Aratrika Baidya, INDIA


The quiet buzz of the vacuum cleaner nearly lulls her to sleep
The floor is almost clean.
She told her boss that she had a fever.
The cleaning helps.
She reaches up to dust the bookshelf
Pain lances through her abdomen
Last night was particularly rough
The hand-shaped bruises on her thighs hurt
She didn't want it. It didn't matter
She wants to leave. She wants to be free.
She doesn't know the exact definition of freedom. She wants it nonetheless.
Today is women's day.
He told her to be ready today. He'd take her out to dinner.
He can't let her cook TODAY.
There is nothing more to clean in this house. She has never felt so dirty.
The hand-shaped bruises hurt a lot less on her cheek, on her arm, the belt hurt a lot less on her back
Than those three scratches on his arm that he hid under his tailored suit.
Those marks were her feminine protests,
her love that he raped on their marriage bed last night
The ring is heavy on her hand today
His name behind hers is heavier.
She chooses the suitcase instead of the expensive dress.
Her small four-sitter is more valuable today than his luxury sedan
It's a bit hard to drive with red tears
She still doesn't know the definition of freedom. She has claimed it nonetheless.
Today is women's day.


It is a physical sensation
To see your loved ones in pain
I see the trembling lip
And the squared shoulders
And the sharp determination in her eyes
The resolve not to break
And I long to reach out
To lay a hand on her shoulder
To hold her shaking hands
To say, “I’m here. I’m here and you can fall.
Fall, Love. I will catch you, don’t you know that?”
But all I can do is stand behind her
And be a steady presence at her back
And she doesn’t break, her strength doesn’t falter
But she shifts a little towards me
And her shoulders loosen a bit
Her hands stop shaking
And she breathes.
She breathes And I know that she’s heard me
And that she knows.
And I know that there is a place
where her iron will is raw
And her soul is shivering
I see her, curled into herself
And I can’t infuse steel in her will
And I can’t get rid of the cold
But I can polish her armour
And I can wrap her in a blanket
Because my love is Philia and Storge
It's faith and trust and familiarity
And she needs Philautia to give her steel
And Eros to make her warm
And Pragma to allow her to finally break
And my Philia only let’s her breathe
It’s not what she needs
But for now, it is enough


For some it’s three, some it’s four,
For her there are five red days.
When she checks every time she stands up,
Every time she lies down,
Every time she coughs,
Every time she breathes,
If there’s a red stain,
If it’s showing that she bleeds,
If it’s showing that she’s alive,
If it's showing that she's a woman.

White is her enemy these days,
So is sleep, so is comfort.
Society is her enemy these days.
So she checks, she double checks
If there’s a red stain,
If it’s showing that she bleeds,
If it’s showing that she’s alive,
If it’s showing that she’s a woman.

She is barred from her God these days.
She’s barred from her life these days.
She’s barred from the world these days.
So she checks, she double checks, she checks again
If there’s a red stain,
If it’s showing that she bleeds,
If it’s showing that she’s alive,
If it’s showing that she’s a woman.

But in the dark, when she feels the blood flow,
When there's a slight pain in her abdomen,
When she realises the strength of the red
And the slavery of the white,
She feels pride, relief, joy
That there are red stains,
That she bleeds,
That she is alive,
That she is a woman.

Aratrika Baidya is a student of English Literature at the University of Calcutta. She writes primarily in English. Inspired by the dichotomy of the village and the city, and her daily commute in between, she strives to present the generally ignored facets of humanity. She aspires to be an editor of a publishing house, and a writer if possible.

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