After whispered dining table conversations about ‘those’ people.
After handing out character certificates to the ones considered exceptions.
After needing to place your stamp on their patriotism.
After believing your faith is under threat because another is following theirs.
After rejecting them as tenants because this is a good neighbourhood and we
don’t want trouble.
After making an inventory of their kitchen and peering into their fridge.
After believing this is your country and they just live in it.
After having a nervous breakdown because your precious child has fallen
in love with one of, them.
After believing in the superiority of your faith that actually teaches you there is no,
After defending your bigotry with that one friend you made in high school.
After scanning the names of people involved in any crime in any part of the
country, hoping to find the names that will reveal their faith.
After irony dies a hundred deaths,
Eid Mubarak. Send Biryani.
The children of the poor point finger guns at the sky,
chasing fighter jets barefooted,
across a barren land.
It rains petals into their hungry stomachs.
They open their mouths and laugh.
The rich stand at their windows and clap,
their eyes overcome,
A muscle needs flexing.
Teach your daughters when they are little girls to practice saying no.
Let them know that they can.
Let them feel that they will be heard when they say it.
That what they say no to, will not be forced onto them, regardless.
That no is not a placeholder for an eventual yes.
That no does not need to change when it meets
cajoling, convincing, begging, threatening,
That no is not maybe, I’ll think about it, or could you make up my mind for me.
That no is an expression of their truth and their truth matters.
Teach them this: No does not make them difficult, moody, rude, arrogant, badly behaved.
That no is not a failure to adjust.
That no is not a stamp of disobedience on their bodies.
It is simply no.
And it is theirs to apply to their bodies, their lives, their spirit.
For it is possible that the world will not.
Nandini Sen Mehra processes her world through poetry. Her debut book of poems, Whorls Within, with a foreword by Gulzar is available on Amazon. A seeker of truth within multiplicity, she attempts to explore the tenderness and terror of the human experience through her work. Born in Kolkata, she called many cities in India home, before moving to the United States, Australia and finally Singapore, where she now lives. Tea and forest trails remain her enduring pleasures.