thick thighs and chubby ankles
collarbones sticking out with a double chin for company
my flabby arms dance wildly as i flail them about to punk rock
chunky muffin tops pop up brown and toasted in my little crop top
fleshy folds of sweat line my small tummy like a double decker bus
i haven’t heard from my cheekbones, so i’m guessing i’ve been stood up for life
but this birthday,i’m celebrating the layers of fat that have kept me company for 23 years
you’ve been kneaded and moulded and have still stayed resiliently by my side
and maybe it’s the tough skin with the flabby fat that’s kept me going all these years
so this birthday, the two of us have a date
italian and a large ice cream sundae
Over the past couple of years, I have heard and read a lot on caste politics in India. To be utterly honest, it came from a revelatory discussion in a classroom when I loudly claimed along with my liberal/progressive friends that caste no longer existed. The epiphany really happened in retrospect when in the following months I looked around at these classmates more closely, everyone I knew and everyone I had known. The people I was comfortable with or rather the kind of people I was drawn to. They dressed in familiar styles and brands, they spoke English in the familiar convent-educated accent, they watched the same TV shows and read the same books. Their last names and the implications of what were(usually) caste names posed no difficulties in our relationship, and that made me foolishly believe that caste no longer existed. The truth is,their surnames mattered little to me because on the outside they were just like me.
But what of the others? Those people who I rarely spoke to, the names i can barely remember now, those I dismissed because they stuttered when they spoke in English, those whose jeans were not frayed stylishly but were worn out easily because it did not bear the same brand tags as mine. If I had bothered to look up their surnames would I see how the different affectations of the person and their personality came from a background entirely different from my self-entitled one?
Where do you look for caste? You might think of a bold, adventurous trek to the interiors of rural India. You don’t need to follow the Sainath trails. You needn’t shake your head in disappointment and worry at those poor lower caste villagers abused by their landlords, women raped and video taped by upper caste men, lynching and public humiliation, those horrific news stories that happen far away from your secure urbane lifestyles. Go through that contact list on your phone, the attendance list in your class, the employee tags in your workplace, make an invitation list for a party. The manifestations of caste are aplenty, and pretending it does not exist simply made me feel pitiably foolish all that time ago.