You look like a feminist“,
She tells me, a grin splitting her face.
Look?” I ask, taken aback.
You must mean talk.”
No, no“, she insists. “Look.”
I dismiss her and persevere.

But at night, I look in the mirror.
There is kohl in my eyes and
long earrings tickling my neck.
I am wearing my kurta
And I have a jhola on my shoulder.
I am taken aback a second time.

I look the way they make
‘Strong’ women look on TV, in films.
I play with my tubes and liners
And lipsticks and creams and accessories.
But that play has turned serious-
The play became me.

Is my power bleeding steadily
From the pores of the fabric that
Has strangely come to define me?

Is looking like a feminist
Making me
Less of a feminist?

It’s a muddle inside my body
Complicated by my ideas of
What it means to be a feminist.

Then I smile and it comes to me
Look at what we have done
To an ‘ism’ that shouts out
That it is okay to be you.
Rules and thoughts and theories
For something so simple.

I am a feminist, and I look
Like their idea of a feminist.
Their. Idea.

My feminism is ebullient.
Sometimes it screams out,
Sometimes it is afraid.
It gurgles and bubbles out,
Or lies placidly under my skin.
But it is mine, damn you.

I may look like a typical feminist,
With my kohl-lined eyes and my kurta,
But there is nothing typical
About feminism, at all.

It is fiery and blazing and gorgeous.
And that is not how it always looks.

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