A poem about disillusionment with national identity, culture and politics.
Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia
Kneel To The Flag. My poorly-paid teachers, In a pristine classroom once taught, Saffron tales of tolerance, Verdant stories of prosperity, And the blanched values of peace. And I, like a hungry infant at the teat, Lapped at these lessons, As if stocking up on stores of identity. Because in the tapestry of my country, I was told, I would find me. But father, I was taught a lie. The streets where I was supposed to find god, Are littered with bloodied flags of hate. The blind lady has left the room, With all of her lush temperance, she is gone, Her myopia she has left behind, And through the prescription glasses of another, I watch the white fog of the circus of justice, And cower in fear of my own tongue. The lessons to stand up for the right thing fade, As friends appear in handcuffs on my screen, And I stick out my tongue to check if it is still there, I wonder, what am I to do with my words now? I was told I should use them to fight. But father, I was taught a lie. As women of the world lose the right to their bodies, We tout our progress into microphones, Geared at the hubris of the impassioned voter, One all too eager to believe in this country, I am a goddess, worth my weight in gold, But when an artist fills in my silhouette, With the reality of how we treat our deities, Colours me in the undeniable hues of rape and violence, We gag and shackle his audacity, Use it, to teach more gilded fear. I know now, Pride is superior to truth. But father, I was taught a lie. I kneel before my flag today, Not in deference, but in submission, I don't know any more how to be Indian, The tattered notebooks of my youth, Teach of a land I cannot find. Instead I swim in the mossy rivers of fear, I sit petrified, like a statue of white chalk, Beside the rocks of a glorious history, I bow to an orange sunrise of ambiguity, I hold my haunted tongue, And coil it like a noose, around my neck. I was taught this was my home, And home is a safe place, One of viridescent shade, And a pastoral simplicity, One of white-noise that lulls to slumber, On worn bloodless sheets, One of liquid sugar, Filled into coiled nostalgic treats. I was taught this was my home. But father, I was taught a lie.