The Color of My Blood

It’s haemoglobin that imparts the colour red to our blood.
Instead of that red pigment, God injected melanin into my blood,
and a black fluid runs through my veins.
People call it ‘caste’,
and that’s what makes me untouchable.

It oozes out from every pore of my body,
making me look like a complete devil.
I don’t have a mirror at home,
for I fear standing in front of it.
I don’t want to see what people with the ‘right amount of haemoglobin‘ see in me.

I am often told I am not welcome at God’s house,
because the caste running in my blood
leaves ruinous footprints on its pure floor,
and on people’s hearts.
My skin is fairer than milk,
but when I touch the milk to be offered to God,
it turns ugly,
and God hates impurity.

Black is made by mixing yellow and blue
in red,
which makes me impure and corrupt,
so, every time I step outside,
I am reminded not to sit with uncontaminated people,
because the air I exhale may injure their self-worth.

I want to study,
but whenever I try to buy a book,
I am asked for my identity,
the colour of my blood,
red – welcomed,
black – shunned,
because words don’t want to be chewed in a filthy mouth,
nor can they rest in a polluted mind.

I am 28 and still figuring out
what is it that makes my heart worthy of being disvalued,
my existence small enough to be crushed, walked upon,
my presence, unwanted, unfit for their world,
and my aroma, toxic for all mankind.

Questions, like prisoners, caged inside my belly,
till they serve their sentence, to find an answer,
they can’t leave.
They feed on my soul,
pushing the sanity of my mind to the darkness of a black hole,
from where there is no return.
Heart, burdened by pumping blood filled with resentment,
until one day,
it gives up!

For it didn’t want to live in the world,
where stars are not worshipped,
but what is worshipped is actually a star,
where anything ugly is hated and hatred is framed,
and decorated on walls,
where gold is kept safe in a locker and,
life is placed on the tip of the sword.

And my blood, ‘red‘ and ‘rich in haemoglobin‘,
spilt all over the black floor of my house,
it evaporated from the frustration that was bubbling for years,
and rained down on every house,
every person,
leaving murderous soot on their forehead.

Ayesha Jamal is an engineer, mother and aspiring poet. 

Featured image: People attend a protest rally against what they say are attacks on India’s low-caste Dalit community in Ahmedabad, India. Photo: Reuters