Woman, interrupted

They didn’t stay much upon their stand
Wood, glass, acrylic bands
Bangles of every tone and hue
To match the silks and cottons new
And decorate her hands.

This set is missing a few because they’re made of glass. When she wore them for a dance performance they broke as they smashed against each other with the vigour of her movements. One piece pierced her foot. She danced on, no outward sign of pain on her face. Afterward she sobbed as he gently eased the offending splinter out of her flesh. Glass bangles are beautiful, but they break easily. And she doesn’t dance anymore.

More glass bangles, red and green, interspersed with gold. To match her wedding sari. Gently eased on ceremoniously, to mark her status as a bride. Everywhere she goes for the next few weeks, the bangles, the henna on her hands and the yellow thread around her neck mark her as newly married. Glass bangles get in the way of the lovemaking, but offer a ritualistic challenge because of their delicate tinkle when they are aroused, their inevitable shattering when they are not treated gently enough. And she’s not a new bride anymore.

These with the pink salwar khameez, those with the blue sari. Oh! These never matched anything so she only wore them when she was in a certain contrary mood. If he had been more observant, her bangles could have foretold that argument. Prevented the shouting, the inevitable tears, the passionate rapprochement after the storm…on second thoughts, perhaps the blinkers made life more fun. Contrary unmatching bangles be damned. And she’s not an overexcited girl anymore.

Plastic bangles, mostly, when the babies came along. They played with the coloured bands as she nursed them. She used them to remind herself which side she had to nurse them on the next time, switching them from one wrist to the other. When they got bored at a gathering or a dinner party, spinning the acrylic circles on the floor mesmerised them, stimulated them, kept them happy long enough for her to grab a bite. A little later, the metal bangles were perfect as a template for drawing circles. And her babies are all grown up.

Metal bangles not good when cooking though. Oh no! They heated up too quickly when she was stirring at the stove, burning her wrist. All it took was once to learn her lesson. A single bangle on each wrist, so that no clanking or tinkling or jingling will wake sleeping children. So that there are no annoyingly repetitive noises from annoyingly repetitive movements like folding clothes, making beds, mopping floors. And she doesn’t do that anymore.

Bangles get in the way when you’re typing at a computer, writing on a notepad, feverishly thumbing through books, trying to frame your thoughts. Bangles remind you of a past life when your femininity was invested in what you did, whom you did it for, how you fit into the rules. Bangles made you a woman, because that was the joke- when a man was less than a man, they gave him bangles. A woman is…less than a man? Bangles are…a woman? A woman is…her bangles? And she’s not that woman anymore.

They’re back there now upon their stand
Decorative in a way that she isn’t anymore
They don’t stand for what she can achieve

Womanhood interruptus

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5 thoughts on “Woman, interrupted

  1. Beautiful bangles, every one nursing a story, a memory. Vibrant colours and sounds and visions… thanks, once again, for sharing Shohba. I really enjoyed this poetic piece. Makes me feel like writing again. I used to call this kind of thing painting by letters. πŸ™‚

  2. “Once more into the fray.
    Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
    Live and die on this day.
    Live and die on this day.”

    Don’t know why, but I was reminded of this poem from the movie ‘The Grey’, about survival against the odds, but also knowing when it’s time to let go. Many more battles ahead of the bangles and it’s not yet time to go. Love you for having the courage to “paint the letters” (as Wilma so eloquently puts it). Perhaps some of your strength will seep its way to us, someday.

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