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  • Writer's pictureSonal

Staying Alive

Updated: May 2, 2021


In the few pages of books

That I had the chance to read

Whenever I went to Raddi Chacha's shop

To sell the newspapers of our chawl,

It was written that in the olden days,

People became successors of

The jobs that their fathers had -

The king's son became a king,

The cobbler's son became a cobbler,

The brahman's son became a brahman;

It hasn't changed much, to be honest,

Not for me, at least, except that in this case,

I, my mother's daughter, inherited her job,

But the story around that is for another day.

For now, I must get back to work.


It's funny, or perhaps the absolute opposite

That the "another day" made its appearance

After five hundred and fifty seven days;

But let me grab this opportunity

Before it vanishes into thin air like

The remnants of an extinguished flame;

My mother was thirteen when

Her father sold her off to this whorehouse

He got fifteen thousand rupees,

And a month long supply of alcohol,

My mother, on the other hand, got bruises,

Bad memories, names, and at eighteen, me;

I have never known who my father was,

And I think I don't want to know who the scum was;

I grew up poor, and my mother grew old, and bitter;

And her parting "gift" to me as her heiress

Was to be her successor, and the best one at that.


I have no reason to write about my life,

I am just another woman whose body sells

Faster than the hot malpuas

From Usman Chacha's shop;

And that's how it is going to be

Until one day I fade into oblivion;

But the reason I am still writing today

Is because last night, Akku,

The girl who was brought in last week,

Hit puberty and was ready to be a "woman",

And that catapulted me to the time

When I was pronounced a woman,

I think I was thirteen, no, fourteen,

Because I remember Surekha Tai

Calling me a "late bloomer",

It didn't take long for them to

Thrust me under a man who was

Thrice my age, and half as active

As one could ever be,

The only similarity we shared was the fact

That we both resembled new-born babies -

He slept off like one, I cried the entire night like one.

I wonder how long before Akku goes through the same.


Last night was my nineteenth birthday,

Well, if I am being honest,

My mother never told me when I was born,

So I gave myself a birth date when I was six;

Surekha Tai gave me what she dubbed

As the "most prestigious gift" she had

Ever given to any of the girls -

A handsome young man unlike the others

Who visited this place that I call "home";

He left somewhere around dawn,

But the blood and bruises that covered my body

Somehow reminded me of my mother;

I wasn't ashamed of or disgusted with

The thought of my mother,

I was just...sad?

But I got paid well enough to not complain,

And I think the bruises will heal soon enough.


I thought it was food poisoning from all

The stale food that Tai has been feeding us,

But turns out, I am having a baby;

How is that supposed to make me feel?

How did mother feel when she realized

That she was having a baby?

How can two lives be so eerily similar,

Yet still feel different, like the two faces of Gemini?

Will it be a boy? Then he won't have to be like me;

But what if it's a girl? Do I have it in me to protect her?

Do I have it in me to have a baby at all?

//NaPoWriMo, Day 19

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