In this thought-provoking book, Mehak delves into the multifaceted dimensions of womanhood. Through her evocative words, she sheds light on the often overlooked struggles, unfair expectations, and casual discrimination faced by women on a daily basis.
Excerpt from the book
My father would nod at me
I stood first in class.
I should be the first of my friends
to become a Mrs.
I used to wander
the toy store for hours
till I found my perfect Barbie.
a Ken doll has been
arranged for me.
I should behave
as he instructs.
Drugged with coffee,
I worked until my eyes dried
to be the lucky one at my job.
I walk seven times
around the consecrated fire
because the astrologer
assured my new parents
I would be auspicious.
at liquor was prohibited.
on my wedding night
the wine bottle is thrust inside me –
I should stain the sheets red.
When I was ten, I asked,
‘What do you dream about, Ma?’
‘My child should be safe and happy,
You are my everything,’
her dainty palms touch my chest,
my breasts quiver as she sucks –
I can’t fail my daughter!
How to Make Round Rotis
Snatch the book she is reading intently.
Pull her hand, her weight if you have to.
Assemble the bowls and ingredients.
Hit her with the rolling pin if she refuses.
‘This is for your own good,’
assure her periodically.
Take two cups of unbound flour in a mixing bowl.
Add three-fourths cup of water of discontentment.
Knead with knuckles of fragile hands.
Reiterate, the dough should be
soft, smooth and pliable.
Touch floured hand to forehead, make it white.
Remove a dream from the dough.
Roll on hands until it is confined to a circle.
Place on the rolling board and crush (lightly).
Use ingrained displeasure and rage to
flatten it with a rolling pin.
Toss the roti on the virtuous tawa.
Round and puffed,
serve it warm for a worthy fortune.
A Woman’s Lexicon
When I first stained my underwear
red, my grandmother told
‘You are a woman now.
This is your dictionary.’
Education: prerequisite for a wealthy husband
Femininity: docile, incapable and sacrificing
Girl: the only gender of friends allowed
Hair: ugly (except eyebrows and scalp)
Independence: results in rape
Joke: smile, don’t tell
Menstruation: entry prohibited to kitchen, temple and rooms
Night (sunset): stay at home
Opinion: refer father/husband
Pray: to Lord Ram every day that men aren’t tempted by you
Rape: is always your fault
Sin: losing innocence
Time: enemy, beauty fades
Underclothes: should never be visible
Vodka: never, leads to rape
Whisper : your permissible volume
Xerox: mom, mother-in-law
Yes: the only admissible answer
Zen: serve parents and husband
My arms wrapped around my stomach
trying to mollify the pain. She pulled them apart.
‘Back straight. Smile. Yes.’
Reading can kill
Traditional thoughts might evaporate
Dark clouds of opinion might gather
Lightning questions might strike
Thunderous debates might follow
She shouldn’t be drenched in knowledge
She shouldn’t write her story
It has been cast in stone, for generations.
Painting is injurious to health
She might observe the intricacies
of people around her.
She might adorn the canvas
with her personality
and immortalise her name.
She shouldn’t bare her deepest desires
She shouldn’t mould her destiny
It has been prophesied for generations.
Being at home every day keeps death away
Gates of opportunity might open
Her energy might be sufficient
to turn the turbines of success.
She shouldn’t be independent
She shouldn’t be a powerhouse
She's been a tarnished machine for generations.
a blank book
a chaste canvas
a desireless dependent.
Ensure she stays that way.
My Big Fat Indian Wedding
Begin dance rehearsals
a month before the wedding.
The gold-plated invitations look exquisite.
His friends would be my friends.
Dangle the Sabyasachi lehnga.
I will resign from work after marriage.
Showcase the jewellery from the
latest Bhansali movie –
the one that Queen Deepika wore.
His home is my home.
The exotic Udaipur hotel is
available for my wedding dates.
Graciously honour the life my
mother-in-law picks for me.
Intricate henna applied on my hands.
His name shines in dark red.
Thank God, my husband will love me.
I am a success story.
Wedding will be the most
special day of your life.
Walking down the aisle in reality,
why do I want to throw up?
My parents enrolled me in a
chaotic, consuming, customary course.
Love was not a prerequisite –
a postscript, maybe.
Lectures with mother-in-law began –
Wake up before him
Prepare breakfast, pack lunch
Leave for work
Welcome him home
Ask him about his day.
His father established an empire
because I stayed at home.
Plan a trip to Vaishno Devi Temple –
pray for good health of your husband,
pray for obedient children.
Clock is ticking
Preferably facing east
Preferably a boy.
Every action doesn’t have an equal
and opposite reaction.
Tolerate, suppress, forget.
Complimentary cooking classes:
He loves okra.
Report Card sent to my parents:
Needs frequent reminders to be attentive.
Physics seems difficult to grasp.
Late with her Biology assignment.
Scope for improvement.
How do I
graduate with Honours
in a course I didn’t want to take?
The excerpt is extracted with permission from Mehak Goayl's Failure To Make Round Rotis: Poems on Rebellion, Resilience and Relationships; published by Juggernaut.
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