To God, To Man, To Self

As she wraps the ghungroos around her slim ankles,
she can feel the pinch her delicate skin and winces in pain.
She gets up and stamps her feet lightly praying they won’t fall off
And then she does her pranam,
Thanking Mother Earth for allowing her to stamp on her
And then the melodious thump of the Table fills her ears
And she begins her form of worship to her god.

She peeps out of the curtain to see who is all watching
She hopes there are many drunks tonight because they usually tip the best.
Pulling on her hot shorts and midriff top, she stretches.
Yesterday she learned a new trick around the pole
And Friday nights always mean more money for her especially with new moves
And that will help pay for her children’s school fees and a new flat.

As she pushes herself onto the class,
She already hears the music playing and sees her partner coming to her smiling.
He helps tie her feet so that don’t move around and spins her around in her chair.
She likes the Rumba because it makes her imagine that she has working feet.
And today, as every other day, she dances for herself without the care of being different.

Two Sisters: Bhavam and Katha

Centuries ago an evil demon kidnapped twin sisters from their widowed mother because she wouldn’t return his love. In order that she would never find them again, he left the one in North India and the other in South India, Tamil Nandu, with strangers, whom he thought would kill them. The strangers however fell in love with the girls and adopted them as their own. The one sister from Tamil Nandu was named Bhavam, which means expression as the little girl always serious and expressed her emotions through her face and the other sister from North India was named Katha as she was always telling tall tales.

Both sisters were very different though. Bhavam, who was raised in a strict religious home, worshipped the gods in her dance and was a meticulous and disciplined dancer. Katha, raised in a less strict home was very mischievous and naughty. She too though worshipped the gods in dance but would frequently forget her steps and then just make her own up as the music played. Bhavam desired only to maintain her family’s good name by being a good daughter and the gods appreciated her soulful dancing and blessed her parents because of her. Katha however gave her parents many headaches, abandoning their rules as she saw fit and thoroughly entertained and annoyed the gods with her reckless ways. Their mother however never forgot about her daughters and searched for them relentlessly. Seeing her pain, gods eventually managed to convince the demon to reveals the girls’ whereabouts by tricking him with promises of great riches. The daughters were returned to their mother but sadly they didn’t like her or each other. Too much time had passed and neither could speak the other’s language. The playful Katha found Bhavam too boring and Bhavam couldn’t handle the energetic Katha. Their mother’s dream of reuniting with her daughters were crushed and she wept bitterly at her ill-fate. But, a very poor pedlar, who had loved their mother all his life, couldn’t bear to see her cry and he started playing his Tabla, just had he’d done when she was pregnant with the girls. Immediately both girls started moving their feet, as if magic. Bhavam moved to dance steps carefully thought out and was graceful as she danced to the music, while Katha just made up the steps as she went along, but was equally graceful. And it was in their dancing that they started to smile and play together. Every day they would wake up and dance to the pedlar’s drum, learning each other’s ways and their love for each other grew. When it was finally time for them to go home the sisters cried bitterly but made a vow that they would never remain apart again. Their love for their mother grew and eventually she and the pedlar married in their old age. While the girls and their mother forgave the evil demon, the gods sentenced him to eternally sit and watch the girls dance and live happy lives. Bhavam would eventually become the mother of Bharatanatyam while Kathak, the mother of Kathak.

Today disciples of both dance forms are spread all across the world. Both dance forms celebrate love, light and victory of good over evil. And just like the sisters, both dances prove that our souls will never forget where it comes from and its only real goal in life is to bring joy to all who see it.

By Jacqueline Friedman

What they didn’t know

What they didn’t know

What she didn’t know was that she’d received the bursary from the University and the acceptance letter was coming that day, after countless rejection letters, when she drank those tablets and closed her eyes for the last time.

He didn’t know that the HR administrator was going to call him to confirm that he had indeed gotten the job, after waiting for more then 2 weeks for an answer.

She didn’t realize that her baby would grow up to be a President when she went for the abortion even though she heard a small voice saying “don’t do it”. All because her immediate circumstances looked hopeless.

She couldn’t believe that she’d be loved again by a man that had been dreaming of her all his life, after her heart was broken and decided to pull the trigger.

They didn’t realize that the bad days would soon end.
That the pain would end eventually.
That the tears and sweat would eventually pay off
Because they had lost all hope in life ever becoming better.

Suicide is never a solution. It’s a fact: the bad days will end.

