AALTA By Sonali Pan


Kolkata swarms into your lungs like thick dhunuchi smoke,
all bridal and bursting. Two steps out of the airport
and you can hear your grandmother’s prayer
to have you land safely. The old man in the bus
offers you his seat, little girl, he says, don’t you want to sit?
You shake your head no and smile at his kindness.
His walking stick leans against the body of the bus
and the whole of autumn break, kindness is on your mind.

Two years later another man does the same, you are about to smile
when you see him patting his thigh and laughing. Your cheeks
turn the colour of the aalta your grandmother painted your feet with;
she told you how it represents the power and purity of a woman,
and you look away. You have never felt more powerless.
That year she asks you why you stopped praying to god,
and you think of the man’s thigh, you think of his hands,
you think of the power of a woman,
and you say I still pray to the goddesses

By Sonali Pan


Sonali is a 17 year old Indian high-school student who’s aspiring to be an economist or a mathematician or something else entirely, she doesn’t really know yet. You can find her sleepily art journaling in the afternoons or bugging her teachers with too many questions in class. She thanks you for giving her your time.

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