I Can’t Help It-Radhika Jayaraman

Illustration by Ilisha Dhond

How do you see into my intestine?

Does one missing idli really make a difference to you,

When you spend one thousand rupees on a meal?


How do you know I’m bleeding in my panties?


How do you gaze past my purple eye,

At the mai I never stole?

What made you think I took the sunflower oil,

A hundred millilitres at a time?

I hate that muck.

Even the rats in my house hate its smell.


Do you think I did not notice,

When you shoved your purse into the red drawer,

When you glanced sideways at your husband,

And drew his attention to his shiny new phone?


Do you think I was dense,

When you and your boy,

Unwrapped candy, hiding behind the refrigerator door,

While my son burnt in the balcony?


I can’t wish away my nightmares,

Where I claw your eyes out,

And hide them in the red drawer.


But wait, you can’t see anymore.


And yet I feel the glare

Of your ilk.


So I become what you want me to become.


I can get used to sunflower oil.


Idli – A south Indian steamed cake of rice

Mai – Traditional cosmetic used to outline the eyes

Radhika Jayaraman is a feminist, social entrepreneur, and writer. She believes that the pen is a powerful voice for those who are not heard.