Hello everyone, I’ve finally reached the penultimate poem in this series. I’ve really struggled to write today’s post – I had a bad case of writer’s block all through last week.
There has been a lot of talk regarding female suppression – suppression of women’s speech, cultural suppression of female sexuality and so on. Every once in a while, I go back and listen to Chimamanda Adiche’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. She openly talks about the discrimination women face and other issues that marginalise women around the world. You can watch it here or you could buy a copy of the speech here.
Before you delve into today’s poem, here are the links to the last five poems in the series –
Forlorn Love – Lady in Purple;
Muffled Screams – Lady in Blue and
I once read somewhere “The freedom to choose is the art of what it means to be human”. However, I had not been given a life of choices. Mine had always been a prerequisite. A set of rules I had to follow – one culture dictated!
You see, I was returned – returned back to my father. I was too aware. I didn’t even know what that meant. ‘Too aware?’
My father sold me off at the age of 16. “I need the money” he said. I didn’t even get to say goodbye – to my friends in school, to my neighbors, not even to my mother. All I got from her was a smile… A smile. She seemed so proud that I, her daughter had ‘come of age’. I was facing the same thing she faced at my age. I was just shipped off, bag in hand into this dirty truck – to be his wife.
I was the star student in school. I was that student who knew a bit about everything. My village school did not have a library. In fact, I had to walk two villages everyday just to get to the nearest library; but I did not mind. Exploring the world had always been my dream – and I got to do it with books.
The ride in that dirty truck seemed much longer than my daily two-village trek. Life as I knew it was no more – my world shattered.
Still frames in my mind
Each moment, my heartbeat dropped
My life had been defined
I remember walking into the house – a dingy flat. The other two wives stared at me, green with envy. Apparently, I was the lucky wife. I got to live in the flat with him, while they shared the boys’ quarters at the back. Lucky??? I doubt they knew the meaning – this certainly did not feel like luck.
Sex! It was the worst I had ever had. He just lay there, doing his business, not minding if I derived pleasure from it. I tried to change positions and the sheer horror on his face. “Where did you learn that?”… “From books” I replied. He murmured under his breath, but I heard him clearly. Something about how if I had not cost him so much, he would drive me right back to my father’s house.
I had so much to dream about
And other things, I needed to forget
Being in his house didn’t slow me down. I still made my visits to the library – the one here was bigger. Endless possibilities!!! I read about animals and the earth, politics and business, science and technology, sports and entertainment. Anything there was to read, I read it all!
The other wives got jealous. They would laugh at me as I read, told me I was wasting my time. They would tease and taunt and pull my hair. Ordered me around to do chores – do the dishes, scrub the pots, mop the floors!!!
Blisters from the metal sponge
I needed to take a plunge
In my head I was shrieking
Years passed and I decided to volunteer in the neighborhood school. I was tired of spending time scrubbing pots and sweeping the compound. I taught the children all I knew – numbers, letters, poems, songs, games…
One day he came home – shouting. I was embarrassing him. “How dare you find a job?” I had never been so puzzled. “I forbid you to leave this house, you should be getting ready to give me babies”. I cried. I was only 18. I dreamt of having children at 25.
Him, so narrow-minded
More interested in my genes
Once again, I was blind-sided
I quit from the school but I kept on reading. That was the closest thing I had to my sanity. One day his friends came over, as they did every Sunday. It was my turn to serve the guests… They were discussing politics and ideologies. Eventually I chipped in.We talked about how the world was now ruled by capitalism, how I wished we lived in a communist world. They joked about how my husband was a socialist – his wives his property. “You didn’t tell us your wife was very smart” they chanted. “She should join us in our weekly debates, perhaps we would not lose so much” He laughed but I could see the anger in his eyes. I really did not care.
I was supposed to be just something acquired
Never meant to engage
I guess that was the last straw. “Pack your things!!! Today you leave”. That’s the story of how I was returned back to my father – for being too aware.
My father distraught
You are damaged goods
Shame you have brought
You, I never understood
I looked around – not much had changed since I left. Still no library, but my life was mine again. It was not over; I was just older and wiser. I went back to school.
Two decades and half a score
I am new – fresh and clean
My dreams have made me soar
I am the Lady in Green
**Photo Credit – Jianlinsf Tumblr
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