curve,
for my mum would always verve,
“We trust you, but not the world”.
But Ma,
the guy on the street ogled me
even when I wore pants with a tee.

I was thirteen,
when they sexualised my bra
tighten the hook,
until you can’t breathe
hide the strap,
“You’re asking for it”.
But you know what,
Let’s just bury the goddamn bra
on days we wish to set free,
let’s not wear it just to appease patriarchy.

My body, they say, is a temple
but only for twenty-three days a month,
’cause I bleed for seven,
and an impurity is what I become.

My dad does not let me go out late at night
“Since predators are everywhere,
girls should just stay inside”.
But Papa,
my friend got raped
inside the four walls
that you call safe.

For every time, people reasoned
“Men will be men” to limit
my thoughts,
my choices,
my beliefs,
my freedom,
my existence,
“Not all men”, is what they said in the same sentence.
But, hey,
ENOUGH, to make me doubt my own shadow
as someone following me
while I’m out at night.
ENOUGH, to make my parents shudder
at the thought of letting me
wear what I want,
and speak as I might.
ENOUGH, to make me drown my head
when I’m trotting alone on the road.
ENOUGH, for making me feel
that I, am not enough.

But now,
to me and to others,
who have been made to feel like this before,
do not let your choices be affected anymore
Wear your skirts short,
if you want to,
let your bra straps be,
(for they seldom listen to you!)
widen your knees apart — they need breathing space, too
speak out your heart
oh look, how well you do
bleed with pride, fellow goddesses
’cause that blood of yours is not a blot.
Embrace your bodies
whether too thin or too fat
too tall or too short
too curvy or too flat,
because we are not the dolls in cardboard boxes
that we used to play with,
because the XX in our genetics
does not have an asterisk in superscript,
that defines the terms and conditions,
we’re supposed to live with.

Saavriti Verma is a student of Economics at Gargi College who reads, writes and paints when she is not figuring out equations and graphs. She tweets @saavriti.

Featured image credit: Junior Skumbag/Unsplash