Objectification-Roshni Raheja

Illustration by Aarushi Periwal

It is human nature to align the unknown with the pre-known,
to put everything into comforting categories,
set clearly defined boundaries
to clearly defined spaces
within clearly defined boxes
–all based on relevance to the matter at hand
whether being called out on the street,
or by every relative you greet,
or an angry ink stained marksheet,
your real personality becomes discreet.

But I object, to being reduced to a single object, because,
Objectively speaking:

I am more than just a woman,
a body,
a pass certificate,
a number,
or a not-so-glowing CV,
there are other things to use, if you want to objectify me.

I am sharp pieces of coral from a Thai lagoon,
crystals from the heart of the mountains,
twigs from the Redwood forests,
twisted seashells from an isolated beach,
feathers from pillow fights and migratory flights,
and the brochures from every single aquarium I’ve been to.

My substance is in a Ziploc bag full of the powdery sand
from a southern coastline,
and a cable car ticket bought with coins
from a country I don’t live in anymore.

These are the objects that define me;
that I cling to, and collect,
from the places I’ve been,
and the people I’ve met.

I’m a bit like a refrigerator door, covered in magnets
from every visit,
and more –
and just like the soul of the fridge is the food within,
my objects have spirit too,
in the warmth of a scarf crocheted by my mother,
sixteen years ago for a Minnesotan winter.

My very first formal blazer, which my younger sister wears now,
because these arms never stopped getting longer and longer
and clothing can’t cover these wrists anymore.

Just like the wires that once shaped my grin-
Who I am is very visible in
The DVD of my sixth grade school play,
where I spoke with a quivering voice,
accented, confused about which better to say:

“Vande Mataram, or ‘God bless the USA’

For growth, all you need to see,
is the scraps of paper I saved
from grade three-idyllic nature poems I wrote,
about crunchy leaves on a forest floor,
from long ago, back before –
I discovered that poetry could be so much more.

 So rather than demanding ‘relevant’ information,
that doesn’t really matter, to objectify me
Take, instead my box of metaphors,
assortment of things
I don’t mind being identified
as seashells and souvenirs and butterfly wings. 

I object
to being reduced to just a single object,
because objectively speaking :

I am all of these, and all of me is relevant,
and I am an Aristotelian being
with both matter that forms me
and a form that matters,
and you
with your leering eyes
or interview questionnaire
cannot take that
away from me.

Roshni is a lover of wordplay, art, nature, and marine life. She claims she’s not that great at bios but tries to use language and expression to the best of her abilities.