I sat in a dimly lit room and began to flip the dusty journal’s pages, “My life” - the first page said - “Every detail in this journal I have narrated.” My grandmother’s words, her handwriting preserved perfectly through time, “This journal begins on 18th September 1800, it will end with the end of my life, They call me a warrior, they call me a fighter-mother, lover, daughter too, I have been all of them, not a single day of my life has been rued, When I came into this world they labelled me as a housewife-nothing more, A slave-born to live and die inside four walls - ‘What more is a girl even worthy for?’ ‘You must die with your husband, he’ll live with you for seven lives,’ mother said. (He’s twenty-seven years elder to me-he’s on his deathbed. How can I die before I have begun to achieve my dreams - Yes! I have dreams too, How can I jump into a fire for him? - I will not, mother dear, I will not do this for you.) They told me to marry him like my mother did when I was barely nine, To sacrifice my body, my mind-devote myself to their service - for my lifetime, I was loaded with a cart full of riches, my value calculated in bills and money, Father - ‘He will treat you well, dear - we have given him whatever he wanted as dowry.’ While he read the Gita, he commanded - ‘Lady, go get me some hot tea.’ I took the book from the table, while he slept - the letters looked like quirky designs, That’s how I learnt to read the Holy books, pen down biographies and write, That’s how I went on to lead India’s freedom struggle-studying under the night light.” A tear flowed down my cheek, I snapped back into my reality, To a world where there are thousands of women no longer oppressed with brutality. A world where there has been progress, there have been massive leaps and bounds. Today women are astronauts - reaching the stars and clouds, rising above the ground. Today girls attend school, girls know of their rights, girls have travelled miles. Today girls know that they needn’t be clad in red sarees - they are beautiful when they smile. Today girls can go to temples, churches, mosques - follow their heart’s calls. Girls are overcoming barriers, crossing obstacles and breaking suffocating walls. In my diary, I began to write - “My life”- each and every detail I described, “I was born in 2000-welcomed as not a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ - but simply a child. I went to school with my brother, went to college too, They said - be a doctor, an astronaut, lawyer - do whatever you want to pursue. The era has changed, the world moves, ever slowly, closer to paradise. Female foeticide has reduced, people have begun to value the girl child’s life, Women can step out of their house safely after the so-called ‘curfew’, They can all blossom like flowers whose petals are coated with fresh dew. That’s how the era has metamorphosed - like a caterpillar and butterfly. To the next generation reading this diary - Make the world a finer place, never lose the spirit to try and try.”
3 Questions for Tanvi
What was your process for creating this work?
The poem is an amalgamation of my thoughts and dreams about girls in India. I have always loved writing to express my emotions and create awareness about the struggles some people have had to go through to pave the way for an egalitarian society and a new political, social and economic world that we now live in. After learning about the history of my family through pictures and some old records and my mother’s stories, I thought about writing something that would serve as a reminder about everything Indian women have faced, throughout the freedom struggle and beyond, and also represent the transition of our country’s social scenario. My poem seeks to show that there is hope, for creating a world where women and men are equal, there is inclusion, acceptance and each person can spread out their wings and take a flight towards the zenith-and much beyond!
What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?
I chose this form of writing because it is different from regular poetry, which I usually write. I like that I am able to experiment with the lines, add more emotion to it and also express my ideas as a whole, instead of breaking them into parts. I love that through this piece, I can take the readers from one era to another and most importantly, express an entire story, through the piece. I hope you can resonate with the poem and enjoy my writing!
What is the significance of this work to you?
The significance of this poem comes from my desire to make a change in the world, such that every woman is at an equal footing as men. I dream of gender equality and gender equity. In the future, I would want all girls and women to be treated equally-in every sphere of life. No job should be reserved for women or men. There should not be quotas or seats being reserved for women-to make them equal. Rather, the societal conditions and the mindset of the people, should uplift women to this platform. I believe that this can be achieved through equity and not just equality. Equity would ensure that everyone truly gets an equal footing. It would truly make me overjoyed to see women holding top jobs, being free to be themselves and being comfortable in their bodies and skin. I want that in the end, it’s not about being a man or a woman: rather a human being. Lastly, I believe that women who have overcome boundaries and shackles in their own lives, should inspire and motivate all those who are around them. Wisdom and wealth are sweeter shared! Every woman should be the creator of her destiny and always remember that women can chart an extraordinary life story, even in the most ordinary times, while living simple lives.
Tanvi Nagar is a high school senior at Delhi Public School, Gurgaon. She has been writing for the past nine years and is passionate about public speaking, travelling, playing sports and reading novels. She has contributed to national newspapers like The Times of India and Hindustan Times; journals like Flare Journal, The Weight Journal, Nymphs Publications, Secret Attic, Hebe Poetry and Anti-Heroin Chic and anthologies like The Last Flower of Spring and Riding on a Summer Train by Delhi Poetry Slam; The Great Indian Anthology by Half Baked Beans and She the Shakti by Authors Press. She is the former Editor of her school, currently edits for Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine and the Ice Lolly Review and is the present Head Girl of her school’s student council. She has authored four books titled, Metamorphosis, A Treasure Trove of Poetic Wonderland, A Bountiful of Rhythmic Stories and My Book of Short Stories and Poems. She has also won the Eye Level Literary Award 2018 by Daekyo South Korea, The Create Change Challenge by The University of Queensland, Australia and the Millennial Essay Writing Contest by UNESCO. She loves solving maths problems and her favourite singer is Halsey! She wants to study economics and psychology at her dream college and believes that being kind and compassionate is the best way of life. Her website is tanvinagar.com.