Written in response to a prompt in the Introductory Creative Writing module “Point of View”, Nandini Jolly’s haunting poem “The Red Badge of Courage” makes good use of repetition, including an ending that circles back to its beginning.
-Dr Ashima Sood
THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Congratulations all: a girl is born.
Excitement worn down, expectations dropped low.
Will it be worthwhile educating her?
Will it be worthwhile killing her?
Will it be worthwhile abandoning her?
No. Wait. Let us just accept her.
A girl is born. She hits puberty.
A girl is born. She’s down.
Renu, Aasma, Gurpreet, Stella, Jess, Alimah.
Different religions, same challenge, nothing new.
It is, “that time of the month”.
Do not eat junk, do not.
Don’t enter the temple, they said.
Do not wear light-coloured clothes.
Don’t wear new clothes, they said.
Rapists, thieves, murderers, everyone is allowed
To enter the temple, but she isn’t.
Small blood stains on her clothes,
No one comforted her, everyone laughed.
She is unsafe, she is untouchable.
She is a sin, a disgrace.
Head on the pillow, wide awake,
Wide awake, she could not sleep,
Her cramps won’t let her stay
In peace. Next morning, quite sad
Left with no options, she continued,
Pretentiously living her “cursed” life.
“Hello reader, congratulations. It’s a girl.”
Was the beginning of her suicide note.
-By Nandini Jolly