She burst into my room dancing, humming,
a force of nature, her dark skin gleaming,
cleaving me with her beauty’s pulse.
I sat face-masked, half-naked waxing my legs.
Seeing an apology writ large on her face,
holding back the waterfall of words from her lips,
I said, it’s alright, thought I’d locked the door.
You can walk into my room any time, she bowed
her statuesque body folding in on itself in greeting,
my homesickness banished by her peace offering.
I, having known the random kindness of strangers,
found life in a female student dorm full of surprises.
The day I knocked on her door, but did not wait
for Ambala’s regal Entre summoning me in,
I was unprepared to find her in front of a mirror
peering deep inside herself. Is this a new tantric
yoga posture I was unaware of? But the stain
on the patterned rug, the pain on her face
told a different story. It hurts, she whispered,
her legs splayed as if giving birth.
I get cramps and back-pain too, I sympathized
thinking she was suffering from period cramps.
No, this is different, this is the unkindest cut …
nothing like a male circumcision
she sighed as I caught sight of her excision,
this is hell on earth, a life of humiliation,
her wound, her shame, her secret laceration
revealed as she lay writhing on the floor.
Can I do anything for you? I asked aghast
thinking there but for the grace of God…
Hold my hand, be my best friend forever.
Apart from the women in my family, no other
human has seen me like this – naked, mutilated.
Yet my ordeal is nothing compared to the horror
of piercing, pricking, cutting, sewing, scraping, burning.
I’ve survived placing my faith in life, change.
Her head resting on my lap, our fingers locked
I sat there dreaming of a world without suffering
~ Shanta Acharya
Shanta Acharya was born and educated in India. The author of nine books, her latest collection of poems is ‘Dreams That Spell the Light’ (2010). She is currently working on three of her forthcoming books. Her poems, articles and reviews have appeared in major publications in the UK, the US, and India and are available on her website.
Editorial Note: Ambala is an African girl’s name that means “scar”. In many Indian languages, Ambala refers to a mother or any compassionate figure.