The Educated Unknown

She didn’t have a birth certificate,
No name of her own, unknown
Harami is what they called her kind.
Hid away in the servants’ backrooms,
Under a black Burka and old clothes.
Her father unknown, her mother well-known.
But she would learn.

Listening carefully daily while cleaning the house,
She heard and recited the words from the books taught by the teachers.
She memorized the poems, letters and stories and
In the dead of midnight, would recite them.
She hungrily sat at the cook’s feet when everyone was gone,
The mean old lady who taught her to read, with head slaps for mistakes made.
Old newspapers, books or notes were stolen then returned,
And the magical numbers helped her know her age.
She knew that one day she too would go to school,
Read new books and have a school uniform just like everyone else.

And she ran…

And she ran…
From the poverty that she lived through,
Climbing her way to the top, hours of non-stop work for the security.
She ran from the stepmother who hated her like her dead mother,
And her father who used her like his wife.
Getting far away from the place that reminded her of her nightmares,
Tears, fears and pain,
From adults, children and animals.
While running, she threw off the name that made them hate her,
Cut off the hair they pulled and got rid of the clothes too.
Alone but not lonely,
Her tormenting memories finally running from her too.
By running she made herself free, safe and happy,
And she ran.

When the mirror doesnt smile back

She looked at the scale and willed the scale’s numbers to go down.
Her heart pumping hard in her ribbed chest,
Her hands clammy,
Her screaming belly hollow and empty,
Begging for solid nourishment.
Having run for hours the previous day,
Her heart went faint and her legs almost buckled as
Knew that she’d have to run harder today again to get those kilo’s off
And thought about the black coffee and dry toast that she’d have to eat again,
Because in the mirror still wasn’t smiling back at her,
Even though she worked so hard.

When the Mockingbird stopped singing

Among a parcel of it’s beautiful fellows,
A Forest filled with all things unique and special,
The Mockingbird was always mimicking their sounds.
A tweet, a croak,
A chirp, a laugh,
A faultless tune that belonged to another,
From Sunrise to Sunset,
A constant Sprite, that fought it’s nemisis Sadness alone
No tune of it’s own,
No voice of it’s own
At times annoying those that it copies.
One always sure to hear one’s own voice when old Mockingbird was there.
Then one day,
The sun rose to silence,
The wind blew without tune,
The Forest had lost it’s joy,
As they looked and saw Mockingbird’s nemesis Sadness, standing over it’s body.

I knew I loved you before I met you

Your curious eyes stare at me in wonder,
Like a scared little animal before you wail out in fear when I take you.
I hold you gently to my chest, feeling your tiny heartbeat slow down,
Your tears subside and your body calms.
Your head resting on my shoulder while I sooth you.
For you this is scary right now and I want to take away all your fears.
In time you”ll have questions, insecurities, anger and feelings of loss,
And for those days, I will be there for you.
To make you feel safe and help you fight your demons,
even when we fight each other.
For I knew I loved you before I met you.

When the innocent perish

I think God is unfair
for He allows the innocent to perish at the hand of the wicked.

He allows their hard earned honest materials to be stolen,
watches as their loved ones are raped, killed and tortured,
Folds his hands while the leaders exploite the poor
and sends drought, storms and earthquakes to take what little they have.
Even though they worship God,
follow His commanments, pray and read the Bible
All the while the wicked rejoice,
And the preachers say “Have faith. Things are gonna get easier”
How can you have faith when the innocent perish?

Little faith

A Statistic

How quickly they forget me, yesterday’s news, when they heard of how terribly I was raped,
Beaten and left for dead, in an alley, while walking home.
How quickly they came to offer my parents their symphathies and me their pitiful looks.
The policemen, the doctors, the religious man and even the Mayor.
All offering advice and help.
How eagerly they spoke to the news lady in her dress suite and high heels,
promising to help find the monster who did this to me.
But, just as quickly they forgot.
Too consumed with their own lives.
Nowhere in sight when I needed a lift to the hospital for more tests and pep talks from doctors and social workers.
Nowhere in sight when the doctor said “ YOU’RE PREGNANT! Do you want to keep It or get rid of it?” Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.
So quick to judge my family struggling to cope, falling apart at the seams.
No therapy for their pain or my empty soul.
How quickly they forget me, as they see my growing belly and swollen feet,
trying to do the right thing for the one who too didn’t ask for this to happen.
For now, I’m like the ones who came before me,
those that will come after me
And those just like me.
A Statistic.