I may not be a labourer — but if i could change society, the nation, the world, one word at a time, I would dedicate this to all the women, the female labourers, those who do the chores at home, and those who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects — those who spend long working hours, and still manage to keep a balance with their housework…
I dedicate this to my aunt, who is a single mother and has been a nurse for forty years. I dedicate this to my mother who is a wife, a mother, and teacher. I dedicate this to all the women who challenge society’s stereotypes — these women are the ones who move mountains despite being told that they were born fragile.
I may not be a labourer, but I wonder why women are defined by stereotypes that build up like bricks on concrete… Suddenly all your dreams fall down to your feet, the stiffness in your muscles as you stretch become society’s expectations, and your plans seem so out of reach.
I dedicate this to every woman who has been told she is too emotional to run for CEO, or that she is too weak to do physical labour. There are labourers who are called too sensitive, or sentimental. They say, ‘Maybe you should consider filling up cups of coffee for those who enter the office instead.’
There are labourers who are separated from the rest by the length of their skirts, or whether there is a veil around her head. It seems that these days respecting a woman comes from whether her dress reaches below her knees. Segregated by a glass ceiling that lies above, this is not just a feeling of isolation — this is the inequality that is displayed from how women’s wages are 24% less than men’s. Equality enclosed in cages — will we ever see it break free? Tell me, if equal pay is a human right, and every woman — mother, sister, daughter — remains deprived of this right, does that imply that we are not human? I may not be a labourer but I would like to mention that generations of women have fought for the same rights we are still fighting for today.
Women have the power to change a nation, but why are there so few in decision-making levels? Only 22% of parliamentarians globally are female, and 62 million girls worldwide are denied education. And why are there only five female parliamentarians out of eighty five in this country? I may not be a labourer, but there are women battling their way out of the labels they are put under.
Those who are referred to by their gender and not profession — she is every photographer known only as a female photographer; she is every salesgirl, receptionist, secretary. It is as if being a working woman often comes as such a surprise that it places a female under a different category. I would like to question all the people who have doubted the abilities of a woman, simply because the expectations of the community have overshadowed her like a tall tree.
Do the curves on a woman’s body really illustrate the extent of her capabilities? Women carry heaps of wet clothes, piles of files filled with documents — and in the end some don’t even read it, because ‘a woman wrote it.’ Women carry stacks of washed plates as a result of hours and hours of unpaid labour that most people forget to appreciate.
I may not be a labourer but someday, I will be. And I hope to grow up with a part of every woman who has fought for rights, against stereotypes, those women who have done it with pride. I hope to grow up with fragments of every woman who has been a president, a revolutionist, a working mother. I hope to grow up to be as independant, influential and inspiring as my mother, Frida Kahlo, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Margaret Thatcher, Jane Goodall, and Rosie the Riveter.
On 26th April 2017, world-renowned Northern Irish poet Cat Brogan visited BHIS to share her experience with young literary-minded students. After an interactive workshop session of two hours, each student shared the lines they came up with to create one collaborative poem, Pawns of Today:
I’m trapped in a circle, running in 360 degrees,
Searching for solutions like the cure to some disease.
Too afraid to go off on a tangent and find a new equation,
I need to have a think and make some revision.
Too much stereotypes kill mentality,
But make a strike and bring back reality.
Give your best and kill anxiety.
Give it a try and do it honestly.
The sun disappeared as if it never existed.
But as time passed it slowly started to break through,
The sun went down, my world plunged into darkness
Because you left, the others but shined brighter:
They offered little comfort, waiting in the darkness
For you to rise again, because even though you’re a million miles away,
You light up my whole world.
Play the game of life like you’re playing basketball.
Win at life and you become a champion;
If only life was easier as it in the cartoons.
My dreams were crushed as a building would be wrecked.
My life is a blank page
That I am too afraid to fill in,
Because once the words come out,
I can’t bring them back in.
Who are you?
What makes you believe what you do?
And who are the others, to dictate what you believe in?
Who are the others, to tell you;
Who you are?
It seems as if the whole universe is living their lives
Around a battery-operated clock; confining ourselves to
The twelve digits we use in a desperate attempt to convince ourselves
That we are in order, we are normal, we live like everyone else.
But why do we glorify uniformity?
What if I don’t want to conform to meaningless digits and live my life through numbers?
People laugh at things that are funny.
