To the Women Before Me

I am all those women before me,
who covered their smiles under the ghunghat.
And also their tears.

Who existed in three spaces only –
their father’s aangans,
their husband’s beds,
their children’s mercy.

I am them in my very bones,
when I want to sacrifice a hobby for a friend,
or a choice for a fear.
or a right for a duty.

I am them, for I was raised that way,
taught to build a cemetery in my chest,
told to bury the biggest dreams the deepest,
and to say a silent prayer after
and walk away without turning back lest I give into weakness
and dig open the grave I just prayed upon.

I am the blood they shed every month in silence.
I am the shame they thought it brought with it.
I am the hushed tones,
the cold floor,
the isolation that was imposed.

These women before me,
they tied up desires in their braids,
and decorated them with gold and silver
they mastered the art of sewing

I am those women,
who were everywhere yet nowhere,
who were everyone’s, yet had no one.

I look up at the glass ceiling,
and consider myself lucky.
Theirs were of lead.
Even light refused to get to them.

So when they had daughters –
these women before me,
they braided their hair looser,
and shut the jewels away in boxes.

They raised them up with lesser chains,
but not too less–
their fears you see,
were deeply rooted.

I am the chains they broke free off,
one for each generation.
I am the step they took,

I am a cumulative of
their resistance,
their patience
and their rebellion.

And I stand on their bones,
the bones of the women before me,
on the mountains they built for me, so I can look further.
And I’m building another one out of my bones
for all the women
who come after me.

Samina Agwan is a teacher, a poet, a bibliophile and an activist. She believes in the power of words above all else and wants to write poems about a victorious past in a peaceful, empathetic and socialist present.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty