The Indian Body is a Graveyard-Tanushree Baijal

Illustration by Saanya Chopra

You are 11 years old when you realize that uttering the word ‘Muslim’

In your upper-caste, Hindu household can lead to some big problems.

You have forgotten the context,
But you remember your mother’s words ringing in your ears:

‘You will never marry a Muslim!
It will not be accepted; they are not like us!’

It makes no sense to you,

That love should be based on such arbitrary demarcations

And you spend the rest of your teenage years asking why?


Fact: During a tepid August back in 1947,

The leaders of the British Raj
Are itching to leave a land they can no longer afford,

And the to-be Hindu and Muslim leaders of the subcontinent
Are waiting to fill a power vacuum.

They are all on the brink of a political failure
that we today call India and Pakistan.


You are 12 years old.

Even before your period becomes regular

You are forced to contend with what lies between your thighs.

Men passing by on bicycles scream insults involving your mother at you

Boys passing by in school buses throw whatever they’re eating at you

When you come back home a little late your parents scream at you.

Everyone is always either screaming or throwing things at you


Fact: during the Partition of India,
amongst the visceral killings

It was the mass rape of its women
that emasculated the Indian sub-continent.

The throwing and screaming is merely a symptom 

Of an urgent need to regain its masculinity


You are 19 years old.

You are fitting together pieces of a blood-ridden puzzle

You want to pin-point the rotten place from which

This fear of you marrying a Muslim stems from.

You realize, that as thousands of women were raped on each side,

As thousands of forced conversions took place on each side,

Somewhere along the lines, your body became a graveyard

Within which the ghosts of those women still wreak havoc.


Fact: a million people died during the Partition.

12 or 14 million others were displaced overnight.

And in the entirety of this nation,

Not one memorial

Not one museum

Not one artefact acknowledges its horrors.


You are 20 years old.

You want to know:

Why did your textbooks detail the genocide in Yugoslavia?

The horrors of the Jewish holocaust?

The repercussions of the coup in Chile?

When they barely whispered about the partition?

You are worried that your motherland

Has become a site where tattered pages are forced

Into incomplete history books 

Because nothing compares to the ignominy 

Of a nation facing its school children
And admitting that it cannot deal with

The wound rusting away at the core of its being.


Fact: Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition
Caused by the experience of a terrifying event.

Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety,

Sometimes, it leads to a complete denial
Of the terrifying event ever happening.


You are about to turn 21.

You now know the price of what it takes

For a community to be ruptured at its middle 

By forcing it to face two different directions

Based on religion

You know the price of walking around with ghosts in your bones,

Ghosts you must deal with in the silence of the night

Because trying to acknowledge trauma in this nation

Is like shaking dirt from a fine-tooth comb

Without going under water.


You realize that your body is somewhere 
Between a crematorium and a graveyard.

You are the only safe space
Where the ghosts of those Hindu and Muslim women
Can come together

And you stink with rotting flesh because your insides
Are not large enough to bury them all.

But who’re you kidding?

You’re an upper-caste woman

Standing upon the bones of exploited labour.

You deny ghosts as much as you acknowledge them

And your body is responsible for far more trauma
Than it holds within itself


You might live to 35 someday.

And here you are

Sandwiched between rotting flesh

Hoping against hope that one day

The history of this subcontinent

Ceases to exist in unburied body

After unburied body

After unburied body.

Tanushree is very prone to casual nihilist despair and nonsensical melodrama. She is deeply into poetry and making everything gay.