Travel/I explore | Prithiva Sharma

Contains references to rape

I am somehow a tourist in my own country;

my body is a map of my country,
each bare patch of skin a gali that girls
are told not to pass through

my father has an affinity for old hindi music
and every day I wake up to kishore kumar/hemant kumar/talat mahmood/someone

the thing about old hindi music is that
it has taught me all throughout that
our lives are not ours, they’re up
for sacrifice

funny enough, that is what modern hindi music
teaches me about my body, that it is not mine,
it’s up for sale
in a market I never knew existed

a lesson in ancient sexual practices
took me to khajuraho, where I saw
an entire wall of porn more explicit than the internet

(they call it puja, a prayer ritual,
while we are punished for this religion)

remember I mentioned a gali girls shouldn’t pass through?
this – sex – was that;
as of 2018, homosexuality is decriminalized in India
as of 2018, victim shaming is still the most famous kink in India

this one time, a rape victim was told
“call your rapist bhai and he will leave you”
this one time, I called my classmate bhai
and he said “don’t call me bhai, I don’t want
to be ‘brozoned’”

we have brothers but we really don’t

we have fathers but that is never the point
we have mothers but somehow, they’re
the silent patriots ready to pull the rope

colonization=patriarchy=”civilizing the wild”
we, as women, are wild (we start with a ‘W’ too)

so, I have to hide my flesh
because my body is my family/society/country
and those who run it don’t want to desecrate their temples

I am a tourist in my own country, my own body,
because I don’t know my own identity
every once in a while someone comes along
and tells me what I am

(you’re too loud/you’re too bossy/you’re too much/I’m proud of you)

but today, I am here, in my body, and I might just know who I am

(you’re not a tourist/you’re a native/you might be bisexual/you are) 

I’m proud of you.
I’m proud of you.
I’m proud of you.

 


Glossary:

Gali – a narrow street
Kishore Kumar/Hemant Kumar/Talat Mahmood – Hindi singers and composers based around the 70s and 80s era
Khajuraho – Khajuraho Temple, located in Madhya Pradesh, India
Puja – prayer ritual, an act of worship
Bhai – brother

 


Writer’s Commentary

2018 was the year of decriminalization of homosexuality in India, and the year of formation of foundations for a lot of new identities. The piece takes this moment as a thread, and talks about how I, as a woman, am still living without an independent identity majorly because my context doesn’t allow me to have one.

There are light references to cultures in history – music, society and architecture, and how Indian community allows certain relationship markers and titles to excuse behaviours. The rape case mentioned is real – took place somewhere around 2009, not enough concrete accounts in media due to political involvement. I mentioned it because of a politician’s statement for the victim, where he states that if a girl is getting raped, she should address her rapist as her ‘brother’ and he’ll spare her, keeping in mind the sanctity of the bond in this culture.

This poem is basically an account of me as a women recounting my own history through the 20 years of my life.


Prithiva Sharma is a twenty-year old student from India, currently almost graduating with a Bachelors of Arts major in English Literature. She spends her time obsessing over Greek and Mughal history, roaming around deserted tombs in Delhi, and arguing about the character of Captain America as a marker of American culture. Her pieces have previously been published in Brown Girl Magazine, Esthesia Mag and Vagabond City.

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