I laugh unabashedly, from the belly out Someone has said something absurd They all watch me in derision and doubt This woman who shouldn’t be seen or heard She speaks! What social license does she bear? She’s no debutante, she’s no political heir Yet she comes to these exclusive soirées And instead of blurring, fading away Into the background, this upstart lets down her hair
I walk out gaily, dressed like a queen I bump into my neighbour, the virulent Sameen Her face already garbed in a smug smile She says “Where to Maha? So dressed to kill?” I laugh loudly, her smile falters a bit “Just to the market, to get some things A shirt from Sapphire, two thootis* of kheer* A tub of it’s-none-of-your-business-my-dear Is there something you would like me to bring?
I’ve been alone these twenty five years But I’ve never been lonely, I decided that early I surmounted my doubts conquered my fears It wasn’t easy, it took a few years It took some lonesomeness, some vanishing acts From folks I called friends and even family who cracked Under the pressure of seeing me break out Of the box built for me by the socially devout But I dug in my heels, I wasn’t going back
Now there are friends and well wishers anew In all that chaff, I found these gems too They give me hope, they let me be me It’s been food for my soul, this honesty I know who I am and who I want to be And it’s not a reflection of what society Has plotted and planned for someone that swerves Through fate or design, outside its bell curve I’m contented, eccentric and oh so happy!
* Jawab-e-Shikwa: “Shikwa” (Complaint in Urdu) and “Jawab-e-Shikwa” (Response to Complaint) are poems written by the poet Mohammad Iqbal. They are known for their lyrical beauty and depth of thought
* Thooti: a small clay saucer in which some Pakistani and Indian desserts are sold in order to keep them cool and fresh