How deeply ingrained is it-Mythilli Bhat

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Illustration by Sagarika Tumkar

How deeply are the values ingrained? 
Every time you try to pick yourself up 
From your rock bottom

How many times have you pulled at your skirt
Pants, tees, anything you loved as a kid
Too short? Too tight? Too much of display
Your conscience telling your values
You shouldn’t have!
You SO should not have worn that
Why did you wear this?
Now what will they think of you

How many times have you averted your eyes 
When a guy’s eyes bore straight into yours 
Mostly into what was below 
‘Avert your eyes, that helps,’ your mom told you
Don’t look straight, bend your head
Don’t even think of replying back 
Apologise if someone screams at you 
The inner voice reminded you 
What your old lady made sure not to be forgotten

How many times have you thought
before you ate your Maharaja Mac 
Thinking you’d cut on the mayo 
Even the cheese, the extra cheese you always loved 
Because, hey, the sound of “you lost weight! Wow!” 
Was much desired by the conditioning you received

How many times have you cowered 
For being too smart,
too dumb 
too short,
too tall,
too thin,
too fat 
too good,
too naughty 
too human?

As you struggled out of this moulding process 
You hear that voice inside you 
Such a slut, when you saw another girl 
You’re angry at yourself 
You scold yourself, knowing how wrong that was 
But you fail to realise 
The cooing of the neighbouring prick of a woman 
Oh that’s not how a woman should be! 
You never knew 
How deeply it was ingrained in you

Mythili describes herself as someone who’s always told she’s too old for her age. She’s crisis-ing between poetry and prose, landing nowhere in particular.