I was a child of eight,
my frail hands
in the old dirt-stained mirror;
cuffed with glass bangles,
my little body was wrapped
in a bright red saree.
I didn’t like this imagery.
It was never in tandem with my own scenery.
That was the year I was worshiped as the kunwari,
the pre-pubescent nymph
on the eighth day of Devi-puja.
I sat in front of the same dirt-stained mirror.
It was the ninth day of Devi-puja.
I retrieved a red bindi from the wooden frame,
and placed it between my brows.
My body was in conflict with my Self
Yet, I didn’t howl.
My dark frail fingers
pressed onto the dark kohl
resting atop an earthen bowl,
over and under
I am sixteen,
carrying a tray full of seasoned ripe fruits
into the pandal of the Goddess.
under the spectacle of Goddess worship,
I was touched by a man
who wrapped a white cloth around his body
and danced with fire for the Goddess’s glory.
He abhorred the pants on my body,
desiring the satin petticoat of a Nari.
After his legs were charred and burnt
by gleaming coal,
he found me behind the pandal,
and grabbing a hold of my wrists,
all onto me.
He desired me as Parvati,
but all along, I was Ardhanari.
I am now a hag of sixty.
Exiled by society
I live by my lonesome,
far into the distant desert.
I am the object of folklore
that is whispered to little children each night.
In the whispers,
they call me Ardhanari:
the mythical synthesis of nar and nari,
who too is a deity.
But in their tale,
I could never avail
I desired for,
when little girls are asleep,
I sneak into their village
to draw two buckets full
I turn my back
and silently walk away,
away from your world,
away from its shackles,
with my feet
to your norms.
And as I walk home,
my silver mane dances,
of the west.