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for a non-existent daughter

Poem by Shivangi Shanker K
for a non-existent daughter

Amma detests the idea of boys for her kids.
How blatant! How outright!
Her belief behind this hostility, understandable:
They would not have heard her, listened, understood.
All voids would be left untouched,
Her heart brimming, full of tense riptides,
Yearning for a space to singularly call her own;
To have it all laid down in expression, for it to go from her mouth
To another’s ear – not because it seeks a chain of
Transmission; it seeks an ardent listener.
Someone to hear her out, see her troubles from the POV of
An offspring, empathetic to father, to mother.
But, that’s not why I love you, or declare there should not have been
Anybody else in your place here, today
When you and I are together, like Amma with me.
But, here’s something I think plagues my mother’s hostility
Towards boys as her kids –
I think my mother threw it in
To give me an assurance that she’s glad, proud, gleeful
to have me around.
There is no real hate when she says detest,
I do not observe that through any of the hiccups in her pronunciation.
It’s there to put me at ease, to put a potential question at ease:
What if I had been a boy? Wouldn’t the two of you have been happier?
A boy to light your pyre at death’s door?
A boy to go in pursuit of a bag of sugar at dusk?
A boy to rightfully choose as ‘heir’ though we are certainly not in possession of princely merriments?
A boy to pat and cheer because…he’s a boy?
It’s there to put potential questions at ease – they’re happy,
My mother, my father,
for the woman I am, the woman I will be,
And the girl I was and continue to hold in a crevice within me.
But that is not why I say I love you – I do not know who you are,
Or if you’ll ever come to be.
You are still the permutations and combinations they taught us at school.
The Xs and Ys: all complications in science that are now
Dangling above my grasp.
I do not have a say over these combinations,
And nor should I.

Amma gave up her dreams to be with me,
to watch how I grew and at other times, did not.
To see me through my phases,
Traversing carefully through wilderness
That went against cushioned safeties.
Amma gave it all up to be with me,
Calls herself a lioness sitting upon terrains risen,
Watching her loitering, dim-witted cub –
How cruel!
A beastly comparison.
Yet it echoes well.
Why is there a semblance of subtlety to this?
If danger was near, there would be a clean strike:
A protective mother,
Her fears fuelled by all that she had seen.

Amma gave her dreams up so she could be a mother who
Did not miss the range of her daughter’s evolution.
But, I – I won’t do the same for you.
Draw a dichotomy if you like.
That is not because I love you any less than my mother did me –
I love you enough to know that a few hours away can be made up for
By a few more hours closer to you.
My mother assures that she’ll take care of you too – maybe that is why
I will not give up my dreams for you.
Amma, moving from one cycle of giving-up, to another;
Slipping in, slipping out, slipping in, slipping out.
Are her dreams now ember or worse?
Evidence of ambitions, weathered and locked away.
Evidence of academia, stressful and unkind.
Evidence of exhaustion, a tireless run to pierce through.
Evidence of mother, prancing in defence of child.
Evidence that anticipation is prime.

Amma assures that she’ll take care of you too –
Maybe that is why when the pitter-patter turns violent by each minute,
The rumbling frightening you who sits a gentle tap away from a teary state,
I’ll bring you into my lap, put my arms around,
Gently rock, and say:
Don’t worry about the tap on our windows –
Having my back is my mother.
She’s seen it through,
So will I,
So will you.

But, would I give my dreams up for you?

for a non-existent daughter