Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bhodro Girl Etiquette

Mama, Hujur Bari jaben?
Uncle, will you take me to Hujur Bari?
The rickshaw puller is not my Uncle by blood,
but that's how relationships are formed and performed
in a city where my path crosses his only once.
We even argue over his hiked up bhara (fare)
as though we are related, until we reach a deal.
The rickshaw puller is not my Uncle by blood,
but I'm journeying on the rhythm of his wheel.

I'm in a loose cotton shalwar kameez,
with an untamed chiffon orna (scarf)
dancing to the dust of April's humidity and sticky air.
I tuck the orna under my thighs, left and right, to freeze the tango,
otherwise the chiffon will be locked in the wheels
leaving me exposed.
Everywhere I look I am met with curious, staring eyes.
Tara ki dekhche? What are they looking at?
Obak hoye ki dekhche tara?! What are they seeing with such surprise?!

I stare back, scanning the many men,
and imitate their gaze with an undeclared staring contest.
I'm smiling too, teeth exposed, orna draped to one side because why not?
Why should I feel threatened by gawking men?
After all, I've obediently pursued a bhodro (good/polite) girl etiquette my whole life.
What has been the result? More staring men.
Mama, dane tarpor bame. Uncle, turn right and then left. 
I hop off the rickshaw and glance once more at the men I've left behind.
I stand glorious, basking in the courage of my protest.

Rickshaw in Nikunja