Showcase: Chasing The Taboos + Extract From Girlhood + Dis/order.ed + The House With Two Candles
November’s Showcases are introduced by Write On! regular, Diya Padiyar.
We all hold the light of courage and wisdom within us; the light of being wonderful human beings, striving to make the world a better place. You and I, living our regular lives, can still make a change with our kindness and generosity.
As girls, our potential has been called into question for centuries. Despite this, though, we have achieved great heights in every sphere of life. Wherever we are in the world, we hold that light of courage and wonder within us, creating words and images to make our voices heard. This is because we know we have stories and experiences the world needs to hear. I’ve been able to spread my wings, but, even today, as a girl from India, my flight hasn’t come as easily as it might have done for a boy. However, we girls are full of strength and courage and, as you can see from the work below, nothing can stop us from voicing our opinions and proving what we can do!
I’d like to start today’s Showcase off, with an image. This beautiful picture comes from Shruti, who hails from from Goa, India.
You can see more of Shruti’s artwork on Instagram: @artistic_soul_00
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to connect with girls from all over the world and weave stories with them. Masuma Ahuja, Journalist and author of Girlhood, Teens Around The World In Their Voices runs storytelling workshops for a global community of teenage girls. It is a kind, curious and creative community in which we share our stories. “This is the world, as seen through girls’ eyes,” Masuma explains.
Here is a link to the newsletter and the stories:
The next contribution for this page is a poem by Anya, a girl I befriended at Masuma’s workshop. Let’s read:
like red ink stains
on a canvas.
a piece of art only
a few would understand.
many eyes would see
that this blot of red
is a mistake.
a tragedy that ruined this
piece of art
but no, the whole canvas
is a piece of art.
I only wonder how the artist feels
when nobody appreciates
this work of art.
God, is this how you felt?
when you created the women
In the world.
Is this how you feel about
all the women who bleed
in the name of art?
© Anya Wikramanayake, 2020
You can connect with Anya on Instagram: @a.wiks
Myths and taboos associated with menstruation are something many girls battle with. While some societies still see the body’s natural way of functioning as shameful, these girls strive not to be chained by others’ narrow viewpoints. Taking this theme forward, Khushi from Goa, India, shares the story of Riya with us.
Chasing The Taboos
“Isn’t Riya back home yet?” Suresh asked, setting his bag aside in his tiny 2BHK. He had just returned from work. His wife, Shraddha, worked as a clerk in a bank. Their daughter, Riya, was in class ten at Angle High School. They lived in Baramati, which was six kms away from her school. There was a direct bus from Riya’s school to Baramati.
“She should have been here by four-thirty pm. It’s past five and she still hasn’t returned,” Shraddha replied. “She finishes school by three pm and she was late yesterday, too. In fact, for the past few days she has been coming home late,” she added.
“Did you ask her why it was so?”
“Yes, I did. She mumbled something about spending time with her best friend, then went quiet. You know she is not very forthcoming. If I ask her too many questions, she just clams up or bursts into tears. Sometimes, when I talk to her, I feel like I am conversing with a stranger and not my own daughter.”
“I know she is a difficult child, but should we not know what she is up to? You know, at this age…’’
Riya was to appear for class ten board examination in April the following year. It was July and she had to start studying at the earliest.
“I do not think Riya would get into any sort of bad company, but we shouldn’t be taking it so lightly. I am worried how she would react upon knowing that we are even remotely suspicious of her activities.”
“With so many youngsters running away from home and at the smallest pretext and the news of teenage suicides appearing in the newspapers almost every day, I am scared. Both of us are working parents. Riya is left at home, alone,” Suresh said.
“I have an idea. You know my brother, Rajesh, works in a detective agency. I will tell him. I am sure he will agree to follow her and keep a watch on her and deliver us the required information in a day or two,” Shraddha reassured her husband.
After two days, Rajesh called Suresh and asked him to meet him as soon as possible.
“Come with me,” Rajesh said, walking briskly with Suresh. They went behind a building and took a path which led to a small Hanuman temple. When they reached there, Rajesh asked Suresh to quietly peer from behind a compound wall. There, he saw Riya, surrounded by many people watching her putting up a beautiful rangoli at the temple entrance.
He was worried about her going on the wrong path but now, he was so proud of his daughter making intricate rangoli designs with vibrant colours. He thought not to disturb her and walked home, where he narrated the incident to his wife.
When Riya returned home, Suresh asked where she had been. She did not respond correctly and went to her room. Later that evening, Shraddhadecided to talk to her nicely and openly. After taking her into her confidence with a long, friendly chat, Riya finally opened up and told her motherthat she was going to the temple for a couple of days, where she was keenly drawing the rangoli and where everyone appreciated her art.
Shraddha asked her why she had been hiding this incident from her family. Riya told her that she had begun her menstrual cycle and was afraid her mother would not allow her to go to the temple because of the old myths and taboos. She was afraid she would not be able to portray her skill of making rangoli.
Shraddha understood her thoughts behind this and promised to support her as much as she could. Her mother’s support allowed Riya to follow her passion and her hobby, despite the surrounding myths and superstitions.
© Khushi Prabhu Desai, 2021
You can connect with Khushi on Instagram: @khushi_pd23_18
Teenage life is marked with questions, wonders and curiosities; especially about our changing bodies and the transition from having an innocent and light-hearted outlook towards life, to understanding and developing maturity.
Next, I’d like to share an extract from the book Girlhood by Melissa Febos. Melissa is an American writer and professor and has authored three books so far. Girlhood, her third book and her second essay collection, was an instant national bestseller. Describing Girlhood, The New York Times wrote:The aim of this book, though, is not simply to tell about her own life, but to listen to the pulse of many others.
