An ode to Indian housewives.

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She stared at the mirror when she was seven,
Unevenly Rimming her wide doe-eyes with Kohl,
Her pudgy fingertips grasping the stick painstakingly
Wobbly lines drawn to make her beautiful.

She tried to drape her mother’s saree
For the first time when she was eleven.
Her slender fingers slipping on the precarious folds of silk
As she struggled to wind a metre of art
Around four feet three inches of youth.

She slipped on her first pair of heels at sixteen
While preparing for a cousin’s wedding
How uncomfortable, how completely impossible it seemed
To keep her frame supported on the toes of her feet.

At eighteen, she began to cut down
On all the foods and drinks she loved;
Her limbs aching with daily exercise
As she fought to gain a model-size.
Fatless belly and arched back,
At the price of samosas and midnight-snacks.

At twenty-two she saw men staring,
As she made her way with her hips perfectly swaying
Draped in a saree that she had worn herself,
The teetering stilettos making her a five-foot heaven.
Her bright eyes warm with confidence,
With sure strokes of mascara and kajal.

At twenty-five, she tied the knot
With a man before a fire
And handprints on a wall.
Her thin shoulders aching with expectations
Her bangles glimmering,
Embodiment of perfection.

Twenty seven, swollen belly and a tiny child’s hand;
Time and beauty swept like prints on the sand.
Heels dusty forgotten, forfeited for a man
Who saw in his wife, only what cost him.
Nature began to draw around her eyes,
Dark rims of weariness of daily fights.

At thirty-two she had two healthy children,
A home to keep, and an earning husband.
Rarely did she look at the mirror,
But at least she had people who loved her
Depended on her,
Expected their food, their clothes and their lives of her.

By the thirty sixth birthday, her boys were
A nuisance
Her husband was balding, and longed for porn stars instead of her.
Her belly was snaked with stretch marks,
Her heels ached on her callused feet.

When she was forty, she found her boys
Using her Kohl to mark his toys
Her weary eyes were naturally circled
With darkness that dulled her pupils.
Despondency made her remember
Her love for cookies, sweets and December.

At forty six, she was a size too wide,
Her clothes fit her like an old man’s skin
Her hands all chapped fighting for a man;
Who had given her up for cheap wine and skinny girls with matchstick thighs.

When at fifty her boys brought home,
The girls they had chosen to make their own,
She saw with a weary buzz in her heart
The high heeled shoes and seamlessly pleated paar.
That night as she lit the burner to cook dinner,
She wished in her mind she was
Thinner,
Prettier,
With perfect skin and nails

Then she took her wishes and burnt them with their nightly bread
With her broken dreams she lay in bed.
Staring at the defeat on her palms,
Where she had once had everything
Now she had nothing at all.

Whatever she had fought after had always been
To find a final happy ending.

Needless to say, that she never got,
Because everything she had wasted her youth to earn,
Wanted nothing more than her youth to chew and spit out.

another sign of madness

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