Moss by Sara Sethia

Three women by Amrita Shergill
Three women by Amrita Shergill

There is moss making love in graveyards. Last night I showed up there with a bottle of old monk to speak to my Nani.

I told her, ‘I know you don’t approve of this but I also know that you’ll concede. Your daughter tells me that she doesn’t want me to be like her just like you told her that you didn’t want her to be like you.. Tell me, why do women despise themselves?

I detest cooking, cleaning, pickling and whatever else you spent your time doing. I sit with my feet wide apart and never, never serve glasses of water, slices of cakes or bowls of fruits. You see, I’m trying to hold patriarchy by its neck and move it’s head in the opposite direction. 

Sometimes when I’m tired though, I lie down with circles of cucumbers over my eyes, bake chocolate cookies and browse ceramic crockery online, just like the ones you adored, but I never speak of it because I fear, I fear that patriarchy may come for me and swallow me in its vortex.

I have memories of things you both never told me-I remember how you suffered by the hearth, I remember how my mum’s heart ached when they told her that she couldn’t be an artist because she had to make a good wife. I am a meticulous listener just like you, so the cells inside of your daughter opened up to me when I was a foetus and they made me promise that I would betray your personalities and echo the whole democracy of voices that you both suppressed, in mine.

Do you remember you once told me that you were the eye of a storm, the wild child climbing rocks and disappointing teachers who expected you to sit still? How did you let the oligarchy of a meek wife, a dutiful mother and a beautiful grandma prevail inside of you? Where did you lock away your spirit, Nani? If you were around, would you like Ma, tell me that you’re living your youth through mine, that my loud voice and boundless ambitions, make it all worth it? 

I’m here to tell you that I am like you and like my Ma. You bent your backs so that I could mount them and get a larger view of the world so that I could have a voice that echoed farther. I love wearing my hair down, talking to plants and baking but I also love the calluses on my fingers from writing, the blotches of ink on my dresses from scratching equations after equations and the roughened skin on my feet from trips across the country. These are not contradictions- this is my femininity. 

The mosses withering away your gravestone are fragile, soft and tender yet they are crumbling away the obstinate, cold stone into a million possibilities. You and Ma and I are the mosses:  an endless wave of lush green rebellion.’

Sara Sethia