Does that include beliefs?
People laugh at things that are funny.
Am I funny?
People laugh at clowns.
Am I one?
To people who create life,
I am their clown:
In the game I play, they laugh.
They say, I am like a clown that plays on the court.
My shots are considered a failed juggle.
Am I a clown? Or is life framing me to be one?
Why am I funny? I just play.
Life gave me its position to entertain.
Why don’t I just be boring? Life wouldn’t make me a clown.
It seems that the world is in a state of hypnosis,
Carving us into fragile statues.
No one bats an eyelash at the coldness,
Even if you were as appealing as a sculpted masterpiece,
Sat in a museum, worth the nation treasury.
It seems as though we need a manual for living and a manual for beauty:
It will tell you the requirements needed to be successful.
Fix your body, they will say,
You don’t look right, they will say,
And I’ll believe it.
Hot, they will say,
As if I’m just some microwave that heats up take out I have on a Friday night.
Am I a microwave?
No, I am a person,
And that’s more than enough for me.
My heart took a leap
And it felt like I jumped off a cliff,
And realized I had wings.
My thoughts are pounding in my head,
Feelings rushing through my veins like blood.
Life is not worth living
If people want to change
Who I am,
Or who I want to be.
Stress is a hand choking you,
Preventing you from breathing the fresh air of freedom.
Life is like an exam
You learn new things
You’re expected to fail
But I’m going to win
And I will prove everyone wrong
By bringing back full marks.
In the wake of the tragic suicide of one of our townsfolk, we recovered a letter from the victim. Her last words are as follows:
Children’s laughter was a common sound that echoed throughout the streets. At one point of my life, I thought that it such a pleasant sound to hear; I likened it to the sound of wedding bells.
Years had passed since I first moved here, since that thought first came to me. But, as the years passed by and made my body brittle, the thought morphed into something darker.
It didn’t start instantly—but, like, happiness, it slowly sneaked in, never noticed until it was too late. That feeling of joy grew bitter over time. What used to bring a smile to my face started bringing frowns and tears instead. The very thing that gave me hope—the very thing I wanted the most but never had—was what was slowly killing me inside. I moved here with my husband, as newly-weds, ready to take on the world together. How wrong I was!
I didn’t notice it at first… but I snapped out of my trance, facing the harsh reality of my life. I could not continue to delude myself to how my husband—who had professed his love to me with such sincerity before—changed. I had been blind, and only now was I seeing the real him.
While I waited in the cold house and kept dinner warm for us, he would return late, smelling of alcohol and various perfumes. While I stayed alone, he sought out other company. While I turned away men offering friendship and help, he left me behind, without a care, to his nightly rendezvouses.
Patient though I was, even I could not keep all my feelings bottled up. But showing my dissatisfaction proved to be a horrible mistake. He lost his temper.
He began with a cold calmness, dismissing my very existence, reducing me—his wife!—to a slave. Then the words grew louder, clearer, the wounds digging deeper. And it escalated to physical violence, leaving my body scarred and bruised.
More than once, I had thought of running away, but I never acted upon it. I foolishly believed this was just a phase. That he would return to being the man I fell in love with. I waited, and waited, and waited—in vain. And I realised I had to do it. I just couldn’t deal with it any more.
At long last, I ran away.
For a whole month I was happy, living without my husband. I made friends. I had an existence separate from his. Yet, all the while, I harboured fear that he would come after me. I hoped that he wouldn’t, but the fear remained. I knew, in my heart-of-hearts, that he was too stubborn to lose something he considered to be his possession.
The day it happened was terrifying. I was drifting off to the sound of pattering rain drops on the roof, lulled to the point of dreaming. Just as sleep descended, I was jerked awake by the sound of the wind, and the smashing of wood as someone ripped the door off its hinges.
What happened next is not something I can bear to recall. Suffice it to say that, by the end of it, I gave up completely… I gave up on him, I gave up on the love we once had, and most of all, I gave up on myself. On life itself.
So I end this letter, with this: all I ever wanted was a happy life as a writer and a mother, faithful to my husband, our child kind and healthy. As it turned out, my existence was a far cry from this dream of mine.
And yet, though I suffered cruelly, I hope someone finds this letter. The picture attached with this letter is—was?—my Love. Please find him, and help him. Help him become a better man.
Goodbye, and thank you, stranger.