December for a Schoolgirl in Delhi


is when the city that never sleeps is suddenly lulled into a slumber

so deep, that no lullaby must be sung, no dust must enter her nostrils,

no worries must penetrate her dreams.


is the night she cannot close her eyes, and so, book in hand, she has promised her mother that she will go to sleep

but here she is, the crisp smell an addiction, sleep a distant pest when she can

draw the kambal a bit tighter.


is the morning when red tie tightened, book bag heavy, shivering

in a grey sweater and uniform blazer, she takes a deep breath in the fog,

today her sister will not accompany her. today her sister is surrounded

by the Delhi winter tainted with pollution, today her sister takes labourious breaths in bed.


is the month she becomes a woman,

and that one week in every month hereafter will remind her of this winter

when she felt ugly. More and more

and more and more time in front of the mirror.

At least in December she can hide behind woollen veils.


and yet it is the city nameless in its wintry anonymity.


and yet it is the night when

she, sister, mother, father share khichdi.


and yet it is the morning rife

with giggles of two schoolgirls on holiday.


and yet it is the month she feels as beautiful as the first hail of the city.

– Aliyah Banerjee, Round Rock High School, Texas



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