Poem: Don’t Tell Me To Cut My Hair

Artwork By Anshumaan Sathe

What is this thing that humans do
Looking at bodies with a magnifying glass like a scientist looks at an experiment gone wrong
I can feel the scrutiny in a crowded train, I’ll take off my earring to make you feel comfortable.
I can see you thinking,
Wondering what lies beneath these clothes
What color my skin is
What is the size of my genitalia
What is the point of my gender
Men and women are deemed sexual creatures
But my body is a work of art
An intellectual phenomenon, almost
Ready for you to stare at but never touch
And debate what these clothes mean, this hair, this skin, this nail hanging limply at the end of my
You will not like what you see,
And I am pleased to tell you, neither do I.
This body is not mine to like-
It belongs to you, and to the ID card I carry in my pocket.
It also belongs to the two signboards outside the station bathroom
It is the property of the person on the other end of the phone.
My body is yours to deem fit-
Not for criticism, no, that would be too rude
But for discussion
My body is yours to examine
And write a thesis about its bold subversion
After all, all I am is a bit of politics
An object that shines light on the woes of society
A statement made to make you feel guilty
And for some to look at and sigh,
Mala mulga zhala ki mulgi.
Do you dare to deem it fit
To examine closely enough
Who knows what wonders you will see
What exotic avenues of experimentation
“What a marvel you are!”
You will say
“I love the fact that you’re so yourself,
So unashamed of something so shameful
It’s very bold of you to be the way you are
With your pubes and your stretched skin
Your red scars and pimples you so comfortably exhibit
My, how difficult it must be to be you!
Even the ugly duckling became a swan at the end
But you should never change the way you are!”
Feel free to comment specifically upon how beautiful you think my belly fat is
After all, it managed to catch your attention
Not the fact that I was wearing lipstick, no, those are things we don’t talk about
We are a civil society, this is a polite conversation.
You will be polite enough to point out
That my hair is so long and lustrous,
“this is my favourite part of you”, you’ll say
Because this is the part that looks the most
Like what beauty is supposed to look
So I will guard it to the end of my life and to the end of time
I will guard it with every last breath I have.
Don’t tell me to cut my hair.

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