Narrative Poetry

The New Normal

It had been another uneventful, mundane day at work for her.
So she entered the first pair of sliding doors that opened for her.
Somehow she found herself, to be more exhausted than ever,
So reaching the ladies’ coach was, for now, an arduous endeavour.
The doors made a hissing sound as they closed behind.
“Delhi metro during rush hours, could be a tough grind.”
She thought, while searching for an empty seat, a futile attempt.
Packed with the multitude, the coach capacity cramped.
All she could manage to find was a spot to stand on.
Forced to listen to the chatter, no earphones to depend on.
While some uncles discussed politics, in too concerning a tone.
This was already proving to be, a very long journey home.
And then the torture began, as a hand brushed across her back.
A finger slid down to her bottom, even she was taken aback.
But she chose to ignore it, blaming the crowd in the train cars.
Letting the faint touch turn into a firm grip around her arse.
Fear-struck and grossed out, her situation was stomach-churning.
At every part that was being touched, she could feel her skin burning.
She tried to scream in retaliation, but wasn’t able to find her voice.
The fiery rage within her dampened by her own eyes that were moist.
A new station announced its arrival, with the sound of brakes screeching.
Her world reached a standstill, she wished she could stop breathing.
Suddenly, the hand let go of her, but not without a final squeeze.
A sensation so overbearing that she was brought down to her knees.
In a teary-eyed panic, she saw the culprit in all the passengers.
Her sense of touch and disgust still demanded some answers;
But, the molester had already vanished, without leaving any traces.
Was he a phantom, or do some hands simply not have faces?
Frantically, she addressed the issue, to the people nearby.
But the way they responded, just took her by surprise.
Devoid of empathy, their words were filled with ignorance and loathe.
They said if she can’t even take this much, try travelling in ladies’ coach.
For them, this incident wasn’t supposed to be a big deal.
She had just felt too much, among those who couldn’t feel.
Overreacting and overdramatic was what they had called her.
Which made her realise that being numb was the new normal.

Traumatized, she returned home, with her soul shattered and defeated.
Her husband welcomed her back, in the chirpy way he usually greeted.
He told her to freshen up quickly and join him in the kitchen.
That him cooking tonight didn’t mean she didn’t have to pitch in.
But all she wanted now was to cleanse herself with a long shower.
Hoping the stream of cold water running down her body might scour
The skin off the places that didn’t feel like her own, like it were tainted.
To wash away her helplessness with which she had accidentally acquainted.
The face of her husband constantly came knocking at the back of her mind.
The dilemma over sharing or hiding the ordeal from him kept her in a bind.
Cornered into a conundrum, she thought that fate was toying with her.
All she wanted now was to get rid of the trauma gnawing at her.
At the dinner table, she laid out the truth, raw and bare, for him to judge.
A suffocating silence ensued, and not a single muscle would budge.
Her husband stayed calm the whole time, trying not to look exasperated.
But she noticed his eyes twitching, a sign that even he was aggravated.
He held her hand tight and apologised for not being there to protect her.
Tried to convince her that she did nothing wrong, maybe except her
Decision to not travel in the ladies’ compartment, by now a recurring theme.
She was not only a victim here, but the cause itself, it seemed.
He said, “Not to dwell over it, as these things happen on a daily basis.”
Quoting examples from a news article, with accounts of similar cases.
Pointing out the flaws of empowering women, when humanity itself is frail.
Concluded by consoling her princess, whose world was never a fairy tale.
These were the words of her husband that her brain refused to even process.
In his dystopian description, she was, supposed to stay put when oppressed.
And this society shackled a daughter before, turning a blind eye towards a son.
The daughter’s plea for freedom muffled by a country mourning the loss of one.
Why do we seek such hope by lighting candles every time a woman falls?
That melts away like candle wax and acts like concrete for the walls…
At one side of which, a woman belongs to someone but lacks a sole existence
On the other side, she stands alone, a stigma that meets resistance.
Her desire to be herself makes people believe she’s less of a woman.
She’s been a societal slave forever, they could never see her as a human.
And a man is her master just because it’s written so in the gospel.
While he indulges in present, for her, an archaic norm the new normal.

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