by Samia Ahmed
America was dying but we didn’t know it.
India was dying but we didn’t know it.
India died and we didn’t know it.
It was that fateful night, a girl
got into a bus, seemingly unaware
of the predators lurking in the background.
A hand came from behind her, another
inserted a sharp metal object
where her vagina used to be—
is it still there,
are we still there?
Have we learned our lesson?
Will we ever?
Keep screaming they told her,
keep screaming no matter how much
someone tries to silence you,
and she did,
she screamed as loud as she could,
as loud as she could.
Someone heard her,
but then she was silenced again.
She still screams,
behind dark alleys,
in front of the dark screen
of dilapidated households,
in shady neighbourhoods,
in posh bungalows in suburban Mumbai.
People want to hurt you: the closer they are,
the more they want to do it.
We saw the thing and not the shadow.
He came wearing my uncle’s shirt, but he wasn’t that uncle.
He was the same person who killed India.
She was 21, I am 12.
I smile at him because it is important, because it is what you do.
I wave at him when he leaves.
I cry when he is with me, in the bathroom,
with his hands where they shouldn’t be.
The women sit and smoke, already, old and worn, tired,
thighs degenerated into forlorn forgotten ecstasies.
They dream of boyfriends who loved them
a little less than they should have.
Or women who kissed them
a little less than they should have
because they were cursed,
because they were broken,
because they were touched
in place they shouldn’t
have been touched.
I tell this story and they say
it’s nice but it doesn’t rhyme.