Kali's picture

apologies for breathing

little hands, dusty and wrinkled ask me to stay in my place as my father rages on. i don't move, i'm not supposed to, i just curl in amma's lap as he walks around in drunken stupor, rattling the doors and other things that get in his way: the only unbroken chair in the house, the shards of the table from last time, sometimes it's me. he's always smashing the bottle against the table and once on amma's back. these aren't memories i remember on occasion, that tumble out only after i've  made an unspoken breach with some person, or when i need to expose my soul to a new lover. these memories breathe within my blood each day.

today i'm an academician and an activist, some people have even heard of me. three years ago i was a speaker at a conference on 'disembodiment of agency in gender relations'. my paper focused on the disembodiment of upper-caste male in relation to dissemination of agency against the antithetical construction of dalit feminine (a)sexuality. i finish discussing the paper and the first question i am asked is that 'as we live in a post-caste india, why are these vilified descriptions of caste politics necessary?' by a card-carrying feminist. why is caste relevant to me, you say.

up untill seventh grade, i went to the government school in my village because amma wanted me to. then they put me in the ninth grade because i was bright, but i had to go to the next village and i did because amma wanted me to. she said that for people like us, all we could rely on was education, and that dr. ambedkar is never wrong. the first three days i made friends, two brahmin girls. their skin is different than mine; it's cleaner and sometimes it shines. one told me that she liked my smile, the teacher saw that and asked me to stand up and tell the whole class what my caste was and where i came from. i told all of them i was from the neighbouring village and i was a dalit. the class starts shrieking with laughter, my two friends looked at me in disgust. did you know how words can attack you sideways, how they stop before you and stomp themselves in your core?

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