This extract accurately and tactfully describes the thoughts of a teenage girl as her body transitions. Let’s read:
Extract From Girlhood
My mother noticed first. “Your body is a temple,” she told me. But the bra she bought me felt more straitjacket than vestment. I wore baggy T-shirts and hunched my shoulders. I tried to bury my body. It was too big in all the wrong ways. My hips went purple from crashing them into table corners; I no longer knew my own shape. My mother brought home a book called The What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Girls. It explained hormonal shifts, the science of breasts and pubic hair. It was not The What’s Happening to the World as I Knew It? Book for Girls and did not explain why being the only girl on the baseball team no longer felt like a triumph. It did not explain why grown men in passing cars, to whom I had always been happily invisible, now leered at me. It did not explain why or even acknowledge that what was happening to my body changed my value in the world. I did not ask about these other changes. Maybe some children do. But what if I asked and my parents did not have answers? It already seemed a risk to reveal myself. If the changes I felt were not indexed in the book they gave me, perhaps they were mine alone.
Children know so little of the world. Every new thing might be our own creation. If logic is not given, we invent one. How would my mother have explained it to me, at ten? I can’t imagine.
The second extract is from a little later in the book.
As a young woman, I struck myself against everything—other bodies, cities, myself—but I could never make sense of the marks I made on them, or the marks they made on me. A thing of unknown value has no value, and I treated myself as such. I beat against my life as if it could tell me how to stop hurting until I was black and blue on the inside. The small softnesses I found, however fleeting, were precious. They may have saved my life. Now, I am so careful. The more I know my own worth, the less I have to fling myself against anything. When I go back, I can see all the marks that girl made so long ago. I reach my hand through the water and touch their familiar shapes.
© Melissa Febos, 2021
As much as we’re seen to be flaming brave, everyone has their bad days. The transition process and bodily changes come with a lot of self-doubt and insecurities. This is a reminder that nobody is perfect and we need not be. It’s OK to feel flawed and to accept those days of fears and doubts. The next piece by Azeez about eating disorders reminds me of exactly that.
I hoard three different hairbrushes, and they lay like corpses in a row, from shortest to longest, on the stone bathroom countertop. I grabbed the pale pink handle of the middle brush and started from “1”. Each stroke through my curly shoulder-length hair loosened the gnawing feeling in my stomach ever so slightly.
A pea-sized blob of toothpaste on the epicentre of my electric toothbrush. The bristles were slightly discoloured. I thumbed the button and started, pausing at the metallic taste in my mouth, but counting to “100” before I rinsed the crimson foam away and placed the toothbrush back in its position. I sighed, looking into the spotless mirror that stood like a daily accusation above the sink.
Everyone says that it is worth it in the end.
I padded back into my room and made my way towards the plate, seating myself stiffly before it. I peeled the sticky plastic wrap off the plate, folded it and carefully placed it in my lined bin.
I am fat.
There were 14 slices of cucumber, 31 ribbons of lettuce and 12 chunks of salt and pepper chicken.
I am ugly.
The call for the next prayer sounded off in the distance, the melody drifting in through the open window. “Bismillah.” I mumbled to myself before plunging the first forkful of dry lettuce and skinless chicken into my mouth.
I am unlovable.
© Azeeza Rawat, 2021
You can connect with Azeeza on Instagram: @typewrittentypos
As we grow up, we change physically, mentally and emotionally. These transitions not only affect us but also leave an absorbing impact on our families.
Next, Claire Buss, Deputy Editor of Write On! shares with us a sketch of her young daughter climbing a tree. As she watches her daughter grow, she shares how she feels about this:
My little girl loves everything. Mermaids and fairies and unicorns of course but also pirates and robots and monsters. She loves being spoooooky and climbing trees, splashing in muddy puddles and eating her body weight in sweets and chocolate. She likes pink and blue and orange and green. She runs faster than her brother and is certainly a lot more forthright. Her future’s so bright, it shines like a thousand sparkly stars. I hope for her childhood to be packed full of laughter and rainbow sprinkles, no matter what she chooses to do in life.
© Claire Buss, 2021
You can connect with Claire on Twitter and Instagram: @grasshopper2407
You can also find more about her on her website: clairebuss.co.uk
Lastly, I’d like to share a poem by Erin that captivated me. These thoughts of a girl growing up and given voice through poetry would reduce any mother to tears!
The House With Two Candles
There once was a house with two candles
They provided enough light to see
One of those candles had been you
And the other had been me
Both of us had had our struggles
And one flame was often weakened
But the other candle had always been there instead-
Acting like a beacon
Lately my flame has not been the brightest- so you’ve shone with all your might
But soon there will be two houses that we both must keep alight
I know your flame will always be there- promising to keep me aglow
But as the two houses separate
My light will also have to show
My candle has all of the pieces- the wax the wick and the flame
But as the house gets bigger
My light has remained the same
The fire is burning away and now
just dimly waves
My candle is waiting for another spark- with that the light will be saved
But I know the spark won’t come instead I must just do my best
But accepting that the time is now and not later is really hard to digest
The house will keep on growing- so my fire must do so too
And I can believe that I can do that- and that is all thanks to you
You will always be my shelter you will always be my light and I always know with you I’ll never be alone in the night
My candle is trying to burn and it is slowly getting there
It knows exactly what it needs to do- but sometimes it just feels scared.
© Erin White, 2021
You can connect with Erin on Instagram: @erinvwhite
Growing up, we girls have struggles of our own but we’re battling them with courage. We’re striving to voice our opinions and to keep the flame of our will burning. We shine the feminine light that can show the world its new morning.
If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please send your short stories, poetry or novel extracts, to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read more fiction, poetry, interviews and author advice in the latest issue of Write On! Issue 10 of Write On! is available now. You can see it here.