Hamsini Hariharan is a podcaster, and foreign policy researcher. She has been writing since she was six years old. Hamsini believes that the personal is political and her poems often reflect the intersection of both spaces. She is currently based in China.
How to Tie a Saree
by Hamsini Hariharan
First you tie your inskirt,
Tight like your hymen,
But it should allow for
Pleats to be inserted inside.
Now tuck one round of the sari
Into the petticoat like a fondant
Take the other end,
Swirl it like a staircase
Let it fall over your shoulder
You need artist’s fingers: long and nimble
For pleats to be easier.
Feel like you are wearing the ocean
Your waist will remind you of your softness
And sometimes, the wind will kiss your lower back.
Your best friends are like safety pins.
They hold you up in the giant scheme of things
And make sure you never unravel too much.
You are not the straight back of a stiff chair.
You are curves and spirals and falls.
No one knows where you begin or where you end
And on the tired days,
You don’t know either.
Some men will clutch at your pallu
Trying to rob you of everything you have
Only, like Duryodhan, to find that you are infinite.
And there will be other times
When you are discarded on the floor,
Cloth and cloak,
Skin and shell,
Dignity and despair.
Because men seem to love women
Whose skin they can see
They haven’t seen a woman before,
Spoken to her,
Kissed her lips,
Bit her naval,
They think us goddesses
My goddesses don’t wield power.
She wears white and plays the veena
Or wears green and spouts coins from her hand
My goddesses have many limbs
To satisfy all the demands
Thrust on them.
But I remember that
My goddesses can also wear
White and red
And slay darkness
Or green zari, open hair
And walk through fire
You can wear a saree any way
And it will become your armour
As you choose it to be.
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