My Poetry is Angry

My poetry is angry.
My prose may be peaceful,
but my poetry is angry.
For it is only lately that I have realised
that I am “allowed” to be angry too.
It is only in my poetry that
I “don’t understand”, yet understand too much.

Every time I have travelled in a
train compartment meant for “general” but verbally labelled “gents”,
I have been groped, and stared at and subjugated.
”Why?”, they ask. “Why did you have to get into this compartment in the first place? You have your own compartment, don’t you!” they demand in defense.
That every time has been every single time I have stepped into one.

I have walked upon a busy street and
been whistled at and touched “accidentally”,
and told not to visit theatres alone.
Once again, to hear again,
“It’s a crowded place, it’s going to happen.”
To me, I once again hear,
“Why are you even walking here. Stay home.”
It makes me question, like it always has, whether I too have a public space to call my own.

Mumbai is a relatively safe city, you say, sure.
But which city is safe from the
Arre, this is bound to happen. Why were you travelling late at night? Don’t you know it isn’t safe out there.”
Trust me, even my nightmares know it isn’t.
Every private and public place, every day,
makes it impossible to not be haunted by the fear of getting raped.

And when it isn’t safe out there
how safe is home?
When those very people who aren’t afraid of broad daylight
blend unseen within closed rooms at night.
Parents are busy caring more about respect than their children’s trauma, and so,
they cover up sexual abuse that happens within the four walls of “home”,
the same way they ask those very children to cover up their bodies when they step outside,
and inside.
My body, unlike the former,
isn’t a crime, however.

I walk inside my school with a book clung close to my chest,
in my college, with my phone in hand,
with confidence that comes from having the accessibility to all of these things.
It soon crumbles down, however, just like the foundation of the education I have received,
after it has succeeded in perpetuating the same culture
that it should have put a period on instead.
But no, we talk only about hushes and full stops, not menstruation and sexual abuse, of both sexes,
or god forbid, sex education!
We talk only about gender equality,
not, “Son, her body is not your entitlement.”
I block another user from another DM,
as I walk through the corridors
of my educational institutions.

Yes, #NotAllMen
That train compartment has seen a man bearing on his back,
the physical weight of an entire group of other men,
waiting to take advantage of my body,
long after my mind has already been crushed in fear.
Yes, those busy streets have seen another man running to thrash a person I dare managed to call out for groping me.
Yes, I luckily have a few great men in my life who
don’t commit these crimes,
who genuinely want to “protect me”.

The only way they have been taught how to protect, however,
is with their physical strength only–
because women are supposed to be the weaker sex, right?
Tell me, how do you physically protect someone
from a monster that hides in crowds,
and feasts every minute on the slurs
and sense of ownership
sowed in language?
That a child starts speaking at the age of two,
becoming fully proficient at by the age of twenty.
A language taken too casually because sexism is anyway casual, no?
It grows on watching the fears instilled in women multiply,
even before they know who they are
and what their strength could be.

These “few men” exist,
but that doesn’t erase the apathy, the silent support,
of those “many men” who look but look away,
who see but do not wish to see
who violate because there’s no one to stop them
before they disappear into that crowd.
A crowd that somehow very well knows
how to stand up for itself when a finger is pointed at one of them,
especially by a woman.
A crowd that silently breeds the many men
because the few men, who
decided that they could physically protect,
chose not to speak.

Chose not to speak,
yes, women don’t speak up too,
yes, women shame women too,
Even though all they have seen in daily soaps
is that women can only be women’s worst enemies.
Cause god forbid, once again,
that they team up together, patriarchy will be hurt, no?
And when I say god forbid, I am an atheist.
It isn’t a justification, however,
it still holds them responsible for their actions.

But when a womxn has become too afraid to speak,
how can you blame her for crimes that
those many men collectively commit on her every day,
but make it seem like it was a series of self-harm constructed by her own individual will.
How will that womxn even know how to speak;
that she even can speak.

My prose may be peaceful,
but my poetry is angry.
Your standards for misogyny may be normal and the sexism casual,
but my poetry is too threatened and my voice long too suppressed to be anything but normal.
My prose may be peaceful,
but my poetry is angry.

Kiran Kakade is a researcher and an activist who survives on poetry, films and dogs.

Featured image credit: wendy CORNIQUET/Pixabay