Red – Pragya Bhagat, Uttarakhand


There is beauty in pain
I was told
when the clothes I stained
with an impure red
found their way from the bottom of the laundry basket
into my mother’s hands
you’ll understand someday
she said
why women are stronger
even though we stay quiet
and seem weak
that day I resolved
to be loud and strong
the winds that carvedme
took time to build
they carved and eroded hollow in a way I understood
many years later
when the blood wouldn’t stop flowing
in dark, wet places
my hair wouldn’t stop growing in public spaces
didn’t those follicles understand
that their kind of genes
weren’t allowed to loiter
in unseemly ways
I wanted to be loud
but the introvert inside
refused to convert
it hid behind books and words and listening to the sounds
and stories of others
because that was home
and I felt alone with people around
I wanted to be strong
but it wasn’t long before arm wrestling
became less enjoyable
because I always lost
it’s good only, the women reminded me,
that you’re thin
if you gain weight
who’ll marry you then
and in that moment
the only thing I wanted
was to be fat.
So that
was what I did,
I ate until my gut rebelled
and then I ate some more
but the bones shone through thin skin
and the blood flew shamelessly
onto odour absorbing napkins
that claimed to be sanitary
I wasn’t loud, I wasn’t strong
I was hairy and my periods were long and I hated it all
I hated the idea that my blood, the song that sang red so boldly
something so inherently me
could be wrong
and there came a day
when the idea of a noble pain
started to seem insane
when the idea that I had to be loud
seemed absurd
why was quiet disallowed
if I liked to listen instead of talk
if I refused to run through life and walked instead
the colour red didn’t seem so wrong anymore
the song that bounced around my bones
was my song
assuring me that my womanhood
was alive
there was nothing good in the pain
because the dictionary defines pain
as physical suffering
and I don’t enjoy suffering
but the pain is just a footnote
in my ability to produce life
there is so much more
that the red echoes have to offer
my body is more than protruding bones
and quiet strength
with a width that spans the rooting branches of a banyan tree
and a length that touches the first rays of sunrise
I have fire in my eyes
and power in my legs
and a mind that tries to live like clouds
a place where shapes shift and form
where everything is allowed
and nothing is forbidden
the colour red is not meant to be hidden
in the oomph of lipstick or the beauty of a bindi
in a leaking vagina or the pattern of a rangoli
in the sonnet of a sunset or the quiet strength of a fire
in the richness of an oil painting or the cheesiness of a valentine
the colour red is as much yours as it is mine
more than seduction
more than desire, more than a vessel of reproduction
a reminder of the time
we heard that there is beauty in pain
and it occurred to us that that kind of insane
is the kind of crazy
we didn’t want to be.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here