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A Modern Princess

Because like everything else in this patriarchal world, our fairytales need a major overhall too

If fairytales are real then she is the kind of princess no prince or king could ever handle
She was not made for parties but battlefields and saddles
When you tell her about all the things she cannot be,
She reminds you that she is both war and woman and says, “you cannot stop me.”
She needs no prince or knight to fight her fight
for her strength alone can tame the dragon’s might
Born to lead armies and conquer worlds,
To bring forth tempests and hale gales
Unto those who tempt her wrath
She cannot be tamed and her fire defies all waters.
Born to savor the victory of war and might,
She is the kind of princess future bedtimes stories will talk about at night.

–O. Aishwarya

Where the Sidewalk ends

Where the sidewalk ends

I wait patiently again

For someone to stop in response to my murmured “excuse me?”

And guide me through that stretch of road

That construction work has seen fit to erode

 

Where the traffic signal flashes its light

I wait in vain and stifle a sigh

on hearing neither beeps or sounds

to indicate I can cross, I’m on safe grounds

and wait again for a passer-by

to help me cross to the other side

 

Where the elevator opens with a ping

I draw back and turn to find the stairs

And find myself followed with stares

I curse the elevator for not having it

The floor announcement system that tells me this is it

 

Where the images online are undescribed

I wait again for that access to content

Access that should have been mine

Without having to ask them to define

 

And here I am again

Left waiting once more at the end

For the world to start acknowledging

That it’s now time for it to start changing

I am now impatiently waiting

Where the sidewalk ends

A Pair of Ill-Fitting Shoes

You insist on decking yourself up in my shoes

Even when you and I both know they won’t fit you

Their paths, familiar and well-trodden by me

Are new for you, devoid of any familiarity

So here’s my little piece of advice

One I’ve often had cause to Reprise

Remember that I’m not an imaginary blind you

Suddenly blinded with no training or skills to see you through

I am an actual person with a visual disability

As separate from that figment of your imagination as its possible to be

Do not patronize or pity me

While all the time thinking of that imaginary blind you with pity

You don’t know me or my history, you can’t deny that

So stop sympathizing with that pitiable life you imagine I’ve had

You don’t get to decide how I feel about my disability

You are not me and hence do not have that right, that’s the reality

You can listen to us with an open mind

Search thoroughly, it’s not that hard to find

And not for one moment presume

That what you hear will match what you assumed

Find out what you don’t know

Just Google, it’s not that far to go

And realize this, for I know it to be true

That trying to steal my shoes will not make you me or me you

And my shoes, however comfortable may be for me

Will not fit you, as they’re meant for my feet

Don’t Mourn for Us

Don’t mourn for us

Pitiful cripples we might be in your eyes

But mine, although unseeing, can see past your prejudices to our wonderful lives

Don’t mourn for us

Or the fact that there aren’t any “cures”

We are not broken, and do not need to change to fit those molds of yours

Don’t mourn for us

It is you who have never bothered to get to know us, and our reality

Before categorizing our lives as “not worth living” without being brought back to normality

Don’t mourn for us

Because disability is so much more than what you have bothered to see

It is a way of being, an experience, an aspect of our identity

Don’t mourn for us

Because the tragedy is not that we’re here

The tragedy is that your world is not built for people like us to experience without fear

Don’t mourn for us

Instead, be an alley, a supporter

But be warned, to join us you will first have to be an un-learner

Confusing Conversations #1: See, Watch, Look!

It has been a while since I posted anything on here. My student life, and now my work life, frequently comes in the way of writing for pleasure, for the sheer joy of reaching out to a larger community, creating awareness and having my words read and understood.

Anyway, here’s a new series of articles that feature little snippets of conversations from my life, conversations that I found strange and puzzling. Being visually impaired, my life is full of such conversations, as you can imagine. Ables are so weird sometimes. Here’s the first one:

 

Me (to a friend): “Bye! See you tomorrow.”

A recent acquaintance: “But… See? I can’t believe you said see! I didn’t know you people used words like that.”

Me: “It’s just that something like ‘I’ll be in close proximity to you tomorrow’ sounds way too weird.”

 

Yes, we do use words such as see, watch, look, etc, exactly for the reason I gave in the above conversation. And also because those words are what comes to us naturally, growing up, as most of us did, in a mostly sighted world.

Under the Microscope

Society loves staring,
Perpetually unsettled by differences, other states of being
Being stared at is a daily reality for me
Perhaps an occupational hazard of not being able to see
I enter the room and judge your reactions
As you stare for a moment, for a split moment seize all action
Uncomfortable, yet trying desperately to cover up your discomfort
You still betray yourself, in sympathy, over-helpfulness, avoidance
You stare, yet you do not see
Beyond my perceived disability
You look at me and see only my blindness
And forget that I’m just a person after all
Whispers of “poor girl”, “such a pity” and “you’re so inspirational”
Follow me everywhere; my little shadows
How silly, how stupid, how shallow
Society is in its perceived superiority
Never realizing that a life with disability
Is also as wonderful, as amazing, as worthy of living
And so today I take this little opportunity
To stare back at you as you do at me
And put you under the microscope;
Let’s see how well you cope
As you stare at me and see only my disability
I stare back at you and only see prejudice in your so-called ability
Society, from the viewfinder of my microscope
Doesn’t look nearly as charming, as beautiful, or as full of hope
When there’s no braille on ATMs
When there’s no ramp or elevator as an alternative to stairs
When there’s no braille signage here
Or accessible washrooms anywhere
Tell me now, what makes me disabled
Is it really blindness as you all think it is
Or society’s sheer majoritarianism;
Its refusal to make things accessible for everyone?
And who’s ultimately disabled here
Is it a person with non-functioning eyes or ears
Or is it the society after all
Lacking features that make the world accessible for all?
Yes, today I put the society under the microscope
And oh, how badly it copes

—O. Aishwarya

My Poetic Response to “But You Don’t Look Blind…”

Blindness, like ice cream, comes in many flavors
There are those who can and those who can’t see colors
Then there are the ones who can see light and the ones who can’t,
There are people who walk without a cane but find it difficult to read
And then there are people who can barely see
There are people with self-confidence and people without
People who are soft-spoken and people who shout
There are avid readers and movie buffs,
And those who like to do craft and stuff
There are politicians and lawyers,
Doctors and teachers.
Doers and preachers
Leaders and followers,
The world of blindness is full of diversity as well
Just like yours, can’t you tell?
— O. Aishwarya

The Land of Normalcy

The land of the normal is a strange place to me
And it is certainly a place I never wish to see
Normal is a place where it is true
That girls like pink and boys like blue
Normal is a place where people speak with their mouths,
Not where people talk in signs, not aloud
Normal is a place where princes always fight
And where princesses stay home, afraid of the dragon’s might
Normal is where people write in printed letter trails
Certainly not the place where they’d use Braille
Normal is a place where boys play with trucks
And girls play with Barbie dolls at dusk
Normal is a place where the use of a cane
Is something bad, treated with disdain
Normal is where girls where high heals
And not where they race around in a chair on wheels
Normalcy land excludes people like me
And therefore it’s a place I have never wished to be
And now I hope you understand and know
Why normalcy land is a place I have no wish to go
—O. Aishwarya