Dr. Reshma Ramesh, INDIA

*SWACHH BHARAT -- EQUALITY FOR ALL

My mother
She birthed my sister and me
All brown skin, white bones
Brown bowels and red uterus
We are just like her in every way
Every cell, every nail, every scar.
We follow her around
Around the house cleaning, in the kitchen blowing
Hot air into the charcoal, to the yard to smear cow dung,
To the river to wash the clothes, to pick fire wood,
As we trail behind her she lets us do anything we want
Draw sun and clouds with charcoal,
Catch butterflies with our tongues, play hopscotch, run and swim
She tells us we can do anything, anything in the world, almost
But,
We have to wait until dark, until the birds have disappeared,
The dogs bark in the distance, the frogs come out to croak,
All the neighborhood boys have gone home to their fathers
Until there is stillness in the fields, we must wait to empty our bowels
To empty our bowels in the open, in the darkness, in the pouring rain
Empty out our shame, the sweat on our buttocks and the stink of our piss
The darkness hides.
My little sister squats beside me humming a song that makes
Me forget that grasses have eyes too, the sounds of approaching men
With their smell of hungry sweat
Makes me forget the fear in my mother’s eyes.
Later the three of us huddle in our bed and our mother like everyday
Promises that soon, soon enough with all the money she saved
She will build us a room, a toilet where we can clean ourselves whenever we want
But until then, tomorrow and the day after we need to hold our intestines
Tight and sing the song of freedom.

(*Swatch Bharat = Clean India – a vigorous campaign initiated by the Government of India to ensure a clean India with basic amenities available to all. It is a sad reality that in many villages in interior India, women still have to wait until dark to relieve themselves behind bushes, at secluded spots etc., as their ramshackle abodes don’t have toilets and men freely indulge in public defecation. This poem is a take on this sad reality)

 

WOMAN

To be or not to be
To be a woman,
To love, grow, break, see,
To not see, be a mother,
To tear, to be consumed,
To stay still and reflect, dance, create,
To borrow from a river,
To unlearn, to begin, to end.
I could be a narcist, a square,
A rolled umbrella or a moan but
Definitely unapologetic.
To gently touch every window
Draw curtains and let God in
Into vast land of corners
To be or not to be
A prayer, a pilgrim, a petal
I could be the lap of summer
Or a conceived winter, a lost human heart
To be a woman
To create a violet’s sigh
To be the ribs where the infinite sky ends
 To be a woman


IF YOU WERE LIKE ME

If you were like me
You would know that
A name is a place that you used to visit long back,
A place where there are no farewells only shadows of fables,
Where a river would flow around us in stillness and listen
To the gentle beat of your heart.

You would know that
A name is a certain night where a sea is drawn from a window,
A night where you would fill my wounds with your poems,
And the wind is made of clay.

If you were like me
You would know that
Some things remain with us and some things float away
And you would fold a river into my palms
So that when you leave, they would
Recall your fading footsteps.


Dr. Reshma Ramesh is a bilingual poet writing in English and Kannada. Her poetry book ‘Reflection of Illusions’ has been presented in the International Read and Share Conference attended by Asian Countries in Malaysia in April 2017 and PULARA 2017.  She has presented her poems in the International Olympos Culture and Literature Festival Antalya, 2018 UNESCO Istanbul Festival, India World Poetree Festival 2017 Hyderabad, 37th World Congress of Poets 2017 Mongolia and PULARA 7 (2016) and 9 (2018) International Poetry and Folk Song Festival in Pangkor Island, Ipoh respectively in Malaysia. Her poems have been presented in World Poetry Radio Show in Vancouver April 2017 and BAU Radio Bahcesehir University, Istanbul, Akdeniz University Antalya. She has the unique honor of her poem being displayed permanently in the ruins of Ancient City of Olympos, Antalya, Turkey. She is the recipient of Savitribai Phule National Women Achievers Award-2018. She practices Dental Surgery in Bangalore, India.


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