‘Aren’t I the lucky one?’, I said to Dolly.
Dolly smiled at me, winking happily.
‘You see Dolly, I’m not just a girl anymore.
I’m a beautiful, grown up woman.’
Dolly’s expression didn’t falter, she just smiled some more.
Just a few hours ago I was overjoyed
At my gifts of a pretty white dress and a new toy.
Mama had showered me with kisses and hugs.
She had said, ‘My baby girl, my pride.
You are going to bring honor, as my little princess bride.’
I beamed at her, painting castles in my mind,
My prince would carry me away, I’d leave my worries behind.
I would ride a snow white horse,
Follow my dashing prince in my flowing gown
And build a family, rule the land while donning a rainbow crown.
‘Ay child, what are you dreaming about?’, Mama snapped her fingers.
I broke out of my reverie, but the dream lingered.
‘Mama, will I meet my prince soon?’ I asked.
‘Silly girl, there’s no time for that.
Come come, lets not tarry, here, put on your hat.’
She led me to a dingy hut, where the whole village had gathered,
They were chanting and singing, but I wasn’t bothered.
For inside the hut, I knew for sure,
That my prayers would be answered,
That I’d be free to express all the dreams I’d harbored.
Inside the hut was a white nylon rope,
A stone platform, a wooden pole, an unused bar of soap.
Was I going to be bathed?
Was that why there was a tub of water in the corner?
Or was this just a ritual? ….. Something felt wrong, out of order.
Mama said, ‘Now child, fear not, it will be over soon.
Close your eyes, count to five, think of the bright moon.
Before you know it, you would have turned,
From a tiny bud, into a glorious blossom.
Then your prince will accept you as a woman, as he a man, handsome.
I did as I was told, while mother tied my hands to the pole.
A shiver ran down my spine as my warm body felt the cold
I felt my pretty dress peeled away
As mother’s familiar voice sang an ancient song,
‘Oh god! Bless this child, make her a woman, make her strong.’
And then, it happened…….
As though a thousand knives had stabbed me from within,
Knives with burning hot poison and a deadly sting,
The pain shot up my nether regions,
Every cell in my body screamed with agony,
Culminating in my throat, I swallowed my pride and embraced my destiny.
When I opened my eyes, I saw scarlet,
Dewy drops of me staining my silk garment.
‘All hail the Lord’, I heard Mama declare
To the resounding cheers of the villagers,
They clapped and hooted, they were now my family, no more just strangers.
Wiping away dried tears, I braced myself,
As I let my eyes feast on the damage done, I inwardly cried for help.
For I witnessed the murder of innocence,
Of crushed dreams, of a treacherous path to the future.
I could see the physical pain, I could sense the torture.
‘Aren’t I the lucky one?
You see, Dolly, I’m not just a girl anymore…..’
Dolly had turned deaf to my woes,
She had once known a chirpy young girl,
Who had only worried about games and toys.
But the girl had disappeared, the girl she once knew as ‘Joy’.
The above poem was inspired by a short film I watched on HBO of the same title. It is written from the perspective of a girl who has just undergone the torturous ordeal of a widely accepted custom in many African cultures, female circumcision.
This custom is basically just mutilation of a girl’s private regions where an elder (usually the girl’s relative), cuts off the fleshy part of the clitoris with nothing but a blunt blade. Aside from being unhygienic, this barbaric custom which is completely unnecessary, is believed to act as a rite of passage for young girls to womanhood.
This results in the girl never being able to feel sexual satisfaction, which is also one of the motives for this custom. A woman is supposed to have intercourse only for the man’s pleasure and for reproduction. Thus, female circumcision takes care of the woman getting distracted from her duties due to unwanted sexual pleasure.
It is to be noted however, that the clitoris is filled with thousands of nerve endings. This ritual is performed on girls around the age of 10 or when they are about to hit puberty, so the girls are well aware of their bodies and the feeling of pain. It is horrifying to imagine the pain these little girls must go through during this ordeal. Not only during, but much after the ritual is over, the pain remains. The scars of such mutilation remain forever. Some women find it extremely painful to perform the simple task of passing urine. Most women find sex extremely painful as well so every day is torture.
The short film that inspired me to write this poem is a brilliant piece of art. It juxtaposes superstitious customs with modern beliefs and ideals. This clash brings forth interesting discussions and the film showcases a glimmer of hope towards the end. With that being said, it was physically painful for me to watch the mother in the story trying to protect her daughter while facing demons from her past. It is a very insightful movie, only 15 minutes long. Please give it a go and spread awareness.
Superstitions, barbaric rituals in the name of religion/tradition need to be stopped. NOW!