Jyoti Singh Pandey


Do not ask if I dare to dream
of a land where I can walk free, without fear,
the sacrifices made to flicker in that flame
of hope; did not know the price would be so dear.
Life is a gift, I thought, did not expect
it to be cheap, callously plucked – half-chewed
bones tossed drunkenly after the feast.
In the night of the splintering womb
my dreams turned into nightmares.
No mountain could carry my grief, no ocean
wash away my shame, no wind dry my tears.
Do not ask how many times I touched the heart
of grief prised open like a pomegranate
my seeds spilling like rubies.
Battered and broken, no hope of being mended,
my sorrow speaks in myriad voices, will not be silenced
till the sacrilege of rape and violence is atoned.
How long must we suffer, burn like incense,
hold on to faith, dreaming of change?
We have an entire universe to rearrange.
After centuries of dreaming we are awake, alive,
know what holds us together when things fall away.
As long as I can summon the strength to pick myself
up when cast in the gutter, and my hopes can rise like a phoenix
I’ll let the universe know it does not exist without my dreams!

This poem was inspired by the death of Jyoti Singh Pandey who was gang-raped in a bus in Delhi on 16 December 2012. She later died in a hospital in Singapore, where she was sent for treatment by the Indian authorities. According to Indian law, because she was a rape victim, her name was initially not publicly disclosed, even after her death. The Indian media called the 23 year-old woman Nirvaya, the fearless one. It was her father, Badrinath Singh, who revealed her name. He wanted the world to know who she was. 

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