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Transcending Culture: Indian and Western Ideas of Feminism

Chitra Raman

Appendix I

My Distant Aunt…and I

Jayshree Misra Tripathi

MY DISTANT AUNT…

She squats, frieze figurine,

On the sun-drenched verandah,

Glances at the dancing women

Splayed across the mud wall,

In gay abandon, rice-flour etchings

Safely frozen in time.

She stretches her legs, feline, unwinds,

Grasps the navy blue bottle, twirls the cork

Watches the spill…scarlet, aflame,

The blood of her ancestors

Quell her aching heart,

As she fingers the purple of her cheek

Flicks away the weeping salt,

The twig, the cotton, suddenly conjoined.

She dips into the sacrificial red

Icy cold alta liquid,

Fills in the cracks of her weathered heels

Parched recesses, painful monuments,

The history of her misshapen feet.

She stretches her toes in abandonment

Smiles, admires her primal artistry

Unknots the twisted corner of her pallu

Slips the evergreen paan

Into the caverns of her toothless mouth.

Now desirable, ornamental,

Ambrosia sucked greedily.

Descendant of contented servitude

Beautifying self before the altar

Of truth, insensitive to

The poverty of Life.

He saunters out, belly swaying

His dohti tied loose

To digest his meal.

Pakhal Bhatha, onions, lime pickle,

Some fried brinjal, frugal repast

In this land of ancestors,

In the village of his youth .

He lowers himself

Into the solitary chair

Mesmerized by the familiar landscape

Pre-siesta, afternoon heat.

Glances at her, his chattel

Touchstone for unbridled fury

His Empire

Is not lost, no dearth

Of undying admiration in her gaze,

Bondage, seven lifetimes, so Blessed.

…AND I

She stares at me rudely, discontented,

I stare back, relax the corners of my mouth

Fashion a sultry smile, nod

To the sullen stranger in the mirrored wall.

She stuffs wads of cotton between my weathered fingers

Splayed for dissection.

Bored, begins to spread the viscous liquid

In straight, soft lines.

Sensuous strokes,

Educated beautician

With weary soul.

Rigor mortis, I declare…

She shakes her coiffure’ d hair

Unclench, she dictates, eyes narrowed,

I fear her strokes will ruin

My image.

She scoffs at the purple patch on my cheek

Foundation skillfully applied

Cannot deny my unloved state.

De-stress, no wrinkling, I admonish myself,

Future Mistress tonight

Of painted talons, clutching wine-stems,

Stave off the apprehension,

Of icy veins, parched souls

Sipping my Life’s blood.

NOTES

Alta is a red liquid used by Hindu women to decorate soles of feet; auspicious

Pallu is the end of the sari draped over the left shoulder; often draped over head in deference to elders.

Paan is betelnuts in a leaf, usually chewed after meals

Dohti is belt-like sash

Pahkhal Bhatha is cooked rice with salt and yogurt; a staple food in the eastern state of Orissa

Brinjal means aubergine (eggplant)

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN Vol.8. No.3 March 2002 pp 399-402

© 2002 Sage Publications

Reproduced by permission of the author